Kentucky will no longer require teachers to earn a master's degree
- In an effort to give school districts more flexibility in teacher recruitment and retention, the Kentucky Educational Professional Standards Board voted this week to nix the state’s requirement that Kentucky teachers earn a master’s degree by their 10th year of teaching, Education Week reports.
- A number of research studies indicate that teachers with master’s degrees are no more effective than teachers without them, and Wayne Lewis, the interim commissioner of the Kentucky education department, stated that the focus should be more on educational outcomes rather than padding resumes.
- While some see this move as granting more autonomy to teachers, others see it a “backward step” and a devaluation of the teaching profession.
While some studies indicate moderate positive effects of a master’s degree in the teaching subject in certain areas, most show little or no impact in most areas. In fact, parents' educational level often has more effect on educational outcomes than the ranking of a teacher.
Questioning of the value of a master’s degree is not new. Notable figures, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and educational philanthropist Bill Gates have argued against increasing teacher pay for earning a master’s degree. And in 2013, North Carolina became the first state to actually remove the pay incentive for a master’s degree. In general, research has shown that experience, rather than higher education, tends to make more of an impact on student achievement.
Kentucky’s decision seems largely based on the desire to help school districts recruit and retain teachers in a time when teachers are in shorter supply. Many school districts are hiring more teachers with alternative credentials, earning online credentials, or emergency teacher certifications to meet the crisis. Some states, like California and Texas are also creating pathways for paraprofessionals to enter the field. However, superintendents should note that relying too heavily on such measures can widen achievement gaps.