Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Arne Duncan Says Graduate Degrees for Teachers are Worthless

Here is an eye opening quotation from the highest education government official in the United States (Arne Duncan) last week. This continues a sustained campaign from national leaders to deprofessionalize the teaching profession as a whole, discredit colleges of education as well as K-12 schools, and open the door wider to alternative certification schemes as well as private charter schools.   

. . .  ”Districts currently pay about $8 billion each year to teachers because they have masters’ degrees, even though there is little evidence teachers with masters degrees improve student achievement more than other teachers — with the possible exception of teachers who earn masters in math and science.”

The federally supported war on teachers and public schools marches on. Those of us voting for “change” and “hope” in US education and schools last November were sorely deceived. 

Our times are dark. Huddled together in small groups, we wait for the light. It’s definitely not visible today when we cast our eyes upon Washington D.C. 
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12 responses to “Arne Duncan Says Graduate Degrees for Teachers are Worthless”

  1. John Martin Avatar

    *sigh* I wonder if we should consider government officials in the same way. The higher the credentials, the more out of touch they are with the rest of us? I would like to see an AYP system put in place for them! With standardized tests to boot!

  2. Philip Cummings Avatar

    Unfortunately, this comment isn’t a surprise. This administration has proven, much like the last, that they are totally out of touch with real education, formal schooling, and what makes a quality teacher. They haven’t a clue that they are actually doing far more harm than good by their careless remarks and their lack of respect for people who have truly dedicated themselves to bettering the lives of others. Apparently, Mr. Duncan and his boss are the victims of “poor teaching” because they ought to know better.

  3. John Kain Avatar

    For what it’s worth, here is Duncan’s quote with some context:
    “The factory model of education is the wrong model for the 21st century. Today, our schools must prepare all students for college and careers–and do far more to personalize instruction and employ the smart use of technology. Teachers cannot be interchangeable widgets. Yet the legacy of the factory model of schooling is that tens of billions of dollars are tied up in unproductive use of time and technology, in underused school buildings, in antiquated compensation systems, and in inefficient school finance systems.
    “Rethinking policies around seat-time requirements, class size, compensating teachers based on their educational credentials, the use of technology in the classroom, inequitable school financing, the over placement of students in special education–almost all of these potentially transformative productivity gains are primarily state and local issues that have to be grappled with.
    ”Districts currently pay about $8 billion each year to teachers because they have masters’ degrees, even though there is little evidence teachers with masters degrees improve student achievement more than other teachers — with the possible exception of teachers who earn masters in math and science.”

  4. Stephanie Williams Avatar
    Stephanie Williams

    I am currently in a Master’s of Education program and have been disappointed in its rigor, teaching strategies and accountability. When having spoken to other master’s students in other programs it seems that many have to read texts or books and then reflect and share- and that is it. Maybe have to write a thesis with little higher education standards at the end. Does that necessarily improve student learning? Granted, of all the programs out there, I have limited knowledge and maybe I have just experienced poor programs, however if you surveyed most teachers in master’s programs as to why they are there, most that I have come in contact with would say to move up the pay scale, not to improve student learning. Not all of course would say that, but many people in the education profession are in for the wrong reasons and we need to be honest with ourselves about that because they are the ones giving ammunition to those outside our profession.

    Rather than getting defensive and assuming those who have earned their way to high ranking positions are out to demean our profession, maybe we should step back and critically analyze our profession so we can be the ones to change it and make it better, rather than being forced to while we kick and scream that we aren’t respected. We are not going to gain integrity of profession by claiming to be blameless.

  5. Wesley Fryer Avatar


    Who is “claiming to be blameless?”

    Why should educators be criticized for earning a graduate degree if it increases their pay? I live in Oklahoma, where we rank around 48th in the nation in teacher salaries. I don’t understand the logic in criticizing teachers, librarians, and administrators who want to earn more money to support their families getting a graduate degree.

    Do teacher education programs need to continue improving and getting better? Of course. Are there teacher education programs with low expectations? Of course. There are bad apples to be found in every barrel. This is true of K-12 schools as well.

    Painting all graduate education programs as essentially worthless, as Duncan did in this comment, is not only disingenuous it’s also harmful. As I mentioned at the outset of the post, it’s part of a continuing campaign to discredit colleges and universities who work to prepare educators for the classroom.

    If you’ve read my blog for at least a week, I’m sure you understand I’m one of MANY educators worldwide who are engaged in the ongoing process to “critically analyze our profession so we can be the ones to change it and make it better.” I’m glad you stopped by and shared a comment. I’d encourage you, however, to open your eyes to the broader campaign (of which Duncan is a part) which does NOT have the improvement of our profession as its core focus.

  6. […] Speed of Creativity reports a recent quote from US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan: . . . Districts currently pay about $8 billion each year to teachers because they have masters’ degrees, even though there is little evidence teachers with masters degrees improve student achievement more than other teachers — with the possible exception of teachers who earn masters in math and science.” […]

  7. Phill Avatar

    To Arne Duncan achievement and test scores are the same thing. Maybe the reason he doesn’t understand the difference between the two is because he hasn’t earned a graduate degree. His post graduate experience consisted of dribbling a basketball, not contributing intellectually to the field of education. On the other hand, Linda Darling-Hammond, who many thought would be Obama’s choice for ed. secretary, had spent her entire professional life conducting educational research and has contributed hundreds of papers, articles, and books on teaching. Obviously, Duncan wasn’t chosen because of his didactic expertise. He was chosen to implement someone else’s political agenda.

    It will be interesting to see where he ends up when his current position comes to an end. I’m willing to bet that it will not be in the field of education.

  8. Phill Avatar

    Marguerite Roza, whose research Gates and Duncan rely on in making their stupid comments, works for the Gates Foundation. Gates doesn’t respect research; he subverts it to support his agenda.

  9. Sam Avatar

    I am in my mid 30’s and as the education budgets in Florida continue to decrease and cause the closing of schools, laying of of teachers, and enlarging of classroom size there is something to be said about how what funds are allocated are allocated. If it is true that 8 billion dollars are spent adding additional salary for the completion of Masters programs I think it is a fair question to ask if that money is being spent in the most effective way.

    I spent the time (about 18 months) getting a MS in Education: Administration just to help bone up my resume. I am hoping to gain as many resume items as I can to make myself more marketable as this declining economy continues. Teaching English now, perhaps in the next few years moving into administrative positions. Of course my MS has not made me a better day to day in the classroom teacher. It has made me a more well educated person, and a person with additional confidence. Perhaps the confidence alone over time will improve how well my students do.

    For this specific argument I agree that if educators are not at the forefront in establishing how money is spent then complaining later will have little value.

  10. […] and improving education, challenging in a speech in November the pay bonuses for teachers pursuing graduate education arguing that there’s no evidence it helps teachers improve “student achievement […]

  11. Jill Henebry Avatar
    Jill Henebry

    Well it’s good to know I’m wasting my time and money pursuing a graduate degree in secondary education. I’m sure professors will be pleased to find out that they are by extension overpaid and wasting their time as well. Arne Duncan needs to go spend some time in a school and see just what is required of teachers today. Does the government even realize that there are many students that don’t even want to be in school and could care less about learning. I work everyday with students that curse me out, throw books and notebooks, storm out of class and tell me over and over that they don’t care about their grades. Why, then should I? The government needs to take a step back and let true educators worry about the education system. These government officials are not at all qualified to be making educational policies. They are out of touch with reality. Wake up Arne Duncan and get a clue.

  12. Nico Avatar

    Personally, I tend to agree that more money is wasted on an
    antiquated system that among other issues, focuses rewards on
    personal achievement in the hopes that it will leads to better
    results in the classroom without any meaningful research that
    demonstrates a direct correlation. Then, turning outstanding
    teachers into administrators (often mediocre at best since it
    requires an entirely different skill set) simply because they are
    personally rewarded with a better pay package, is as ludicrous as
    it gets. Kinda like the “factory style education system” of
    grouping children by age rather than by achievement or ability. Get
    off your high horse educators and get the clue that it’s not
    exactly personal, but the system you are wanting to keep for
    personal benefit is exactly what’s pushing the best and brightest
    out of the system altogether. When I look back at my own education,
    I see that I performed about 90% of it after the 5th grade on my
    own, my “teachers” were mere facilitators of resources. I agree
    with the quote that, “If you can be replaced by a computer (or by
    extension, a robot), you should be.” That day is coming. Reading a
    common text in a community setting is not teaching in of itself.
    Yet, I’d hazard to guess that well over half of your ranks are
    performing at that level.