Has the Overeducation of Teachers Turned Public Education into Gibberish?


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At Slate, there’s a piece on the jargonization of public school education complete with the sort of buzzwords and gibberish you expect to encounter in goofier parts of the business world and higher end academic settings where not understanding anything is the point.

But somewhere along the line, public education became so completely overmastered by its own jargon, broad templates, and unspecified testable outcomes, that at times yesterday I felt as if I were toggling between a business school seminar and the space program; acronyms alone—seemingly random sequences of letters like MAP and SOL and EAPE—were being deployed more frequently than actual words. To be sure, the teachers seemed as maddened by it as the parents were. Even if we can all agree about the singular benefits of “project-based learning across the curriculum,” I am less than perfectly certain any of us knows what it means.

“Un-levelling.” We do that now. And “fitnessgram testing?” Possibly the new un-levelling.

I checked with friends this morning to find out if I was alone in my sense that I had fallen asleep in the late 1990s and woken to a world in which I have no idea what schools even do anymore. My friend Stephanie advised me that her back to school night involved a discussion with a teacher about “interfacing with a child’s developmental space,” as well as a reference to “scaffolding text to text connections” in Ramona the Pest. My friend Laurel was told by her child’s teachers that “the children will be required to work in groups in this class, as collaboration is a 21st-century skill.”

The gibberish has an obvious source. The overeducation of teachers isn’t just destroying school budgets. It’s leading to jargon being substituted for results. The same way it is in some parts of the business world and academia.

52 percent of the nation’s 3.3 million public school teachers have a masters’ degree or better.

Despite the insistence of teachers’ unions, a masters’ degree does not help children. It helps public school teachers get paid more.

Every year, American schools pay more than $8.6 billion in bonuses to teachers with master’s degrees, even though the idea that a higher degree makes a teacher more effective has been mostly debunked.

Despite more than a decade of research showing the money has little impact on student achievement, state lawmakers and other officials have been reluctant to tackle this popular way for teachers to earn more money.

Duncan told the American Enterprise Institute on Wednesday that master’s degree bonuses are an example of spending money on something that doesn’t work.

On Friday, billionaire Bill Gates took aim at school budgets and the master’s degree bonus.

“My own state of Washington has an average salary bump of nearly $11,000 for a master’s degree – and more than half of our teachers get it. That’s more than $300 million every year that doesn’t help kids,” he said.

While the number of MA’s in the classroom doesn’t help kids. It does increase the adoption of gibberish as overeducated teachers put their useless education to use making the system that much more confusing and impenetrable.

Public school teachers are no longer incompetent. They are just strategizing the educational synergies of multiple levels of achievement.

  • Steeloak

    This has been a concern of mine for a long time – I have named it “Credentialitis” – the idea that credentials are the most important definer of the value of an educator.
    Our school systems are infested with over-credentialed idiots.
    A century ago, young women went to a two year teaching college and learned the skills needed to teach and our children were much better educated then then now.
    Today half our teachers have masters degrees and our children are falling behind the world in learning. When you get to school administration PhDs’ are mandatory in most places. When you look at school budgets, the biggest single cost is the salaries of these overeducated elites.
    Nowhere in all of this is a concern with results or productivity. Just imagine the lunacy that would result if business adopted credentials over ability and productivity as the standard.

    • Gayle Spencer

      And just exactly how many unexplored subjects worthy of a PhD “thesis” remain? I’ve heard some of these PhD-”credentialed” (cough) administrators speak, as well as some of our Master-credentialed teachers. Yikes. Most of these people wouldn’t know a coherent thought even if it (said coherent thought) came up and gave them a business card.

      Just imagine reading through the drivel of these theses.

  • mirjam

    It is sad that education is more about “teacher politics” than actually caring for the basic educational needs of the children. My childrens’ best teachers through their school years were the ones that really cared about them and their achievements and the kids loved those teachers.

  • Veracious_one

    good teachers are often reprimanded by leftist school administrators and school unions if they don’t tow the leftist agenda and curriculum for the young mush heads….

  • Jason

    Having highly educated teachers is NOT a bad thing. What is bad is when those teachers dont produce results. Results are the most important thing for a teacher, and that is what teachers should be paid on. If a teacher is not getting most of their class to pass, then they dont deserve anything.

    But performance pay will never happen. In my highschool, I remember talking to teachers about it, and I’d say around 70% supported it. But the union exists to pander to that 30%, to make sure that even if they dont do their jobs, they still get paid for it. It’s a disgrace to hardworking teachers that they dont get paid more for brilliant results.

    This is something we need to change. Instead of just complaining about it, next time there is a conservative government in office, LOBBY THEM TO CHANGE THE LAWS! This is our problem, we only ever complain, we never lobby. This is why the left is winning at the moment, they know how to complain better than we do! They complain to the government, not just to eachother.

  • Timber

    The masters degree is a valuable procurement if ……. it is based on the area of study or claimed academic expertise. What many ignorantly or purposefully indifferent overlook is the failure of schools of education and the training of teachers. There is no more easier degree to acquire at all levels than that in education. Mediocrity is the mantra and it is supported but an equalitocracy mentality, driven by faux self esteem. There are minimalist standards in training and hiring teachers. There is no rigor in education in US classrooms. Grade inflation, breadth vs depth and tech as a “cool learning tool” vs knowing it in one’s head plus heaping portions of self esteem are what our schools have become. When are the bureaucracies at all levels held responsible, besides the unions for this ugly slide into word game based learning. Where is the documentation/ accountability of decades of failed reforms since new math ? We would expect more from a well trained carpenter, Dr , pilot or brick layer.

    • Erudite Mavin

      Exactly.
      Another problem with teachers besides being a propaganda machine for the left, most if not all cannot teach students about real world.
      Most Teachers have not worked in the real world, only words
      in books and what the Profs say who in turn from the same process.
      When I was in high school in early 60s, heavy liberal and the only teachers I had who really taught and not propaganda machines were WWII vets.

  • El Desdichado

    The most hilarious concept I heard during my short career as a public-school teacher was “Equity in Excellence”. Credentialitis has a nice ring to it too:

    http://connecthook.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/kiss-my-assessment/