Guthrie: Reward teachers for effectiveness not degrees

Victor Joecks



Nevada schools "waste" millions of dollars every year by awarding automatic raises to teachers for simply returning and taking courses beyond their bachelor degrees, argued Nevada Superintendent of Public Schools James Guthrie to the Nevada Association of School Boards on Friday.

He said the current teacher salary schedule, used by most of the state's 17 districts, needs to be eliminated. It includes the Clark County School District, which teaches almost 75 percent of all Nevada students, and must give returning teachers annual raises of $1,465 because of its contract with the teachers union.

"We need to pay for effectiveness, not things that have no bearing on student achievement," argued the superintendent partway through his first full school year at the helm, acknowledging his statements probably will cause a backlash from teachers unions.

As Guthrie is an incredibly accomplished scholar, it's no surprise that his analysis about the unimportance of master's degrees to teacher quality is right on the money.

As researchers like Paul Peterson have noted, "teachers with an M. A. degree were no more effective, on average, than teachers who lacked such a degree."

It is great to see Guthrie standing up to the educational establishment and the teacher unions (but I repeat myself) and push a reform that will reward Nevada's most effective teachers. Since teacher quality is the most important school-controlled factor in student achievement, rewarding effective teachers and improving or removing ineffective teachers should be job one.

How legislators handle this issue will show if they care more about the students or the adults in the educational system.