Janusz Maciuba teaches English as a Second Language at a technical college in the Atlanta area. He is a frequent contributor to the AJC.
Here is his latest op-ed column.
By Janusz Maciuba
More than 10 years ago, recently graduated from a master’s degree program in English education, I started teaching freshmen at Stone Mountain High School.
Georgia State University, for a price, had converted my academic bachelor’s degree into a vocational Master of Education degree and teacher certification.
I had taken classes in the History of Education, the Psychology of Education, the Philosophy of Education, and the golgothic Statistics of Education, along with some interesting graduate-level English Literature classes.
I had observed a teacher at Lilburn Middle School and done a double student teaching assignment at North Gwinnett High School and Cedar Grove High that exposed me to both ends of the racial and socioeconomic spectrum that exists in Atlanta area schools.
And I still didn’t know how to teach. Or control a class.
In the next classroom was a social studies teacher, whom I will call Tracy ( because that’s her name), who had a quiet classroom of well-behaved students; who volunteered, or was volunteered, for committees and other tasks that no other teacher wanted to do; and who was very effective and happy at her job.
But with just a bachelor’s degree, she had started out making $2,000 less than I was making with my big useless M.Ed. And $4,000 less than a teacher with a doctorate degree.
Now, almost every k-12 teacher has a master’s degree, some from legitimate, but profit-centered, colleges and universities and some from for-profit, life-experience-crediting, quickie programs. All that effort, money, and sleepy, stressed teachers in classrooms, for what? No teacher in k-12 needs an advanced degree. The university rule was that you needed a degree higher than the students you were teaching; a bachelor’s degree satisfies that requirement in k-12.
Graduate degrees are about extra pay and an administration’s bragging rights, but not about improving teaching and education. It should be equal pay for equal work.
Spread those degree payments around all teachers because the real ideal is to have effective teachers, not over-degreed teachers.
Now comes news that DeKalb County Schools is granting eight administrators a chance to earn free Ph.Ds at Mercer University. It would be a three-year specially designed program to produce administrators who would extend Dr. Cheryl Atkinson’s reform agenda.
A Ph.D involves research. In education, this means learning an academic language that makes little sense to parents or teachers. It means a lot of statistics classes for this cadre drawn from a population, with some exceptions, of course, that is not particularly known for its intellectual depth. And, principals and central office workers are in those jobs because they don’t really like teaching children.
A friend spent four years earning a doctorate in epidemiology. It was hard work but she has a talent for statistics and science and her dissertation was published in a peer-reviewed journal. One hopes the Mercer program is not too specially designed for DeKalb’s candidates.
Why are people volunteering for this intellectual pain? The answer is money. Get through the specially designed program and you become an Education god in this school system. And then the fun really begins: It’s going to be a game of Survivor for the superintendent’s job. Oh, to be a fly on the wall as Machiavellian plots boil, characters are assassinated, and factions foment.
A brighter approach would have been an MBA program in finance and management, so that future superintendent candidates would have a solid fiscal background.
One thing I do hope for is that these folks gods spend a year, after becoming doctors of philosophy, teaching a class because I’m sure none of them remember what it was like to be a teacher.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog