To the Editor:
In “The National Board: Challenged by Success?” (Aug. 15, 2007), you report that some observers believe that “links between master’s degrees and teacher effectiveness may once have existed but for the most part no longer do.”
A master’s degree in education should be the minimum standard for career educators, especially those in fields such as special education where a high degree of professional knowledge is crucial. Just the process of getting into graduate school eliminates the airheads who went to college simply to collect a spouse.
You also write of this degree work that “few who take courses flunk.” But poor-quality coursework was not my experience when I earned my master’s in severe disabilities in 1983, and it is certainly not my experience now, as I work on my doctorate. Graduate students are not successful because their courses are easy, but because they are:
• Likely to be more mature and serious than the average undergraduate. (Most of my fellow students have spouses, children, or even grandchildren.)
• Likely to be working as educators while in school.
• In school voluntarily, not to please their parents.
• Taking motivating, relevant courses taught by experts in the field.
• Driven to succeed, with high expectations of themselves. (Most graduate students have a choice of two grades to stay in school: an A or a B. One C often can put them on academic probation.)
Earning certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and earning a graduate degree have different objectives, but the same goal: the pursuit of excellence. National-board certification is won by demonstrating what a teacher knows; greater knowledge of the field is a byproduct of the process. With a graduate degree, a teacher enhances his or her knowledge, adds a certification, and/or develops an educational specialty that cannot be accomplished in an undergraduate program.
Both pursuits create master teachers. One is as good as the other, and it is probably best to get both.