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Tiny New Mexico District Looks to End Master's Degree Requirement for Teachers

The superintendent of Deming Public Schools, a tiny district in southern New Mexico, is looking to drop a 15-year-old rule that required teachers there to get a master's degree or complete 45 credit hours on top of their bachelor's degree before their eighth year teaching in the district.

Superintendent Dan Lere wants to change the rule to say that teachers are encouraged to complete that additional coursework, but are not required to do so. Originally, the requirement came along with a tuition reimbursement program to help teachers pay to go back to school, but that program had been pared due to budget cuts.  

"It was a recruiting tool," Lere told the Deming Headlight. "We recruited teachers this way. If you want your master's, you could come to us and we would pay for it."

Lere, however, thinks that many Deming teachers will still pursue a master's degree even if they are no longer required to because of how the state's salary schedule works. "In my old district in Pueblo, Colo., when you got your master's you got a $1,500 raise. Here you get $10,000. Who wouldn't want to do that?"

Charity Cheung, a special education teacher and co-president of the Deming affiliate of the National Education Association, agrees with Lere. "As a teacher coming to this state, you're telling me that in six years, I can hit 52K a year? Yes! In most states, you're looking at 15-20 years of experience before you can hit that," she told the Headlight.

Elizabeth Ross, director of state policy at the National Council on Teacher Quality, says requiring veteran teachers to get masters' degrees to advance isn't an entirely novel idea; four states—Connecticut, Kentucky, Maryland, and New York—require teachers to earn a master's degree for license advancement. But NCTQ is against such requirements.

"The research shows that there is no connection between a master's degree and student learning and growth," said Ross. "We strongly recommend that districts and states base professional licensure and advancement on the evidence of what is effective."

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