WASHINGTON, D.C. - In tough economic times, one place where school districts could save money is by halting the practice of automatically paying teachers more for advanced degrees, a new study from the Center for Reinventing Public Education advises. As reported in Education Week, the study says that pay hikes for most master's degrees do not correlate to better student achievement.

" ... (W)e know the relationship between the degree and student achievement is nonexistent," Raegen T. Miller, a senior policy analyst at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for American Progress, told Education Week. Miller co-authored the report, which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the National Education Association, the authors calculated the average cumulative pay hike given in each state for advanced coursework up to and including master's degrees. Michigan's "bump" is about $5,900, the report said; national figures ranged from $2,000 in Oklahoma to $10,000 in Alaska.

Overall, states devote between 1 and 2 percent of total education expenditures to master's-related costs, Education Week reported.

Some of the money spent on master's pay could be used to test other compensation policies, including still-controversial performance pay plans, Education Week reported. Certain specific content degrees, such as those in math and science, do show a positive correlation to student achievement, according to Education Week, but many teachers instead earn master's degrees in education.

James R. Carlson, a National Education Association UniServ director in Wisconsin and also director of the Educator Compensation Institute, told Education Week that other compensation systems could include paying teachers for conducting research or for taking on duties as lead teachers or mentors.

Education Week, "Report Urges Halt to Extra Pay for Master's Degrees," July 21, 2009 (subscription required)

Center on Reinventing Public Education, "Separation of Degrees: State-by-State Analysis of Teacher Compensation for Master's Degrees," July 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Teacher Quality Primer," June 30, 2008