NCTQ: LA schools waste money

Los Angeles public schools waste $500 million a year to pay teachers for completing graduate courses that don’t improve teaching, concludes a report by the National Council on Teacher Quality. The money would be better spent paying more to teachers who deliver results, such as higher test scores, or to attract proven talent to the system, NCTQ’s Kate Walsh told the Board of Education at last week’s meeting, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Nearly all school districts use a pay scale that rewards teachers for years of experience and for additional graduate credits earned. Experience makes a difference in the first years of teaching; researchers have found no link between graduate courses or master’s degrees and teaching effectiveness.

Other findings included:

• Only a third of Los Angeles teachers graduated from a school ranked as either “most” or “more” selective.

• Principals don’t take advantage of flexibility and authority they already have in hiring and evaluating teachers.

Teachers are observed by only their principal and only once every other year. That’s not enough, the “road map” concluded.

In addition, the online teacher evaluation system requires principals to provide documentation if they check “needs improvement” for three or more of 27 indicators. There’s no need to document a satisfactory rating. Administrators may decide a negative rating ” is not worth the effort,” concluded the report, which called for “a high burden of evidence and feedback for every rating — both negative and affirmative.”

The report also criticized teacher assignment policies, saying principals are forced to hire teachers who may not be a good fit and lay off teachers based on seniority rather than performance.

In addition, teachers aren’t required to be on campus for the eight-hour work day, making it hard to schedule collaboration and joint planning.

About Joanne


  1. My SIL teaches 7th grade math (not in LA) and she got her district to reimburse her for SCUBA training. Talk about a waste of taxpayer money! Courses reimbursed should be directly related to content taught or pedagogy.

  2. Part of the corruption of our ed system: most ed courses are BS. What the ed world needs are college courses specifically tailored to teach the content prescribed by the state standards –e.g. a course on the Chinese Golden Age and how to teach it to 7th graders. Such courses, as far as I know, do not exist. And it’s because the ed world is biased against knowledge and in favor of “skills”.

  3. In my district, courses are only reimbursed if they can be used to further enhance that person’s instructional practice. So basket weaving & scuba diving most likely would not be covered.

    I resent the implication, however, that the Master’s in Education I received is a waste of money.

  4. ms teacher,

    I’m sorry if I offended you. Perhaps I’m wrong. Would you agree that SOME ed courses are BS? Were they all worthwhile? If not, which ones were good and which were bad?

  5. Roger Sweeny says:


    In my district, a Master’s in Education puts you onto a higher salary scale. Particularly if the district paid for part of the courses, it is a highly remunerative investment.

    Whether it makes you a better teacher is a different question. (If my life depended on it, I would answer in the negative.)

  6. I didn’t take the traditional route to get my teaching credential. My undergraduate degree is not in education. The only credentialing class that I found to be a waste to me was the technology piece and that is because I already knew much of what was being taught. For my master’s, which I earned after being in the classroom and was paid for in full by me (no student loans), none of the classes were a waste. The stipend that I receive will help pay back the costs I incurred over several years of work as a classroom teacher.

  7. Richard Aubrey says:

    Have a relation in the LAUSD in speced. She is currently taking a grad course to certify her to do what she used to do before she got promoted. She might be unpromoted or something, I suppose. Don’t know who’s paying,

  8. In my state, a bachelor’s alone is insufficient for certification these days. You need to take additional education classes for certification and work toward a Master’s to get beyond the first license issued. I’d go for the next level of license after that (which has a five year renewal period, not the three year renewal) but the state keeps changing the rules on me for upgrading the license–I figure it’s because they’d prefer the fees for the three year renewal.

  9. I have a master’s degree in education and several years of course work beyond that. I can’t think of one class I took that had any practical application.

    Some education courses inspired me to be innovative in the classroom which got me in a significant amount of trouble because in the real world, they want you to teach out of the book.

    One of the last classes I took to rise to the highest level of my pays scale was titled something like, “A Treasure Chest of Exciting Ideas for the Classroom.” Tuition was $360. We’d sign in at 5PM and then go home and then come back to sign out at 7:30 PM. We were supposed to exchange exciting ideas that we were using in the classroom but we were on the honor system and I guess we all lacked honor. If we missed any of the sessions due to illness, there was nothing to make-up.

  10. My district doesn’t reimburse for classes, and the masters is required to get to the next level of credential; if you don’t get the M., then you have to take two classes a year forever and ever — or until they change the requirements again. Now I can take a grad class every semester for free, but that’s because I teach ACC/dual credit and that’s how the university pays me.

    I don’t remember what all I took for my credential — as many English courses as I could shove in — but I still use some of the stuff from my compositional theory course. The philosophy of ed course seemed like a waste of time then, but I find it more helpful now — puts all these earth-shattering reforms in perspective. The worst was the SPED class,which was the law and a lot of awareness nonsense. I would have been better served with some instruction about how to teach children with autism with a week spent on the law/IEP writing.

    Hmm. We schedule meetings after the contracted 8 hours all the time. Clearly, we need to get unionized.

  11. That last line about teachers not being required to be on campus for the eight-hour work day, making it hard to schedule meetings – don’t pin that one on the teachers. I teach in CA and the district and school where I work schedule plenty of meetings after the teaching day.

  12. BadaBing says:

    Pursuing a teaching credential by jumping through hoops at an ed school is the biggest waste of time, effort and money I’ve ever spent. I feel no more qualified to teach now with a credential than I did when I taught without a credential at a Catholic high school. Three lessons I learned from ed school: 1. People of color cannot be racist. 2. The film Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart is racist. 3. Everyone is a victim except white heterosexual males.