Monday, August 26, 2013

Full-time teacher and student: Race for a master's degree

Elizabeth Cranfill wants to devote her energy to the children with autism she teaches at W.M. Irvin Elementary in Cabarrus County.  But she's also taking five graduate courses this semester at UNC Charlotte's College of Education, in a desperate effort to earn her master's degree in time to collect the 10 percent raise the state had promised when she enrolled.

I caught up with Cranfill shortly after I finished a recent story on how legislative actions,  including the elimination of the bump for advanced degrees in 2014,  are affecting teachers.


Under normal circumstances,  it would be nuts to take on 12 credit hours and defend a thesis while working full time.  That's a heavy load for a full-time student.  But earning her degree at the end of fall semester provides her only guarantee of being grandfathered into the current pay scale.

So Cranfill,  25,  got permission from UNCC,  her principal and her district to cram in the classwork and research to earn a master's in working with autistic students.

"I love school.  I like being a student as much as I like being a teacher,"  she said last week.  But she's taking on a load that means everything else  --  including planning her June wedding  --  will be pushed to the sidelines.

Cranfill says she followed her big brother into teaching because she loves kids.  But that doesn't mean she's not concerned about earning a living.

She and her brother both got N.C. Teaching Fellow scholarships, designed to entice top high school students to become teachers and stay in state.  Cranfill also got a grant to cover her grad school tuition because she's working in a field where teachers are desperately needed.  Special-ed teachers are among the hardest posts to fill.  Cranfill teaches children who have the capability to work at grade level,  but it takes special skills to help them cope with their autism.

Cranfill says her brother has fulfilled his required teaching stint in North Carolina. He's working on a graduate degree, too  --  a business degree that will let him find another career.  She wants to stick with education,  but she's not sure.

"It's not a good time to be a public school teacher right now,"  she said.  "I wish I didn't have to say that."

Lawmakers who eliminated the supplement for master's degrees say it makes more sense to reward teachers for classroom results.  But so far there's little money for that.  The 2013-14 budget sets aside money to give $500-a-year raises to 25 percent of teachers starting in 2014-15,  with a state task force studying a more comprehensive performance-pay plan.

Ellen McIntyre,  dean of UNCC's education college,  is trying to get as many students as possible across the finish line in time to get a raise this year. That means adding extra sections of classes for fall semester and counseling students about how to juggle their obligations.

Long range,  she says,  schools like hers will doubtless have to adapt what they offer teachers who want graduate education.  She worries that eliminating an incentive for higher education will not only discourage  teachers who want to add to their skills but erode North Carolina's reputation for valuing education.

"The long-term effect?"  McIntyre said.  "It could possibly be devastating."


Pamela Grundy said...

Good luck, Elizabeth. There are a lot of folks out there working to make N.C. a better place for teachers like yourself. We hope you'll soon start to see a difference.

Anonymous said...

Well, this is just the way the real world works.

Very few jobs automatically pay more for a masters degree.

It's the results that matter.

I've known many people with masters degrees and/or Ph.D's in very difficult subjects (like engineering) who have been paid less and/or report to someone with lesser degrees.

And it doesn't necessarily matter how much "experience" they have either.

Anyone who has worked in IT can attest to that.

You're only as good as your latest project/certification/skill in many, if not most, cases.

20 years "experience" mean nothing compared to someone with 2 years experience in the "right" skill.

Of course, this is all leading to the Microsoft Certification of teachers.

As anyone can clearly see...

For better or worse, that's probably where we're headed.

Anonymous said...

20 years of experience or 1 year of experience 20 times?

Pamela Grundy said...

The difference between teaching and IT is that kids and the ways they learn don't change that much. Teachers should of course continue to add to their knowledge and expand their understanding, particularly of the way kids do differ from one another. But there's no entirely "new" kid that you have to learn a whole "new" skill for. So if you're the kind of teacher who really learns from your experience, it's a powerful resource.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:28.

In IT people don't have the luxury of keeping jobs with only 1 year of experience 20 times.

Teaching is probably a different matter, though.

Anonymous said...

If kids don't change much, then why all the effort teaching "Pedagogy" to the teachers? Seems like that should have been figured out years ago and be as repeatable as experiments in Newtonian Physics. How did Socrates manage to teach without all the latest pedagogical research taught in the schools today at his disposal?

Again, not necessarily disagreeing, just pointing out that the "requirement" for the "job" may not be entirely relevant to actual performance on the job. Maybe teachers don't need advanced degrees in "education" to teach.

As Wiley Coyote often points out, 2+2 is still 4, just as it was when he was a kid. And just as it was when Socrates taught.

But the theoretical and the social side (including community expectations) of teaching (along with the technology everyone seems to fascinated with) seems to change every few years.

Shamash said...

Yeah, sometimes I do wonder what those teachers are being taught as part of their Education degrees.

I asked my son what he did in school for science.

He told me about them making a "Milk Rainbow".

OK, so what did they do? They basically put food coloring in milk, added dishwashing detergent and watched it form rainbow colors.

I immediately thought, ah, they must be teaching something about fats, solutions, maybe surface tension?

So I asked him WHY did you do that experiment?

I dunno.

What was the experiment about?

I dunno.

Were you trying to prove or discover something?

I dunno.

I asked if the teacher explained what the experiment was about.

I dunno.

And this is from a kid who is really interested in science and is in the Gifted/Talented category.

So I checked his "science" notebook. No notes, no explanation, no nothing.

The best I can tell, they did this "experiment" because it would look cool.

Not sure if he got much science out of that...

But, as usual, I digress...

I think I'll be paying this class a visit fairly soon, though.

Or maybe pinning a voice recorder on my son just to see how things are going in class.

And to make sure my kid hasn't just gotten a lot dumber just recently.

Pamela Grundy said...

Kids are a bit more complex and less predictable than atoms, so it's hard to come up with hard and fast rules. I think many teachers would tell you that pedagogy is worth learning, particularly when it's related to stages in child development, but that constant efforts to introduce "new" reading programs, "new" math systems, etc. is profitable for the companies selling the systems and related materials but counterproductive in terms of education.

Wiley Coyote said...

I have spoken often of my ex-wife here who was a teacher.

During the time she went to USC to become a teacher, having a Master's Degree was mandatory in SC.

She graduated but had to take the teacher exam (whatever it was at the time) several times before getting the minimum required for her certificate.

Does the fact she had to take the certification test several times make her a bad teacher, even though she graduated with a Master's in Early Childhood Education?

She was a good teacher. As I have said, was she the best? I dunno but she certainly wasn't near the bottom and taught for many years.

I've also said I believe the vast majority of teachers are "good teachers". Some go on to specialize in certain areas and we need them and we should pay them accordingly. That doesn't take away from any of those "good teachers" who don't pursue other areas of teaching or a higher degree.

I believe it depends on the teacher.

My son had a couple of new teachers during his time in CMS with one really good and one terrible teacher so it's going to vary by the individual.

What's interesting is that the "good" new teacher he had was in high school for Honors IV English class and the awful teacher was his fifth grade teacher.

I wish that half of my son's teachers would have been as engaged as this one. Excerpt from one of many emails during the year:

...In regards to the Parent Survey, let me first explain my rationale in regards to assigning a test grade to this document.

I am a first year teacher here in CMS, and I really want to create a positive connection between myself, my students, and their parents. I want parents to feel comfortable reaching out to me, and I also would like to know the best methods/times to contact the parents of my students.

That is my rationale for the Parent Survey; although the information is included in NC Wise, it is not always the most up-to-date.

In the Parent Survey, I also included my personal cell phone number and email address, so parents can contact me at their convenience. If you don't feel comfortable sharing that information with me, I have no problem exempting ______ from this assignment!

You have a smart, funny, respectful son that I adore having in my class. Please let me know if you have any additional questions!

This is the kind of teacher we need, whether they have a Master's or not.

Anonymous said...

The brother and sister got their education paid for ALL by TAXPAYERS, which in turn will pay ALL of their salary.

What is she complaining about ?
At least her brother is smart enough to go into a job that will pay him a decent salary and benefits. Tell me of another job in Mecklenburg county that a woman can do so little to make so much ($100,000). Again what are you complaining about. Nice job CMeS !

Anonymous said...

Great we need that teachers who is putting all of her efforts for the measley pay of a Masters degree rather than teaching the auistic students.

There is no way she will not be doing some of that work on the clock while being paid her salary.

Anonymous said...

I also believe that it depends on the teacher and whether they receive their advanced degree(s) to better their professional instruction and expand their role into the greater education field. There is no way on God's green earth that I will be able to meet the Spring 2014 deadline. I find it hilarious that the sociopaths (term used in the traditional sense) who lump everyone into narrow categories and spew bile regarding teacher pay have never took on the responsibility of teaching. As far as myself, my work in completing my final advanced degree has assisted me in content and pedagogical knowledge to the extent that it has been recognized well beyond the CMS classroom and district level. In fact some of the children of these "experts" on this board may experience my content and pedagogical knowledge regardless of the country in which they send their progeny. Once I am done, I will probably teach in another state which will recognize my hard work and knowledge in and out of the classroom. I am a former business owner and believe in capitalism to the extent that NC will definitely get what it is paying for. I will be more than happy to address the "experts" on this board and ask how does it taste to send your children to schools which are the laughing stock of the nation in terms of academic rigor and accomplishment. By the way, NC did not give me one damn dime for this degree either while many corporations will offset entire or partial costs and pay a living wage.

Anonymous said...

If a master's degree doesn't matter in the classroom or on an education pay scale, then what's the point of continuing to hire PhD's?

Dr. Morrison
Dr. Gorman
Dr. Haithcock
Dr. Pusghley
Dr. Murphey
Dr. Smith


Wiley Coyote said...

A living wage is a moving target, depending on where you live.

Who decides what the living wage should be? The government for everyone?

Anonymous said...

Alicia, did any one of these demonstrate any competence as a teacher?

I knew all of them. I've been here that long.

For folks who think all of this is more recent development, let me tell you about an incident with Dr. Murphy. Dr. Murphy saw pretty quick the issues about educating a certain demographic. He set out one evening/night and trolled many streets in certain parts of town and talked to all the school kids he came across. He talked to most of these after midnight. He came back to a board meeting and told of his adventure. Of course you have to know what then transpired. The community organizers got all up in arms and got the Charlotte Observer on their side. They all made life even more miserable for Dr. Murphy.

So you see what most of folks around here want from CMS. They just want a place for the kids to get out of their house for the day and taken care of without any of their "free" (federal taxpayer money) taken from their pockets.

Anonymous said...


Is there evidence that by disproportionately paying teachers with masters degrees, the state would help students learn better? If you're going to write about this subject, you should explore that question.

Anonymous said...

I really think the school system should have given these teachers more time to complete their degree. To be honest if this was my sons teacher I would be a little upset. I mean I just think it is likely her job could suffer which means the children who need a good attentive teacher the most could suffer. She is only 25 years old and might have the stanima for it but maybe not.

Anonymous said...

I have been a republican all my life and wonder why these fools get paid so much for a masters degree. Why cant you just werk your way to the top. All that we need to know has already been taught, we don't need no more education!

Anonymous said...

I dunno. Sounds like a pretty engaging and typical middle school conversation. Maybe a little Ayn Rand or Monty Python would be more stimulating since that STEM detergent manifesto isn't working. I dunno. One would also think that any IT or banking employee could see they are totally expendable to outsourcing. CMS is already on the pathway to outsourcing BYOT to the next level. Call centers in Lancaster or Mumbai should fill the bill Heath.

Anonymous said...

Surrounding states need to cancel their reciprocity agreements with North Carolina concerning teacher licensure. Several states around us require their teachers to begin work on a Master's degree within 10 years of becoming a teacher. If North Carolina no longer pays its teachers for Masters' Degrees then perhaps these states need to simply refuse to accept a NC teaching license.

Anonymous said...

Dear Elizabeth, this is the way the world really works. People like you work hard to take care of people's children. They in turn work in the corporate world where they are undereducated and well overpaid. However, no one can do their job, but everyone can do yours because you just a stupid teacher. When their kid comes to your class full of 30 kids they want to know why your not personally paying attention to their kid and call you bad names. In turn, you can do nothing about it because North Carolina and its quaint and friendly business environment refuse to pay you better and demand more of you. Do them a favor, just mow their grass, cook their meals, raise their kids and be happy with whatever small salary they're willing to pay you. Meanwhile, they will stand around and talk about their fellow workers and you like dogs and lament over the fact they are the true job creators and they shouldn't have to support lazy people like you.

Anonymous said...

Shamash 1:27 p.m. From your story I gather that either your kid is simply dumb and didn't write anything down (which is possible) or the teacher doesn't know anything. My guess is that your kid is struggling while everyone else is making really good grades. I suppose you might have to contact your kid's teachers for the first time in five or six years. Parenting sure is tough isn't it! Perhaps you should be more involved from the beginning, huh that might even work.

Anonymous said...

8:22 "werk"...

that's funny. Now let me get back to planning a lesson for Wednesday about MLK and the I have a dream speech.

I really find it funny that some of you were such perfect children that you told your parents everything you did in school every day in absolute, stunning detail. Never told your parent "I dunno" when asked a question eh?

Then you wouldn't be trolling the ed blog. Go away. Leave the heavy lifting to the teachers; we end up picking up after you anyway...

Anonymous said...

The more I read the more I realize that working in NC as an educator is a fool's game. Get out while you can.

Anonymous said...

To AUGUST 26, 2013 AT 7:54 PM

Wow. I took 18 hours, worked full-time and also performed (requirement of my grant). 4 pt grade average for a double major. Could I do it now? HAH! As so many others, it sounds like your concern reaches as far as your own child and no further. What she's doing IS for your child and others. Of course, I'm sure YOU are helping your child and actively engaged in their schooling. Oh, and SUPPORT their teachers. Yea, right.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:30.

Gee, a bit harsh, eh?

Sounds to me like Anon 7:54pm was being somewhat sympathetic to the teacher in suggesting that she be given more time to complete the degree rather than be rushed.

Shamash said...

Anon 8:43.

You know me so well.

Of course, I've never talked to the teacher, visited the classroom, or been involved in my son's education at all.

Just as you surmised.

And, yes, you're also correct that my son gets poor grades.

That's why they put him in the Gifted and Talented program.

To make the other kids look good.

The depth of your thinking (and reading comprehension) astounds me.

Are you a teacher?

Shamash said...

Anon 8:23 pm.

It's not just IT and banking that's open to outsourcing.

Don't you think that isn't exactly what folks like Bill Gates are looking toward as a solution to our education "problem"?

Leveraging the "best" teachers, and all that?

In an ideal world for Bill Gates, teachers would be Microsoft Certified Instructors, live anywhere on the planet (preferably somewhere cheap with low wages) and "telecommute" to the class.

Or, even better, they could produce canned videos like the "Khan Academy" Bill Gates is so impressed with.

What's funny to me is that the quality of most of the "Khan Academy" videos is way below that of the Deltak computer training videos I watched back in the late 1970's on videocassette.

So even though the technology of today is far superior, the content, in my opinion, is not.

And while that could change, it still isn't anything exactly NEW.

At least not since the invention of the videocassette.

The main thing that is different is the availability, provided that it is put in the public domain (or otherwise made freely available).

Anonymous said...

I love the "results" matter concept for schools. And, I agree, results matter. But students are not IT projects. They are not computer programs that have set goals and either work or don't. They are human beings, with feelings, and emotions. They are humans who come to school with problems and issues. They come to school with disabilities. They come to school with gifts and abilities. They come to school fed, or hungry. Any one of them has multiple ways of learning, and none of them are the same. Yet teachers are handed a single curriculum, and 30+ kids and told - you have to teach X number of kids this information in 180 days, and if you don't, too bad, so sad, your job is on the line. Education is an assembly line, but the product ISN'T. I know what the real world is - and if any one pays any attention to the real world, then I can't figure out why a teacher is held to the same standard as an IT specialist, or a manufacturer. The outcome is different, because the starting material is different. No two students are alike. I don't care if you take the same IQ, income, race, and gender - you can end up with two absolutely different results. And yet the teacher must be the one to blame. You can hand two students the exact same project, with the exact same materials, and end up with two totally different quality outcomes - that's why we have grades in the first place!

Now, let's talk about Master Degrees. I want someone who is educated to teach my children. However, it costs money to go to college. What incentive do teachers have now, with low wages as it is, to continue to be educated in their fields, particularly math, science, technology (i.e. STEM), fields that college barely scratches the surface (and I should know, I have a biology degree from Duke), to teach our students and pay their loans? And before someone jumps on me, they cut the Teaching Fellows program too - so Elizabeth is the last of a long line of what used to a be a wonderful NC tradition. Why, but out of the kindness of their hearts, should a teacher go further in debt, to become better educated, when there will be NO reward for it, at all. $500 is nothing in the scheme of things.

Honestly, it is simply - our GA wants an uneducated public - and our generation is falling for it, hook, line and sinker. And then we will wonder in our retirement what happened to our children.

Shamash said...

Anon 3:16pm.

Teachers get the blame because it isn't politically correct to blame the students or their parents in our society.

That's a real problem.

That and a lack of focus on the academic material being taught (instead of socialization and everything else going on at schools)

Thirdly would be a lack of expertise in subjects at a higher level (such as in High School with the notorious STEM subjects).

As for the advanced degrees...

I personally have no problem with them. I have one myself. I'd like to see teachers have advanced degrees as well...

I'd like to see advanced degrees in the subjects they teach, though, (like English, History, Math, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Music), not necessarily "Education".

Unless, of course, they plan to teach "education" in the classroom or are specialists in educating "problem" or "gifted" children in the lower grades.

Above about sixth grade, I think content is as important as technique.

Maybe even more so.

But, in the final analysis, if these changes result in an "uneducated" public, I think the public is mostly to blame.

For not learning on their own.

Again, past about sixth grade most people have the basics to learn a lot on their own.

If you are depending on schools and teachers to teach you everything you are going to know, you are probably doomed to failure (or at least a life of poverty)anyway.

Anonymous said...

Good luck to Elizabeth and her brother.

Anonymous said...

Ever think it could be your son?

Unknown said...

I'm not even sure why the field of IT even came up in this's about expanding your education in the educational field. IT is a dying breed and has been for over a decade now...outsourced and cheaper in 3rd World countries.

It has absolutely nothing to do with this young lady and her brother being educational stewards in THIS country.

I have a Master's degree in Business and 2 more degrees in IT and I do not even work in the field I chose to study in. At least this young lady and her brother are allowed to be in a field where their educational concentrations have taken them.

Unfortunately, yes, there are bad teachers out there, I've seen them, even had a few fired over the years....they were also uneducated or under-educated as they had no incentive to expand their knowledge.

The state has laid down a challenge from what I see here, to offer an incentive to higher education and an expansion of knowledge....with that, breadth of experience will be what will be leading our children eventually.

As to getting a free education, wouldn't you? As some have shown, it's really a thankless job to spend more time with your children than you, as a parent does so you get free childcare while you work. Education: what you put into is what you get out of matter the cost. I think this young lady is rising to a challenge to better herself to BE better for whatever children she teaches in the future.

What I do feel was missed in this article is the fact that the state is retracting this yes, there will be narrow window of those who rose to the challenge and further educational value in the system....the rest will just be educational certificates. Good luck Elizabeth and God Speed.


Shamash said...


I actually think the IT "profession" sets a good precedent for where the teaching profession is very likely heading.

While IT folks struggled for decades to become a true "profession" in ALL senses of the word (as is the case for doctors, lawyers, and some engineers), they never quite made it.

The IT folks NEVER TOOK CONTROL of their profession like doctors and lawyers did and still do (up to and including being gatekeepers for who gets to be in the profession).

Teachers do not control who gets to be a teacher, but doctors do control who gets to be a doctor.

Just check out the AMA and who runs the medical schools. It's doctors.

Check out who controls the law schools and admission to the bar. It's lawyers.

Funny how that small difference makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE in so many ways.

Don't you realize that Bill Gates has become a major force in education "reform"?

At one time people thought IT jobs were the "jobs of the future" and "here to stay", but that was before communications made it so easy to outsource the work to India.

That same communication technology can be used to outsource a LOT of what teachers do as well.

I think it is exactly what Bill Gates sees that very few others see (or will admit).

Have you read about the Khan Academy and what Gates says about that?

Anyway, it sure looks to me like the "de-professionalizing" of the teaching "profession" is well underway.

And I think the future will see more teachers as "certified" technicians rather than "professionals".

At least in the US.

Shamash said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shamash said...

Anon 7:56pm

If you're referring to my post(s)...

Yes, I ALWAYS consider that it could be my son.

As far as I am concerned that's where the buck ultimately stops.

For every student.

Not with the teacher and not with parent (ultimately).

We can only go so far, then it's up to the student to take control.

I have to prepare my children for that, but past a point it's up to them to do well or fail.

And I tell my son that nearly every day.

(Go back and read what I wrote.)

Also, as an addendum...

After hearing about the "Milk Rainbow" experiment I searched for a video on YouTube to confirm what they did and then explained the REAL SCIENCE behind that experiment.

I then took the time to explain what science was about and what experiments were for.

Then I went into the kitchen and demonstrated some simple examples of experiments and asked him to make some predictions and proposed some tests to check those predictions.

All in all, it took me about an hour to do all this as part of his regular homework and "how was school" discussion.

And I'm satisfied that my performance in explaining "science" was as good as that of his teacher.