By Krystal Yang
Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Indeed, especially in America, we have been focusing more and more on the education of our children. However, recent legislation passed in Washington, D.C. has sparked national debate over the necessity of college degrees for teachers. On April 7, teachers at child care centers in Washington, D.C. will now be required to have a college degree in order to become educators. Supporters of this new law explain that having qualified teachers ensures quality education for students—excellent primary schooling constructs the foundation for all types of future learning. However, many people have pointed out that getting a college degree does not necessarily correlate to the ability to teach, especially for lower education levels.
Most data shows that teachers’ level of education is associated with high-quality care and teaching, and there is no evidence that it doesn’t matter completely. Still, it’s impossible to disentangle whether the “teachers’ degrees caused the quality to improve or, more likely, whether it was a combination of factors.” Teacher degrees are most effective when combined with other policies, such as class size, curriculum, class size, and, especially, higher wages. According to the Center of the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley, preschool teachers are actually paid the least out of all other teaching positions, with an average salary of around $27,000 to $29,000 per year. With the general consensus that it is easier to be successful with a college degree, increasing the salary of preschool teachers could actually encourage teachers to perform better. A note to keep in mind about this issue is that no controlled, high-quality experiment has ever been done to study the impact of a teacher’s education on students’ achievement. Thus, there is really no strong evidence supporting either side of the evidence. Nevertheless, researchers are concerned that the new Washington, D.C. law could discriminate against low-income families who cannot afford to send their kids to college, and even decrease the already-insufficient level of child care in America.
Personally, I do not believe that preschool teachers should be forced to get college degrees, as higher education does not necessarily entail teaching skills. At my current high school, we have many teachers who have master’s and postgraduate degrees; in fact, my high school plucks adults fresh out of college and puts them into a classroom environment. (There is a rumor around my school that less than half of the teachers actually have teaching degrees.) The result: I have discovered that this is not relationship between a person’s teaching ability and their educational background. My history teacher, for example, actually failed his courses for a master’s degree and was kicked out of college; however, as an AP history teacher, he has had a 100% AP exam pass rate for multiple years. Indeed, not only is his class is extremely informative, but he is also one of the smartest, kindest people I have ever met. On the flip side, I have had many science teachers who have their PhDs in their teaching fields, yet I fall asleep every day in their class and learn nothing. Just because a person knows a subject very well does not signify that said person will be good at teaching the subject.
Although there is no conclusive data to answer the question “should preschool teachers get college degrees?”, people in general should not be judged by their academic success. As the saying goes, “correlation does not imply causation.” Despite statistics showing that higher education leads to greater happiness, increased salaries, and greater overall success, it is likely a combination of different factors that create this result. We should give everyone a chance, especially when it comes to the education of the world’s future generation.
Link to article and study: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/07/upshot/do-preschool-teachers-really-need-to-be-college-graduates.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Feducation&action=click&contentCollection=education®ion=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=4&pgtype=sectionfront