Twenty years ago when Leonard Merrell was hired as the KISD superintendent, one of his first acts was to convene a committee to develop a "Katy Plan." 

It was a boondoggle activity designed to keep his school board busy and out of his hair while he surreptitiously completed the transformation of the KISD schools into touchy feely places of "learning."

I participated (what else was I going to do?) and pretended to take him seriously.  I put out all sorts of good ideas about how KISD could be "fixed."  And believe me, just as now, KISD needed plenty of fixing!

One of my ideas had to do with improving the education of Katy ISD teachers.  At the time, I had spent some time as a substitute teacher in Katy ISD (I had previously taken an assignment for three months for a pregnant teacher, and I taught her GT classes at Mayde Creek Junior High.  I also, while on the Board, signed up to be a substitute teacher in Cy Fair, just so I could see up close and personal what teachers were doing in their classrooms and what they were being asked to do as teachers. It was a pleasant cover to satisfy my curiosity and help me be a better school board member in KISD. It was also where I made my astounding discovery (at least for me) that elementary school students spent 45 minutes every day on task acquiring academic knowledge and skills and the rest of the day was spent in other endeavors like walking around, putting things up or getting them out, eating lunch and snacks, getting a drink of water, going to the bathroom, and going to PE or music or art or outside to play.  I realize all those things are a part of an elementary school education.  What I didn't realize was how much time was spent on all those extraneous matters compared to being on task with real academics!

With regard to elementary teachers, I also realized how causing all of them to have to obtain an elementary education degree instead of an academic degree with an education certificate was a great disservice to them.  As people who WANT to teach in elementary school, they cannot do so any other way unless they get an elementary education degree. 

What I also discovered was that most junior high teachers are teaching without an academic degree.  Most of them have an elementary education degree.  In my mind, there is a big difference in the quality and level of instruction that ensues from the teacher with just an EE degree. As students enter the 6th grade in KISD, it is important for them to have teachers with subject field knowledge, in my opinion.

It is at the school district's discretion whether they hire academically qualified teachers for junior high schools or not.

At the junior high AND high school level, I saw teachers with assignments for which they were obviously not qualified because they didn't know enough about the subject matter. 

So as one of the planks of my proposal for the "Katy Plan," I suggested that it would be of great benefit, not only first to the students, but to the teachers, school district and community if KISD would pay for currently employed teachers who had been employed for three years and who were willing to stay three more, to get a Master's degree in an academic subject.

I didn't want the District to pay for an "Education" degree as I have found that degree to be pretty much worthless (I have 30+ hours in education courses and know how useless all those hours are. Think how much better off I would have been as an English teacher if I could have spent my time taking ten more college courses in English!)*  I wanted teachers to have an academic degree so that they would have additional knowledge in their subject field and thus be able to enhance their teaching abilities. Surely, I thought, there's not a good teacher alive who wouldn't want to improve on his teaching skills.

I also did not want the District paying for more people to get an Education degree because mostly what happens is that once gotten, that degree becomes a ticket for a teacher to become a counselor, assistant principal, instructional specialist, and/or otherwise enter the chain of upward mobility in administrative endeavor--and, I do not believe THAT effort helps any student.  It only increases income for the teacher.

An academic degree, however, helps not only the student, but also the teacher as she/he receives more income with a Master's degree. (Granted, it's not as much as an administrator, but I hoped to address that inconsistency as well.)

Of course, that's not the kind of thing in which Leonard Merrell had an interest, and so my idea went nowhere.

Recently I heard about a program in Artesia, New Mexico where the Chase Foundation (a family owned foundation that looks for ways to help the community) offered to pay for teachers in the Artesia school district to get a Master's degree.  That is obviously a great idea that mimics what I proposed twenty years ago, but stops just short of being truly worthwhile.  The Foundation is not qualifying the requirements to only allow for an academic degree, and so their money is going down the hole of administrative greed.

Too bad!  It could have been a good thing.

Mary McGarr