Saint Martin's student's research pressures state to check teachers' degrees

Dec. 12, 2004

Lacey – An original research project done by Saint Martin’s College senior Sarah Carrico is resulting in closer scrutiny of Washington teachers who may have bogus master’s or doctoral degrees – degrees that translate into automatic pay raises, better job standing.

Carrico, a double major in political science and history from Meridian, Idaho, became interested in researching the educational credentials of Washington’s teachers last year when she heard national stories about federal workers obtaining big pay raises after getting bogus degrees. She wondered if the same was true for Washington’s teachers, who earn extra pay as they attain more education credentials.

While working at Olympia’s non-profit Evergreen Freedom Foundation, a non-profit that studies public policy, she undertook a three-month research project that examined not only the degrees state teachers claimed to have earned, but also whether the degree-granting institutions were accredited or merely “diploma mills” – fraudulent or substandard organizations that make money by granting degrees that require little or no college-level work.

With the help of mentors, Carrico surveyed 22 percent of the state’s school district’s, uncovering six Washington teachers profiting from illegitimate degrees. While the State’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction has a prerequisite requiring credentialed teachers to have degrees from accredited institutions, the state has no law that makes the use of illegitimate academic degrees illegal to use in obtaining a job or raise. Carrico’s work resulted in foundation recommendations to do so, as well as to survey all Washington school districts to identify teachers with illegitimate degrees and to adopt a flexible teacher salary model based on seniority and demonstrable excellence.

“My friends joked with me this summer, saying I was ruining seven people’s lives by publishing this report,” Carrico says. “But once I found the information, the thought of the public, the taxpayers, not knowing where their money was going, quite literally unnerved me.”

She also says she was troubled to think that students were getting short-changed at the same time the individuals in question profited.

To read more about Carrico’s research, go to www.effwa.org/highlighters/v14_n26.php on the web.

Carrico, who is currently at Japan’s Mukogawa Women’s University on an exchange student scholarship, will complete her degree at Saint Martin’s College in 2005. She is a 2001 graduate of Eagle High School in Meridian.

For more information:
Richard Langill, Ph.D.
Professor, political science
360-438-4588; rlangill@stmartin.edu

Deanna Partlow
Office of Communication
360-438-4541; dpartlow@stmartin.edu