Sunday, February 13, 2011

Merit Pay Doesn't Work, But That Was Never the Intention


The corporate reformers had long claimed that merit pay/bonuses would boost test scores; when it failed to do, time and again, they then said that they never expected merit pay to boost test scores, they expected it to restructure the teaching profession. Well, I guess we'll have to try it for 15 years and see how that works out.

Diane Ravitch

I reported on this study below, which received null results from teacher performance pay in NYC back when it was first released last June, in connection w/ a conference at Harvard:

Now it has been published in EdNext.

Some proponents of merit pay as in this study argue that “whole school bonuses” may not work as well as individual merit pay, because it doesn’t reward individual teachers and doesn’t give them to same incentive to work harder or better; however individual merit pay did not work either in the Vanderbilt study.

So the corporate privateers, such as James Merriman of the NYC Charter Center at a recent panel discussion at NYU  now argue that they never expected improved results directly from giving merit pay to teachers, but that a  merit-based system would attract a better class of recruits to the profession – people that otherwise might be drawn to other professions  where their remuneration would be based more on performance (like the financial sector, to the evident detriment of our economic system, where short-term rewards were one of the causes of the economic collapse, but never mind.)

Yet this new hypothesis is not only untestable, as far I can see, but also quite unlikely, in my mind,  as most people who go into teaching in the first place are not attracted primarily out of financial considerations, unlike those attracted to work on Wall St.

Thanks, Leonie

Subject: [Bulk] Another study showing payment for performance does not improve outcomes

The right-wing Education Next reports on one more study that pay for performance does not lead to improved educational outcomes, according to this synopsis from PEN's newsblast. I doubt it will stop Ed Next's sponsors from continuing to support payment for student test scores, as Fordham Inst continues to promote (Fordham's Finn is also a key figure in Ed Next).

So much for the group huddle
A new study from Columbia University featured in Education Next analyzes a recent New York City Department of Education (DOE) policy that tested whether merit pay for all teachers at an effective school could increase student achievement. The city's School-Wide Performance Bonus Program, launched in 2007 and endorsed by both the DOE and the teachers union, was implemented in a randomly selected subset of the city's most disadvantaged schools. Researchers examined data from the first two years of the bonus program, in which teachers received bonuses based on overall performance of all tested students in their school, rather than just in their own classrooms. According to proponents, this design can minimize conflict and foster cooperation among teachers. In fact, researchers found little effect overall, positive or negative. (Also, over the period examined, all schools experienced increases in student achievement on the New York state test that has since been determined too easy, which meant 90 percent of participating schools received a bonus in the second year.) Researchers found some evidence, however, that the program had a positive impact in smaller schools, an environment in which it may be easier for teachers to cooperate in pursuit of a common reward. The study leaves open the question of whether a bonus program that rewards teachers for their own specific effectiveness would be more successful.
See the report:
Monty Neill, Ed.D.; Interim Executive Director, FairTest; P.O. Box 300204, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-477-9792;; Donate to FairTest:

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