Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Teacher performance pay: what a waste!

Teacher performance pay: what a waste!

According to a new study from Mathematica, there’s no evidence for improved student achievement or teacher retention as a result of the highly touted teacher performance pay program in Chicago; despite protestations by Education Secretary Duncan, just as there has been no evidence so far of any benefits for the teacher bonus pay program in NYC that has cost at least $38 million this year.

The Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) was developed by the Milken Family Foundation in the late 1990s; yes, Michael Milken, former junk-bond salesman, indicted on 98 counts of racketeering and securities fraud. The TAP program is now being funded by a $27 million Teacher Incentive Fund grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Nevertheless, Chicago and NYC will no doubt continue to waste more millions on these misconceived programs and the feds will continue to push states to adopt them; because our decision-makers seem happy inhabiting their evidence-free zones.

There are currently 34 districts and states across the country receiving federal money to implement teacher performance pay; according to EdWeek, and seven of them use a form of the same model now been proven to be ineffective in Chicago .

This push by the feds is counter to a huge amount of accumulated evidence in social science research that extrinsic motivators like performance pay don’t work and often do harm; for example, as explained in this lecture by Daniel Pink; or this review by researchers at the London School of Economics.

As the director of research at LSE, Luis Garicano has written, the evidence of the harmful effects of these programs indicate that instead, managers should “ reduce the power of incentives, so promotions would be again more based on seniority and less on measured performance. “

This of course flies in the face of the propaganda now being propounded by this administration, in their attempt to abrogate seniority-based protections in the teacher contract.

Teachers themselves consistently respond in surveys that monetary incentives like bonuses are unlikely to work to improve teacher effectiveness, in contrast to reducing class size, which more than 90% of teachers believe would be the best way to improve their effectiveness.

Yet even the Mathematica researcher who found no positive results in the Chicago program seems to advocate wasting even more money on this program, according to his quote in Edweek:

“You have to wonder whether the result would have been different if the payouts had been larger or more meaningfully differentiated,” Mr. Glazerman said.

Sure. When thousands of teachers are being laid off across the country, and class sizes are rising at unprecedented rates, why not waste even more millions on programs with no research backing?

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