Merit pay for teachers is only fair

Business has long been accustomed to rewarding good performance with salary increases, but the birth of merit pay for teachers is proving both protracted and painful, Forbes reports. Evidence that performance-related pay raises standards is hard to come by, and last summer one of the few schemes to show a positive impact was quietly dismantled. But this doesn’t mean it should be abandoned. Even if merit pay does not lead to higher grades, its supporters argue that there is another reason that makes it worth considering as a replacement for a system that takes little account of ability or effort…

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Merit pay and ‘loss aversion’

Uh oh, educators, hold onto your hats! It appears that a new catchphrase is coming to school reform, and it’s called “loss aversion,” explains Larry Ferlazzo, a high-school teacher in Sacramento who writes a blog for educators and a teacher advice column. Loss aversion is a psychological finding that losing something makes us feel worse than gaining the same thing makes us feel better. A group of economists published a study two weeks ago implementing this strategy with students. They wanted to see if students would try harder on a standardized test if they knew they would get cash or some other kind of immediate prize if they improved on their results. They tried offering these rewards in a couple of different ways, but found the biggest test improvement would come if they gave the student the money ($20) or non-cash award before the test and then told them they would have to give it back if they didn’t score well. There are a number of issues with this study, including the fact that the gains do not appear to have carried over to carry over to the future and that it appears to be a relatively small number of students. The authors also appear to ignore recent studies that have shown that loss aversion can have particularly damaging effects on many people…

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Why teacher merit pay can’t work today–and what can be done about this

"It would be intellectually dishonest to suggest that schools can imitate the flexibility that businesses have while retaining the burden we require of our public institutions," Rosenblatt writes.

Having spent two decades working in the private sector before running for our local school board, I was unaccustomed to a school district’s degree of openness. Like most public agencies, ours is essentially an open book—all of our board meetings are held in public (with limited exceptions), all of our contracts are public, vendor bidding is public, all decisions are made public, and all employees’ salaries are public.

That makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? We use tax dollars as our main source of income. We are stewards and trustees of these taxpayer dollars. And we must hold ourselves accountable to the taxpayers for the prudent use of that money. We must be transparent. There are only a few exceptions allowing for secrecy, including areas such as student discipline, employee discipline, and discussions of lawsuits.

For me, transparency took some getting used to, as business interactions are by and large secret. Secrecy allows businesses to shield the “sausage making” process from their stakeholders, make decisions much more quickly, and pick and choose which information to make public or even disclose to their own employees. Through my straddling of both the private-sector and public-sector worlds, I have noticed that most people don’t think through the implications of these fundamental differences on how an organization can be managed. Although these contrasts should not be used as an excuse to defend poorly performing public institutions or public representatives, simply saying “just do it the way business does it” ignores reality. There is a fundamental difference between learning from private organizations and copying them.…Read More

After endorsing Obama, teachers union says yes to test-based evaluations

The nation’s largest teachers union may soon endorse a policy statement encouraging the use of standardized test scores in evaluating teacher performance in the classroom, reports Yahoo! News. This big shift comes on the heels of the National Education Association’s decision to endorse President Obama’s presidential campaign surprisingly early–and in spite of the union’s frequent head-butting with the White House over Obama’s reform-minded policies. The NEA’s leadership has long blasted education reformers’ laser-focus on test scores, and opposed any move by the Education Department to evaluate teachers in part on how much they improve their students’ performance on standardized tests. They have said that such “value-added” data is unreliable, which makes this new stance all the more remarkable…

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Study: Teacher bonuses failed to boost test scores

Students whose teachers were offered bonuses of up to $15,000 a year for improved test scores fared no better than those whose teachers were given no such incentives.
Students whose teachers were offered bonuses of up to $15,000 a year for improved test scores fared no better than their peers.

Offering big bonuses to teachers failed to raise students’ test scores in a three-year study released Sept. 21 that calls into question the Obama administration’s push for merit pay to improve education.

The study, conducted in the metropolitan Nashville school system by Vanderbilt University’s National Center on Performance Incentives, was described by the researchers as the nation’s first scientifically rigorous look at the effects of merit pay for teachers.

It found that students whose teachers were offered bonuses of up to $15,000 a year for improved test scores registered the same gains on standardized exams as those whose teachers were given no such incentives.…Read More