Does Merit Pay Work (Redux)?
The study released Tuesday by Vanderbilt University's National Center on Performance Incentives researchers found that students in classrooms where teachers received bonuses saw the same gains as the classes where educators got no incentive.
"I think most people agree today that the current way in which we compensate teachers is broken," said Matthew Springer, executive director of the Vanderbilt center and lead researcher on the study. "But we don't know what the better way is yet.They state that 5-8th grade teachers in Nashville public schools over 3 years from 2007-2009 could make between $5k-$15K annually, depending on how their students tested.
A bit issue here as in a study in Florida is that you are talking about individual bonuses which tend to pit teachers against each other. Maybe merit pay would be better for team-based teaching or school-wide merit pay. Does merit pay make a mediocre teacher try harder? Can money alone do that or would a school/district need to add more professional development to kick it up?
The Department of Ed had its own take on the research:
"It only looked at the narrow question of whether more pay motivates teachers to try harder," said Sandra Abrevaya, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Education. "What we are trying to do is change the culture of teaching by giving all educators the feedback they need to get better while rewarding and incentivizing the best to teach in high need schools, hard to staff subjects."
Really? That's what merit pay is to the DOE - an incentive for teachers to teach harder-to-staff subjects in high schools? Odd.
Then you have this: if teachers are getting better test scores out of their students, are teachers "better" teachers and are their students "brighter?"
The Gates Foundation is funding a $100 million grant in one district in Florida to try to figure this out and fine-tune it.
From CBS news:
The Superintendent in that district said, "We're committed to make sure we get the program right, that it's fair, that it's equitable."
In fact, it appears to have worked at Sulphur Springs. The "F" the school got two years ago is gone. It became a "B"-rated school this year.