Study: N.Y. teacher performance pay program flops
Just the other day we heard that a program in Chicago that attempted to link teacher pay with student standardized test scores wasn’t working, at least not in the first two years.
A 2009 analysis of a major program in Texas that also linked teacher pay to student achievement gains on tests showed no evidence of success. The multi-year Texas Educator Excellence Grant involved teachers at about 1,000 campuses, with a total of more than 140,000 students in lower-income neighborhoods. It was discontinued because of “design problems.”
Now, a paper prepared by two Columbia University researchers for a recent education conference at Harvard University said that the New York City Bonus Program, which attempts to raise student achievement by paying teachers for it, was -- you guessed -- also unsuccessful.
The researchers, Sarena Goodman and Lesley Turner, investigated the impacts of group-based incentive pay over two academic years (2007-2008 and 2008-2009) on a range of outcomes that included teacher effort, student performance in math and reading, and classroom activities. Also evaluated were impacts on the market for teachers by examining teacher turnover and the qualifications of newly hired teachers.
“Overall, we find the bonus program had little impact on any of these outcomes,” the researchers concluded.
In each of these reports, the authors noted that the design of the program was flawed in some way. Teachers weren’t paid enough or they were not paid individually or some other part was not well conceived.
The Goodman/Turner study says, for example, “We argue that the lack of bonus program impacts can be explained by the structure of the bonus program. Group bonuses led to free-riding, which significantly reduced the program’s incentives.”
Maybe. But maybe not. And this is our problem: Nobody yet knows.
That hasn’t stopped performance-based pay from becoming the new mantras in school reform. It was, in fact, a key part of the new teachers' contract negotiated in Washington, D.C., by Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and just ratified by members of the Washington Teachers' Union. It is also part of a number of school reform laws recently passed in various states to win favor -- and federal Race to the Top dollars -- from Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
The thinking goes something like this: Why shouldn’t student achievement be included in the evaluation and compensation of teachers? For one thing, teachers aren’t the only players in the complex process in which kids learn. Home environments and biology play a role, too.
If, however, teachers are to be evaluated by how well their students do, the worst possible way to do that would be using student scores on standardized tests. There are a lot of reasons a student might do poorly on one of these tests, and how effective there teacher is or isn’t may well not be one of them. Besides, these tests aren’t designed to evaluate how well teachers do their jobs, and text experts will tell you that an assessment is only valid for the purpose for which it was designed.
Performance pay linked to test scores creates incentives for teachers to essentially do the wrong thing: Obsess on teaching kids how to do well on the tests -- in math and reading -- while giving short shrift to other vital subjects. So even if this scheme were to "work," it wouldn't really be working.
I do not suggest that these three reports are at all definitive. But they certainly show that education reformers are pushing school systems -- yet again -- into another costly experiment that may be doomed to fail.
You would think that after the disappointing results of No Child Left Behind, the folks behind school reform would think twice about jumping onto another racing train without knowing where it is going.
Unfortunately, you’d be wrong.
Follow my blog all day, every day by bookmarking washingtonpost.com/answersheet. And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our new Higher Education page at washingtonpost.com/higher-ed Bookmark it!
| June 8, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories: No Child Left Behind, Performance pay, Teachers | Tags: d.c. teachers contract, merit pay, michelle rhee, nclb, performance pay, teachers, teachers performance pay, test scores and pay
Save & Share: Previous: Standardized testing follies in Florida
Next: Your kid’s friends matter more than you think, study says
Posted by: jlp19 | June 8, 2010 8:32 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: gideon4ed | June 8, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: thebandit | June 8, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: celestun100 | June 8, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: HappyTeacher | June 8, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: HappyTeacher | June 8, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: aed3 | June 8, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mcstowy | June 8, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: aby1 | June 8, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: efavorite | June 8, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: aby1 | June 8, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: efavorite | June 8, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: HappyTeacher | June 8, 2010 10:28 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: efavorite | June 8, 2010 10:52 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: HappyTeacher | June 8, 2010 11:55 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: efavorite | June 9, 2010 7:57 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: peabody2671 | June 11, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.