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Posted at 1:38 PM ET, 06/ 1/2010

Chicago's teacher performance-based pay didn't work -- new analysis

By Valerie Strauss

Education Secretary Arne Duncan and all of his acolytes who are rushing to implement performance-based compensation for teachers might want to take a close look at the preliminary results from a Chicago program with this focus that was initially started when Duncan ran the city school system.

Today is the deadline for the second round of the Obama administration’s $4 billion Race to the Top competition, which has states battling each other for federal dollars based on school reforms favored by Duncan, including performance-based pay for teachers. Maryland and the District were entering, though Virginia decided to stay out of the second round.

A study released today by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. shows no evidence that the Chicago Teacher Advancement Program improved student math and reading tests when compared with a group of similar schools that did not use the system, Education Week reported.

Chicago’s program is a version of the national Teacher Advancement Program, or TAP, which was first implemented in Chicago in 2007-08, when Duncan led the schools.

The analysis looked at the first two years of a four-year program, which has multiple steps, including increased teacher development, and an incentive payment scheme in which teachers are paid more when their students do better on standardized test scores.

The concept ignores the fact that standardized tests in schools today were not designed as teacher assessment tools and aren’t valid measures, but that isn’t stopping a headlong rush into implementation in school districts across the country.

Under the program in Chicago, payments to teachers under the program averaged $1,100 for those in schools in their first year of implementation, and $2,600 for those teachers in schools in their second year.

The comparison with similar schools that didn’t use the program revealed no real difference in student scores or in teacher-retention rates among those schools.

Here’s what Education Week quoted Chicago school system spokesman Franklin R. Shuftan as saying about the results:

“The report acknowledges that programs such as TAP take time to change attitudes and alter a school’s culture, and that measurables such as test scores and teacher retention might be better thought of as longer-term or final outcomes.”

And here’s what it quoted U.S. Education Department spokesman Peter Cunningham as saying:

“We know TAP and other reforms are hard work. We can’t expect immediate results. That’s why we’re committed to evaluating programs over the long term and identifying ones that deliver the results for children.”

Why is it, then, that education officials can recognize that reforms take a long time even though they are pushing states to undertake reforms right now that have no research base of success?

It would have been better for America’s schools if he had waited to find out what really will help kids do better in school before forcing changes that we have no reason to believe will work.

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By Valerie Strauss  | June 1, 2010; 1:38 PM ET
Categories:  Education Secretary Duncan, Research, Teachers  | Tags:  analysis on performance-based pay, chicago tap, chicago tap and report, chicago tap program, duncan and chicago, education secretary arne duncan, performance-based pay, race to the top, report on performanced-based pay, tap  
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Next: The desperation of Race to the Top


Hear that, DC? It doesn't make a darn bit of difference.

Posted by: forgetthis | June 1, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

"The concept ignores the fact that standardized tests in schools today were not designed as teacher assessment tools and aren’t valid measures, but that isn’t stopping a headlong rush into implementation in school districts across the country."

Oh another one in a long line of mathematical ignorants who claim that there is no objective source for teacher evaluation. Sigh.

Why is it that so many teachers try to pass the buck and refuse to take personal responsibility for anything that happens in their classrooms? Their job is to lead, to inspire and to teach and yet somehow magically when they do that they enter into a mathematics-free zone where no objective analysis is possible.

Posted by: bbcrock | June 1, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Because it may not have worked as well as it could have in Chicago, it's presumed that performance pay will not work anywhere else at all?

I recently read that performance pay did work well in a school in Maryland.

Their seems to pros/cons regarding any kind of "reform" to include performance based compensation.

The title and link below provides interesting reading and not a one-sided slant regarding PBC:

"The Pros and Cons of Performance-Based Compensation"

Posted by: TwoSons | June 1, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

"Why is it, then, that education officials can recognize that reforms take a long time even though they are pushing states to undertake reforms right now that have no research base of success?"

Because children in inner-city schools who are not being taught, not being lead, and not being inspired to do anything by their teachers are dying right now. The juvenile delinquent mills in DCPS were operating full-force for years with kids so lost by 9th grade almost no high school teacher could save them.

I have friends who are making up for their teachers' problems with paid tutors and expensive weekend programs. The middle and lower class need teachers leading students RIGHT NOW, as in don't let teachers with phony credentials continue taking up a real teacher's slot another month.

This column is anti-student and veiled racism.

Posted by: bbcrock | June 1, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

If you get a chance, check out the guys who run the Chicago school system. I met them about two years ago, and about the nicest thing you can say about them is they dress nicely.

Dumb as a post, unfortunately.

I'm assuming they got their jobs because they knew somebody, or it was a political favor. But I wouldn't base anything on Chicago.

Posted by: Skeptic1 | June 1, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

This would work if the kids were paid. They are the ones taking the tests. Paying the teachers so the students perform well doesn't make sense.

Posted by: celestun100 | June 1, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

The saddest aspect of all this is that we DO know what works:

pre-natal care;

careful monitoring of all infants and toddlers;

health care for all children;

high-quality preschool;

parent education;

interaction with peers who are successful in school;

highly qualified teachers with proven success;

support for children with severe behavioral or health problems.

All countries with successful educational programs offer supports for children who need it. We can do it too.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | June 1, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

From Erica Jacobs over at The Examiner:
1. Pay for Performance

When Pay for Performance was introduced to Fairfax County more than twenty years ago, I was in a pilot school. Teachers participated because it eventually meant more money. We embraced the hope that what we did in the classroom would be appreciated and rewarded.

It was a fiasco—albeit one that lasted several years before the Fairfax School Board voted it out during the budget crisis of the early 90s. The reasons were simple, and we should have anticipated them: principals and vice principals don’t always make decisions based on classroom performance, and some don’t recognize effective teaching when they see it.

There were principals who championed the quiet and obedient class; they were not impressed by group interaction and lively discussions. Others only rewarded teachers who had student-centered classrooms, and didn’t appreciate marvelous lecture-format ones.

Principals often became defensive about their judgments and wouldn’t let teachers participate in the process. In that first pilot year, I was new and didn’t realize my school had decided not to rate any new teacher highly. I was given a “competent” rating rather than an “effective” one. Even though money was not yet tied to this decision, I appealed, won my case, and later underwent a much-improved process at another school and was awarded “merit pay.”

The difference between the first process and the second was the quality of the principal. Ten years later I became the first “National Board Certified” high school English teacher in Fairfax County—a great honor, yet one not reliant on variable principals.

So before you introduce Pay for Performance to schools, you have to figure out how to guarantee principals will reward teachers for the right reasons.

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Posted by: edlharris | June 1, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

This column is anti-student and veiled racism.

Posted by: bbcrock

Ah, the EDUCATED cry from one of the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Any more mas inteligente comments?

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | June 1, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Yes, the same one I always post, PhillipMarlowe, talk to a doctor, pastor, priest or trusted family friend about why you follow me around obsessively commenting on my posts. It's weird and you need someone you trust to tell you that you need help because you're ignoring those comments from people on this board. print out let's say the last 10 times you posted the same comment and show them to your doctor and ask this doctor what he/she thinks.

Posted by: bbcrock | June 1, 2010 10:45 PM | Report abuse

You are wildly mispresenting my remarks,


" I asked the doctor if I could see you
It’s bad for your health, he said
Yes, I disobeyed his orders
I came to see you
But I found him there instead
You know, I don’t mind him cheatin’ on me
But I sure wish he’d take that off his head
Your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat"

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | June 1, 2010 11:53 PM | Report abuse

Spot on.

Extra pay motivates only at the margins, which is not a bad thing, but not a productive way to organize teacher work. Teachers do need to be accountable. So do schools. What then is the reason we have schools? Most would answer this question with evocative, inspirational ideals, I venture. Great, but there is no data at all that examines how well schools meet these necessary, democratic ideals.

When our society finds the will to hold our education system to long-term, substantial purposes, then we can effectively and meaningfully draw up plans for teacher accountability. Until then, any form of teacher evaluation system short-changes students from schooling we have promised.

Posted by: njliss | June 2, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure half the data from one school system's program is enough on which to base an informed opinion about performance-based pay. It should be tried in other settings, with clear guidelines, if for no other reason than to find out if it can be effective. How will we find out "what really will help kids do better in school" if we don't rigorously test these programs in real-world situations? As for basing teacher performance on test scores, don't we want kids to be able to do more than color little circles with #2 pencils?

Posted by: zennmonkey | June 2, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

When I decided to change careers and become a teacher like both of my parents and half of my greater family, I was told be everyone of them that everything changes every two to three years. So far my family has been spot on.

I still have yet to determine why this paradigm in education exists. So many ideas have come and gone only to replaced with more ideas about effective education and none have been given the chance to work.

This latest "Race to the Top" agenda is just the latest in a long line of fits and starts imposed by armchair warriors outside of the profession who think they know better than those of us who perform the actual job of teaching.

What will be the new rage in another two to three years I wonder.

Posted by: tazmodious | June 2, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

The one idea that is never considered and tried is, "just ask the teachers what they think works."

Wouldn't that be a novel concept.

Posted by: tazmodious | June 2, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, edlharris, for the reference to Fairfax County Public School's merit pay fiasco of earlier years.
It's hard to believe that so many go looking for any experiences in pay-for-performance locales across the country and miss the largest and most egregious example right here in their backyard. "Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are condemned...".
Too bad scapegoating and ignorance still abound in this discussion.

Posted by: 1bnthrdntht | June 2, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Fundamental Flaw in ALL Educational Reform Efforts to Date

Why is it so difficult to understand that no combination of teachers with students, under-paid, over-paid, in public schools, or in charter schools can make a difference?

The reason is simple: Professional Education is missing fundamental standards found in all other professions. There is no standard curriculum, no sincere effort to identify Best Instructional Practices, and truckloads of weak consultants and players with diluted degrees serving up their own brands of Faculty Development. One way or another, to be called a profession a career path needs to convene a rolling forum to collect and prioritize the core content of principles and practices that every member ought to know. Ironically, Teachers worldwide are being held to standards for Annual Yearly Progress of their students. Meanwhile, Professors, Learned Societies & commercial schools, and some painfully self-serving non-profit foundations and Universities never even address the need for solid pedagogic content. The current crop of self-proclaimed “Leaders” dangerously resembles the Investment Bankers who remain in charge of the economic systems that they nearly bankrupted. A leveraged operation like a major newspaper, teacher organization or more ideally the overly politicized US Department of Education should hold an ongoing “convention” of the nation’s leading educators to consider and endorse a covenant of principles and more importantly prescriptive practices. This should be done on a website that transparently allows entries to be challenged, tweaked and further specified for different age-grade-situational conditions. Sadly there is no free market in which monitored packaged bids & buys help to identify the best ideas and practices from the toxic ones.

While all of this remains a hope, please consider joining the websites below offering a potential catalyst for jump-starting and getting the current system moving in the right direction for all who teach and all who must learn. Taxpayers would be grateful since increasing classroom effectiveness (and adding differentiated staffing) could bring about efficiencies that could save billions of dollars with even the smallest degree of early adoption.
Please join the narrative at: And…

Or our newest site for Professional Teachers:
Anthony V. Manzo, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus Education

Posted by: LiteracyMan | June 2, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

I totally agree with your a point. Remember NCLB legislation, created from "Unresearched" information and imposed upon our schools? So, basing teacher pay on student testing will produce the same results or worse than before. There are far too many factors that are out of a teacher's control to allow for pay to be based on such testing methods. Our country is moving towards privatizing schools. Charter schools and Private schools can pick and choose their students and they are exempt from most Federal standards. So, if my pay as a teacher is based on the "left-overs" of society then what is the student incentive to do well on these tests? What can that teacher do to improve testing? Do we realize that students can write well in most cases, using a computer? But how do we test them? Using a pencil and paper and a rough draft! In writing this response I am constantly correcting...that's real world stuff. But how can we effectively test that? So, using antequated testing will be the downfall of teacher pay being attached to student performance. Thanks for your column!

Posted by: Sody1 | June 2, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Great article

Posted by: resc | June 2, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Actually, on a small scale, this can be very successful. Mike Miles from Colorado Springs, Colorado has put together some research shedding light on great ideas. In fact, his research regarding 21st Century Learning inspired my staff to implement a bold new curriculum. But in the details of his plan, he was able to hand-select his staff, choose his students, and had other control factors as part of his system. It is the same with any Merit Pay. It will work where there is a margin for success and in some areas. It will not work in most areas and in some places, it will be disasterous to the point that needy schools will become even more in need of help.

Posted by: Sody1 | June 2, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Here's a video that is relevent to this topic:

Posted by: resc | June 2, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

I participated in the PG pay for performance program called FIRST last year. I am not doing it this year for several reasons:

1. I teach newcomer ESOL, the lowest of the low English speakers. Most of my students are exempt from the MSA reading. Therefore, I did not get money in the category of "classroom test scores." However, my students take the LAS which is the test for measuring how much English a student knows. That was not used for evaluation.

2. Emphasis is made on teacher "growth." Because I scored so highly in the first evaluation I had very little room to "grow" and so did not get the money in that category.

3. We had to participate in mandatory professional development. I have 2 Master's degrees and am certified in ESOL, SpEd and social studies. These professional developments were a waste of time. Most of them focused on the evaluation process itself as if we could not read the book we were given about it.

4. Even though I have taught for many years in other counties (and countries), I was new to PG so as a "new teacher" I was not allowed to pick the 4 areas I wanted to be evaluated in (where I actually wanted to try to grow like communicating with parents).

Overall, what I learned was how to game the system if this excuse for an evaluation ever is mandated. Sit at my desk and let the kids do a worksheet for the first evaluation then teach like I regularly do the second.

Finally, my biggest beef with tying teacher evaluations to standardized assessments is that they measure a snapshot. If they measured how much individual students grew I might be more interested.

With the current system, I can bring a student from the 3rd grade to the 6th grade reading level, but she still isn't proficient if she is in 8th grade. All the teacher = test programs out there say that I have failed. What do you believe?

Posted by: Bramblerose | June 2, 2010 8:05 PM | Report abuse

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