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First controlled study: Teacher merit pay doesn't work

Here is another blow to the scientifically battered but still fashionable idea of bonus pay for teachers: It didn't work in a controlled experiment in Nashville.

The news release by Vanderbilt University's Peabody College says this is “the first scientific study of performance pay ever conducted in the United States.” That is difficult to believe, given that we have been trying out merit pay schemes for half a century, but I don't know of any other randomized investigations of the issue.

Almost 300 middle school math teachers volunteered for the project, designed by researchers from Vanderbilt and the RAND Corp. About half were randomly assigned to the treatment group and given bonuses of up to $15,000 each for raising student scores above usual levels. The other half got no bonuses. After three years, there were no significant differences between the two group's results.

Okay, that is not a big sample. I suspect we will see larger experiments in the future. But it does buttress the views of many teachers I know that they are not in this for the money. They would be happy to get it, but they are not going to shortchange kids if it doesn't come.

Here are some of the details as described by the Vanderbilt news release:

The annual bonus amounts were $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000. Over the course of the experiment, POINT [Project on Incentives in Teaching] paid out more than $1.27 million in bonuses. Overall, 33.6 percent of the original group received bonuses, with the average bonus being approximately $10,000.

Teacher attrition occurred during the experiment. About half of the 296 teachers who initially volunteered remained through the end of the third year. The teachers who left the study either left the school system, moved to other grades or stopped teaching mathematics. Only one participating teacher specifically asked to be removed from the experiment.

While there was no overall effect on student achievement across the entire treatment group, the researchers found a significant benefit for fifth graders in Year 2 and Year 3 of the experiment: fifth graders taught by teachers who earned bonuses did show gains in test scores. However, the effect did not carry over to sixth grade when students were tested the following year.

Let's see if we can persuade RAND to provide $1.27 million for an experiment in the affect of education bloggers on reader IQs. Given all the smart comments we get here, I am sure to build a nice retirement nest egg if I can bribe my way into the treatment group.

Read Jay's blog every day, and follow all of The Post's Education coverage on Twitter, Facebook and our Education Web page.

By Jay Mathews  | September 21, 2010; 10:00 PM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  296 middle school math teachers in Nashville, RAND, Vanderbilt University, experiment says merit pay doesn't work  
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Comments

I hope you had a hand in the headline for this, it's much more accurate than the one for post's other story that claims merit pay does not inspire teachers. The whole point is that as good as I am, and as hard as I try, there are too many variables in the equation of student success that are out of my hands. Sorry, that has always been the case. Poor efforts on my part make things worse for sure, and that is a legitimate target for education reform. The idea that I control the whole puzzle is part of the failure of reeform.

Posted by: mamoore1 | September 21, 2010 10:46 PM | Report abuse

Isn't the 1/2 attrition rate rather high?

Houston schools used to give us stipends for hard to teach grades or subjects. (Low income, bilingual, special education) and they gave money to excellent teachers who performed well during evaluations.

I always suspected that the teacher evaluations were fixed. Teachers whose students did well (the previous year) on tests got excellent ratings from principals. Teachers whose kids didn't score well got lower ratings.

It was also a bit of a cycle. If your kids scored well, you got high scoring kids the next year. They tended to be academically oriented, easier to teach and also scored higher! What a surprise.

I think the money can be used to attract people, but the students have to want to do well on the tests.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 21, 2010 11:15 PM | Report abuse

Increasing teacher pay can get people who have other options into the field, but it will take years before ( a lot longer than this study) you see what good they do. A lot like planting an oak tree. Not exactly a great sound bite.

Posted by: mamoore1 | September 21, 2010 11:28 PM | Report abuse

Regarding the funding: the $1.27 million was paid by a private donor, not RAND. RAND was one of the recipients of a $10 million dollar grant from the federal that paid for the establishment of the National Center on Performance Incentives, this study, and a few other things.

Posted by: coreybower | September 22, 2010 12:38 AM | Report abuse

Merit pay isn't needed for teachers at DeMatha and yet they do a very good job.

Posted by: edlharris | September 22, 2010 12:46 AM | Report abuse

There's a huge operational definition problem here and hence the conclusion that "merit pay" doesn't work is specious.
Merit pay is generally performance-based. But is it paid for work already completed or as an incentive for the future?
This study was looking at future performance and concluded that offering teachers more money if they produced better tests didn't work. Okay, but in fact merit pay can also be seen simply as a reward for reaching certain goals available to anyone who hits the goals. Therefore, merit pay "works" as a reward but not necessarily as an incentive.
And as several people have pointed out, having a system in place that offers the bonuses may in fact draw people to the field or encourage people to staff hard-to-fill jobs when those people would not otherwise be interested.

Posted by: patrickmattimore1 | September 22, 2010 1:22 AM | Report abuse

Merit pay is an incentive for me, though I feel internally driven as well. The 3-step increase in pay is an even bigger incentive, and the increased pay won't be taxed so heavily (close to 40% on the bonuses we will receive; heck, even the retro pay was taxed as a bonus).

The teaching profession needs to be elevated and pay, merit or otherwise, needs to be a part of that equation. The job is demanding, infinitly complex, and contributes heavily to our the future of the region, country, humanity, etc. The public is undervaluing the contributions of teachers at present, and overvaluing entertainers and financiers, among others. The profession has been shortchanged for sure, though its also my opinion that the teacher unions have shortchanged the kids as well by protecting underachievers.

Posted by: thetensionmakesitwork | September 22, 2010 7:11 AM | Report abuse

edlharris,
Apples and oranges, anyone? DeMatha is a Catholic school; no unions there, Ed. If a teacher isn't performing, he or she can be terminated with no grievance process, no "coaching," no union-style "due process."

Is that what you're advocating?

Posted by: trace1 | September 22, 2010 7:12 AM | Report abuse

thetensionmakesitwork -

Great post. Teachers should be compensated well - we no longer have large numbers of talented women entering the profession because they don't have other options (other than nurse, librarian, secretary), as it was in the 1960s and before. You've got to pay well now to attract the best.

But as a long time DCPS parent, I know for a fact that one of the union's primary purposes has been to protect, and pass around, incompetent teachers. How does that serve teachers who are terrific? What fourth grade teacher wants kids in his/her class who languished in the classroom of an incompetent 3rd grade teacher?

I don't think good teachers will get the respect they deserve until the public perception of "job for life" is addressed.

Posted by: trace1 | September 22, 2010 7:17 AM | Report abuse

Great article.
Please stop guessing at what the problems are. We are losing generation of kids and perhaps our democracy.‎The secret to identify problems and solving the fundamental flaws in public education is anonymous,teacher designed surveys taken by each and published monthly to the public from every accredited school in that state.Just knowing that this is in place will have a profound and immediate impact. Free from www.surveymonkey.com ,yes free.Identify problems and see patterns for free. Are we afraid of change,truth, or success ?

Posted by: rnwhitejr | September 22, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

The problem was that teachers did not understand the meaning of bonus pays.

In any private organization where there is bonus pay based upon numbers you get the numbers up no matter what.

If the teachers would have understood this there would have been large amounts of cheating and the numbers would have gone up.

There is no problem with the use of bonuses. The teachers simply did not understand that you get the numbers up no matter what.

Perhaps the teaching schools need to start teaching their students methods for encouraging and aiding cheating in classrooms.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 22, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Let's see if we can persuade RAND to provide $1.27 million for an experiment in the affect of education bloggers on reader IQs. Given all the smart comments we get here, I am sure to build a nice retirement nest egg if I can bribe my way into the treatment group.
..........................
I am surprised you are not already getting gifts from the companies creating local standardized tests.

Being such a supporter you should have been able to obtain consulting fees from these companies. You also should have been able to obtain full expenses paid for attendance at conferences.

You do not use bribes to obtain this type of monetary gains.

You simply indicate that you are willing to use your position in full support of the business interests of companies.

Remember the business of local standardized testing is a billion dollar business and for years you have supported the importance of local standardized testing.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 22, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

trace1.
At a school like DeMatha or parochial schools, teachers are paid less and don't get merit pay. Yet their students learn and achieve more.
Back when nuns like the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) were teaching, they were even paid less, taught classes of 40 to 50 (go read Tim Russert's memoirs) and yet the kids learned.

Since you missed it, the point is that more money for salaries or using merit pay isn't what motivates most teachers nor is it a major factor in raising student achievement, nor will it be.
Michelle Rhee may pretend to believe so, but what else can you expect from someone who lied about their time teaching in Baltimore.

Posted by: edlharris | September 22, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Paying existing teachers for "performance," especially when we haven't decided what the proper performance level is and how to measure it, is worse than useless. It is also insulting, assuming they are deliberately not working hard. (The surgeon who performed Sen. Kennedy's brain surgery told reporters he was not bothered by the patient's identity: "I don't do an A job for some people and a B job for others.")

Paying existing teachers for increasing their knowledge and qualifications is better, but it too is open to debate as to what will increase knowledge. Whe my mother taught, she took courses to increase her pay: she took a Latin course, claiming that Latin would held her explain English grammar to her sixth-graders, and a botany course, which she had always wanted to take (I don't remember how a social-studies and language arts teacher justified this).

The only solution is to pay teachers enough to attract those who were considering other fields. trace1 is correct that teaching used to attract women who loved the subject but had no other options. (Even this had its problems; I had a phys ed teacher who should have been a professional athlete and who resented those of us who didn't share her enthusiasm.)

In addition, during the baby-boomer years, the schools lowered their standards just to get enough teachers. We now have several generations who grew up with these lower standards; it's entirely possible a lot of the taxpayers who resist paying for better teachers honestly don't know what a better teacher is like.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | September 22, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Let's see: Standardized tests of students are unreliable as a method of evaluating teacher effectiveness (Economic Policy Institute, August 29, 2010, Briefing Paper #278); Small Schools don't work (2009 The New School Center for New York City Affairs); Certified, experienced teachers produce better results than uncertified, inexperienced ones ("Does Teacher Preparation Matter?” Stanford University 2005); Curriculum matters (Brown Center Letters on Education # 3, Russ Whitehurst, Brooking Institution); "17 percent of charter schools reported academic gains that were significantly better than traditional public schools, while 37 percent of charter schools showed gains that were worse than their traditional public school counterparts, with 46 percent of charter schools demonstrating no significant difference." (Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University, June 15, 2009); NCLB, testing and choice are unde3mining American Education (Diane Ravitch, one of the primary founders of NCLB); Finally, merit pay does not work.

So: Is there anything about the "school reform" agenda that has not been a complete failure, according to the research? Why do we continue to pursue these failed policies and why do we allow the architects of these failures, Gates, Broad, Walton, Kopp, Duncan, Klein, Rhee, etc. to have any voice is the discussion of education in America? Their ideas are bad. They’ve failed. Let’s try something that works.

Posted by: mcstowy | September 22, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

edlharris,
Apples and oranges, anyone? DeMatha is a Catholic school; no unions there, Ed. If a teacher isn't performing, he or she can be terminated with no grievance process, no "coaching," no union-style "due process."

Is that what you're advocating?

Posted by: trace1
..................................
Catholic schools work simply because they throw out quickly the problems students.

If you had this policy in public schools you could probably even pay teachers less.

The reality is that the poverty public schools in urban areas pay more for teachers than teachers receive in non urban areas.

Most teachers would rather accept less money than work in the poverty public schools in urban areas and the nightmare of dealing with students from hell.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 22, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

for mcstowy: KIPP is still working. So are AP and IB.

for bsallamack: no consultancy fees for me, and I was kidding about the bribe.

mamoore1: thanks for the compliment. Almost all the headlines on this blog are written by me, although about 10 percent of the time the editors who post this column are so appalled at what I have done in a headline that they change it.

for coreybower: thanks for the detail on the funding. The press release did not make that clear.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | September 22, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I am sure this study will be replicated and my personal experience doesn't really mean anything but chiming in anyways, as one does on such forums...

from experience: I already work 13-14 hour days (as a teacher in DCPS, first year here after teaching in private schools for a while), and spend my entire weekend planning for the week.

I would LOVE an extra $15k on top of my salary, sure, wouldn't anyone? But, even if you dangle it in front of my face, I still won't physically, logistically, realistically be able to work any harder than I already do...

I think this is pretty much what the study found: teachers already work their b**t off... it's very hard to work any harder if you're already working hard to be a good teacher (or at least trying to be one, which I think all of us are...)

Posted by: adcpsteacher | September 22, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

@adcpsteacher
I agree with you from working in other districts.
Keep up the good work, you are really appreciated, or should be.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 22, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Jay:

I have never seen AP and IB offerings as part of the "reform" agenda. That's been a push from inside, mostly from those status-quo protecting, reform-sabotaging teachers. Also, I never mentioned KIPP, I identified Kopp, as in Wendy, as one of a long list of failed "reformers." (Although I have not delved into the details of the CREDO study, it would be interesting to identify the charters that make up the 17% that outperform traditional public schools. Perhaps KIPP makes up a substantial portion of that number? If their success can be sustained over time, there could be some best practices that could be used in other schools. My guess, based partially on your reporting, is that KIPP can be successful for a certain category of students, just as military academies, parochial schools, single-sex schools, home-schooling and other specialty schools are appropriate for the populations they serve, but their experience is of limited value in the broader context of public education for all. For example, my children, and most of their peers, would rebel at KIPP’s SLANT behavior system. Just because a child is not “sitting up” and “nodding” does not mean he or she is not paying attention. I successfully challenged my dyslexic son’s college English grade because he was penalized for not “looking up” and not taking notes. How does SLANT allow for creativity? Or is that just for kids at Sidwell, Maret and Georgetown Day?)

Posted by: mcstowy | September 22, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

thanks mcstowy. I know you didnt mention KIPP. I was just saying that there were reform programs NOT on yr list that seem to be working, since yr question seemed to be, these programs are disappointments (and I agree with you on that in almost all yr examples) so what is working? I am not sure what you mean by the AP push from inside. Tell me more. I see AP and IB as reform programs in schools like Garfield or Wakefield or Annandale that use them to energize the teaching of average and low income kids.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | September 22, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Why do we continue to pursue these failed policies and why do we allow the architects of these failures, Gates, Broad, Walton, Kopp, Duncan, Klein, Rhee, etc. to have any voice is the discussion of education in America? Their ideas are bad. They’ve failed. Let’s try something that works.

Posted by: mcstowy
..........................
The big problem is that everyone is looking for something that works as though the inability to learn was simply a disease that can be easily treated with a wonder drug or new medical treatment.

The reality is that there are large numbers of children that may never be able to overcome their inability to learn. That is the result of large numbers of the population living in poverty.

There is an explosion and those at the only hospital have to do triage to deal with the casualties and limited resources. No time to waste resources on those that can not be saved.

The same needs to be done in public school systems when you have large numbers of children that can not learn so that you at least save those that can be saved.

Over time this will reduce poverty and also the large numbers of children that have great difficulty in learning.

But this will never be done as there will always be the pretense that every child has the ability to learn even after years of total neglect.

On to the next magic bullet.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 22, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

for mcstowy: KIPP is still working. So are AP and IB.
Posted by: Jay Mathews
.......................
Great to know this from Jay Mathews.

So I guess the results for 4th grade reading of national tests for D.C. in 2011 will show few failures and the not failure 56 percent of students as on the test results for 2009.

Apparently Jay Mathews who has been such a big fan of local standardized testing still does not understand that the problem is large number of children that can not read. I seriously doubt that students that can not read will be taking AP or IB classes.

Of course Jay Mathews has been a fan of KIPP for years while he still refuses to admit that the big advantage of KIPP and other charter schools is that they simply get rid of the problem students by dumping them back into the public schools.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 22, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Educational consultant Steve Peha emailed me this comment, which he said I could post. The character limit may force me to cut it a bit:

In my 15 years working as an education consultant, I have hired over 20 consulting associates over the years. These are all people with big-time skills who have proven they can get the job done on the national level. They are virtually always the top folks in their districts.

I start them out at twice their daily pay. On average, this would be about $100K but, of course, they're just working days and weeks here and so their "starting pay" here at Teaching That Makes Sense is has been somewhere around $2000 for a five day week for a "junior" associate and up $3000 for a "senior" associate -- unless we have some other individualized deal in place.

After 15 years of successful practice, I have only one consultant who works regularly with me now, and this person is the only person I've ever put in the field who has never been a teacher. I, myself, have never been a teacher, so I guess that's an "n of 2." I can always “re-form the band” if I want, but I haven’t really wanted to. Mostly because the band members seem to be happier playing locally and—for our purposes here—they much prefer playing for local dollars, the much smaller dollars educators work for being educators as opposed to people who help educators.

So, in my own informal "merit pay" study, I have found that "merit pay" works only for non-teachers. Every teacher, wonderful though her or she has been to work with, eventually leaves, can’t continue, or simply can't finish out their contracts for a variety of personal reasons.

I grew up on welfare as the son of a single-mom teacher in a big city school district. Yes, in the late 60s, teacher pay was so low that even a teacher with several years of experience in a full-time fully-certified position could still live not-so-comfortably-below the poverty line. I once helped my mom write her resume for a new position. Every seven years, on the dot, she had a chance to move up in education or out altogether to do some other kind of work. She never took what she had coming to her. I had to ask myself all these years: why doesn't money and prestige motivate teachers through the challenges of change we all face as our lives and careers develop? Working with almost 20,000 years now, I think I have found out why.

Recently, I asked a group of pre-service teachers on their very last night of class before heading off into the world of professional teaching, "How good do you want to be?" My intention was simply to point out that nowadays, if you really want to be good, you can make a lot of money and have many interesting opportunities that have never before been available.

The most common response was "We don't want to be judged". I said, "I'm not judging you. I'm asking about your personal aspirations." The next answer was, "I just want to be the best teacher in the room."

Posted by: Jay Mathews | September 22, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

More of Steve Peha's post:
I moved on, neglecting to mention the obvious: that each teacher would be the only adult in the room, and that competing for teaching prowess against elementary schoolers was not exactly setting a high bar for one’s growth.

Not surprisingly, most teachers aren't motivated by money or even personal accomplishment. It actually makes them nervous. None of my consulting associates quit because they didn't like the work. Virtually everyone said, "I love this work! I just can't do it for some reason. It just doesn't feel right. It doesn't seem to work for me and my family." I offered to let them write books and do other things; even to let them take all of our company's materials and start their own consulting businesses.

No takers. Not a one. And each of these people is truly good at what they do, and we all truly love working together (and still do when the occasional opportunity arises). Each of these people could make an extraordinary contribution on the national stage and each could reap extraordinary rewards -- especially since I was offering them a "no risk" approach to getting started in their own consultancies. I even sent them clients I couldn't serve myself.

It was the money, and the prospect of being “great”, that seemed to bother them more than anything else.

I tried to explain that for someone in the top 1% of their profession, getting paid only 200% of the average was very, very low. And that even receiving $1000 for a day of consulting on their own was very low. My intention was, eventually, to build a larger team, raise rates, and pay up to 500% of average daily pay to my most senior people -- or about $1500 a day if I could possibly swing it including all expenses, of course.

Revealing my dream to my team -- a plan that I thought would inspire and excite them -- contributed over the long haul to an unexpected drop off in their enthusiasm.

Few of these people are in the classroom now. Reform has made it virtually impossible for them to use the high quality teaching practices we all developed together. Some have left teaching altogether. Some have moved into administration but are unsatisfied -- I think, though I can't know for sure -- because they make "too much" money and because they miss teaching kids. A few are still teaching but having a harder time of it each year with all the ridiculous emphasis on test prep.

Merit pay, like all the other major reforms, is a mistaken application of traditional Adam Smithian "invisible hand" classical economics, and the "rational actor" hypothesis, to what is really an issue of psychology, or at best behavioral economics where dozens of other personality traits make most teachers insensitive to significant pay changes, and make the idea of "better work for better pay" incongruous. Not wrong. Just impossible to process in a healthy and sustainable way by people for whom the values of wealth creation and personal ambition are nearly as important as helping kids.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | September 22, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

rest of Peha:

....raising families, and having guaranteed employment.

This is not an idea original to me. But I have seen it played out in my work over a long time. I first picked it up from Alfie Kohn in an article he wrote for EdWeek called, “The Folly of Merit Pay.” (http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/edweek/meritpay.htm).

At the other end of the issue, I have met thousands of absolutely terrible teachers in my life. But none was holding anything back in reserve that an extra $15K would tap into. Money doesn't motivate teachers. Teaching kids more effectively motivates teachers. That is, after all, why they became teachers in the first place.

The very people we most want to be teachers in our society want to be teachers in order to teach, and to help young people grow. Nobody goes into teaching to make money. So it's not surprising, if we parse the culture of education psychologically instead of economically, that merit pay, or even higher teacher pay under the traditional system, will make much of a difference unless very large increases of pay were perpetuated across two generations of teachers: one generation to "experience it and survive" and the second to know that it was really there for them.

The United States will not raise aggregate teacher pay by 50%-100% for 60 years to see this experiment play out. As such, most reforms related to compensation must be
abandoned in favor of the only reforms that will help: better training for teachers and administrators -- and no pay increases other than those that keep educators’ earning abilities in pace with the local cost of living, inflation, and perhaps just a point or two on top of that for a slightly better retirement and a modest college fund for their kids.

If we want a package of economic incentives for teachers, we should try the following:

--Low-interest, no-down-payment mortgages.
--Dedt forgiveness for teaching in under-served communities.
--Special "529 fund" matching systems a la employer-match 401Ks for their kids to go to college.
--Long term contracts (5+ years at a shot; not tenure; teachers don’t even really like tenure).
--High-quality on the job training.
--Well-trained supportive principals who understand instruction and who maintain a safe and orderly environment in their schools.
--Good low-deductible, high percentage coverage healthcare at no cost.

Now THERE's a package that would get teachers doing better work—and keep them doing it longer, too.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | September 22, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

For bsallamack: more on KIPP DC in a couple of weeks.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | September 22, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Nice post by Steve Peha via Jay Mathews.

Merit pay was and has been an experimental pay plan for teacher's since the 18th Century. Tried in England and elsewhere and never caught on or succeeded.

In the Alfie Kohn article, refererenced in the previous post, there is one quote which bears repeating. In part it says that "teacher's aren't pets." We should be paid well, freed from misguided mandates, treated with respect, and provided with the needed support to help students become enthusiastic learners.

For anyone to think that swishing a few thousand dollars in front of us will make us "better" has no no earthly idea about the kind of character and devotion to learning that we bring to this job. Or that that money can be taken away easier than it is given when local governments need some cash....or local school system's decide on a new set of priorities.

Yes, I'm tired. Yes, I'm frustrated. Yes, the bureaucracy drives me nuts. And yes the salary is lousy and the pats-on-the-back nearly non-existant except in group thank you's.

But, like most articles and research shows, it's the working conditions, Stupid...that are the straws that are breaking this camel's back.

(Interestingly enough, we had a mandated session on bullying this p.m. Yes it's a problem with kids...but it is also a problem for the adults and no one is addressing it...need I say more?)

Posted by: ilcn | September 22, 2010 6:10 PM | Report abuse

ilcn---good point. Last night's season opener of Glee had a story line about bullying by adults in schools.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | September 22, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

Educational consultant Steve Peha emailed me this comment, which he said I could post. The character limit may force me to cut it a bit:

In my 15 years working as an education consultant, I have hired over 20 consulting associates over the years. These are all people with big-time skills who have proven they can get the job done on the national level. They are virtually always the top folks in their districts.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | September 22, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse
.......................
What is this guy so dumb that he can not post for himself?

This is the usual from Jay Mathews.

It is bad enough when there are posts for selling product. Do we really need advertisements for consultants?

Perhaps Jay Mathews wants to cozy up to this guy in attempt to break into becoming an educational consultant next year when he leaves the Washington Post.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 22, 2010 9:56 PM | Report abuse

MCstowy- In my opinion you're not quite being fair to the research. The conclusions you draw and the conclusions the research you site draw are not the same. For instance, the Economic Council cautions against using VAM as the SOLE method for teacher evaluation. They, along with others(http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2009/12/value_added.html) recommend using atleast 3 years of VAM data to help combat reliability concerns. They conclude that VAM should be used with other methods to evaluate instruction.

Likewise, this research addresses a very narrow question under very narrow circumstances. It also showed an anomaly with the experimental group. 5th grade students who had teachers who received bonuses, performed better. This research will serve as a platform for other research and help us, the public, to make more informed decisions.

PatrickMattimore, for instance, makes an interesting point regarding bonus pay- and the authors of the study conclude as much:

"This study was looking at future performance and concluded that offering teachers more money if they produced better tests didn't work. Okay, but in fact merit pay can also be seen simply as a reward for reaching certain goals available to anyone who hits the goals. Therefore, merit pay "works" as a reward but not necessarily as an incentive.
And as several people have pointed out, having a system in place that offers the bonuses may in fact draw people to the field or encourage people to staff hard-to-fill jobs when those people would not otherwise be interested."

The politicalization of research is problmatic. We should be investiging incentive pay to see if it can improve schools. We shouldn't dismiss it out of hand, or get married to methods that prove ineffective over time.

In the mean time, the question is whether we should try something "new" or to keep the status quo. Of course, I've got my own opinion about the answer to that question.

Posted by: mmccabe4724 | September 22, 2010 10:46 PM | Report abuse

And as several people have pointed out, having a system in place that offers the bonuses may in fact draw people to the field or encourage people to staff hard-to-fill jobs when those people would not otherwise be interested."

Posted by: mmccabe4724 |

Of course, we know this because the bonuses and financial reward system in business and Wall Street has been so successful in building our society and economy. Not! How's your 401K?

People that are motivated by money (greed) will do what is best for themselves, but that is seldom what is best for society, or even their customers and employees. Teaching is a service profession. That service should be rewarded with fair compemnsation, but it would be counter-productive to try to attract the self-serving and money-motivated.

Posted by: mcstowy | September 23, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

thanks mcstowy. I know you didnt mention KIPP. I was just saying that there were reform programs NOT on yr list that seem to be working, since yr question seemed to be, these programs are disappointments (and I agree with you on that in almost all yr examples) so what is working? I am not sure what you mean by the AP push from inside. Tell me more. I see AP and IB as reform programs in schools like Garfield or Wakefield or Annandale that use them to energize the teaching of average and low income kids.

Posted by: Jay Mathews |

The reason I usually put "reform" in quotes is because the word has been hijacked by the corporate "reform" lobby; Gates, Walton, Rhee Klein, Kopp, etc. You are using reform to mean change and potential improvement in education, but when reform (or "reform") is used in most media, it refers to the very specific policies promoted by the "reform" movement: high-stakes testing, charters, merit pay, ending tenure due process protections, privatization, etc. These "reforms" are policies intended to scapegoat teacher unions and create a second-class education system for poor children, where they will be tested on basic skills, forced to conform to the expectations of those who "know better" so they acquire just enough education to be cogs in corporate American's prison-industrial complex. They'll wear be de-humanized through coersive behavior-modification (SLANT, chants0 and unifroms. But they are never given the opportunity to be creative, reflective, unique, valued individuals. After all, if given an equal education that acutally promotes critical thinking and reason, they might, again, start competing for elite university slots and asserting their voices politically.

Posted by: mcstowy | September 23, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

@mcstowy,
I'm familiar with many of the studies you referenced in your first post. They all are either not relevant to this issue, have results/conculusions that are in the minority in the published literature, or need to be supplemented by further research to be of any practical use.
@Jay, This Vanderbilt/Rand study, may be a nice start but concluding that it proves "Teacher Merit Pay Doesn't Work" is a stretch. Only 2/3 of the elligible teachers agreed to participate and 1/2 of those dropped out during the course of the study.
@tensionmakesitwork and trace1
I agree with what you seem to be implying - that at this point in urban school districts we probably need to concentrate on indentifying the poorest performing teachers and getting them to improve or leave teaching all together, rather than giving extra rewards to the top performing teachers. I personally know of several cases where whole classes of kids lost almost a year of learning because of teachers who weren't even really trying to teach. This sort of thing generally happens in the classes with the poorest kids in the urban school districts with the most poverty. These kids just don't have people in their lives to advocate on their behalf, so they get stuck with the crappy teachers the unions want to protect and the adminstrators don't want to deal with. You don't need an expensive study to know that improving or getting rid of these crappy teachers will help these poor kids, and as a result help overall student performance in a district, you just need common sense. In any case research designs and statistical analyses that were inititially developped to be used for agricultural and medical research really break down when used to evaluate human behaviour in a social setting. Take dieting for example. There's lots of research that make lots of fancy fad diets look great, but when you go looking for people who can document substatial permanent weight loss over a 5 year period or more, what is found is that ALL of them did it by exercising and eating a healthy balanced diet where the number of CALORIES consumed was just adequate to maintain a healthy weight. The people who did the study that found that out then tried to find out why there weren't any people showing up that were using a fad type diet. What they found was that although those people could lose a lot of weight initially, none of them could stick to it for very long once they were on their own in a real life setting with nobody watching them. All the money spent on researching those fad diets ended up being worse than a waste. Relying on a little common sense ended up being the right thing to do. Here's another example of a common sense improvement - make sure every student has textbooks for every class if they want one. Here's another - make sure teachers don't scream and yell at students suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (A little compassion does wonders with combined with a little common sense)

Posted by: david_r_fry | September 24, 2010 2:15 AM | Report abuse

MCStowy- As an econ teacher, I believe Adam Smith got it right (or atleast pretty close), when you pursue your own interest, you pursue the common good. Of course, the problem with these massive companies is the incentive systems they built rewarded tremendous amounts of risk taking. That's where regulators come in.

However, if you don't believe teachers will respond to pecuniary incentives just like anyone else I suppose that's a non-starter. Just an FYI- I chose Montgomery County 10 years ago because they paid the best. Count me in as a self-serving educator!

How about this: let's not reward perforamnce, let's reward the behaviors associated with good performance. Coming to work on time, going to meetings, contributing to the mission of your school, collaborating with peers, professional development. I prefer perfance, but heck, I could even get behind that.

Posted by: mmccabe4724 | September 24, 2010 6:22 AM | Report abuse

david_r_fry |
"I'm familiar with many of the studies you referenced in your first post. They all are either not relevant to this issue, have results/conculusions that are in the minority in the published literature, or need to be supplemented by further research to be of any practical use."

I note you said you are "familiar with" the research, not that you have read it. I have. All of it. EVERY study cited is consistent with alomost all of the peer-reviewed research in the field. The fact that a few non-reviewed issue papers draw differing conclusions, (not different empircal results) does not put them in the minority. You need to learn something of social science research methods. The corporate-sponsored "reform" agenda has negative impacts whenever it is put to the test.

Posted by: mcstowy | September 24, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

@mcstowy,

You are mistaken. I'm too busy for the next week or so to respond to each of your references in your original post, but I'll respond to one so people can at least start to decide for themselves. The following is link to the study "Evaluation of Charter School Impacts". http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20104029/pdf/20104029.pdf
I refer people to page 34
"We note two key limitations of our design in addressing the research questions. First, while the experimental design minimizes selection bias, and thus ensures a high level of internal validity, the study’s external validity is limited. That is, while the study provides rigorous estimates of the impacts of the charter schools included in the study, the impact estimates apply only to participating schools and may not be generalized to the set of all charter schools nationally. Second, an assumption underlying the study’s experimental design is that study charter schools did not influence the performance of the traditional public schools and other schools against which the charter schools compete for students. If the study schools influenced these schools, then both the treatment and control group students in the study sample could have been influenced by the study charter schools, potentially affecting the study’s impact estimates."
This is a problem with almost all the studies where the results cast charter school in a bad light. Probably the single most important service being provided by charter school is to put pressure on tradional public schools in the same district to improve. The results of these studies will all be cast in doubt until they start taking this into account. Also, in the same study they do a review of the literature starting on pg. 45. Here is a quote from the review of the literature
"The experimental studies found that charter schools serving large populations of disadvantaged and racial/ethnic minority group students had positive impacts". As I said in my prior post, this is the group of students who need our help the most. A review of the literature shows that charter schools are helping these students. I would be willing to bet that the comparable student populations in the traditional public schools in those districts were also helped.

Posted by: david_r_fry | September 24, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

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