New study: Merit pay for teachers doesn’t work
A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that merit-pay, a favorite reform strategy of corporate education reformers from Michelle Rhee to Bill Gates to Obama administration Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, fails to improve student achievement, and in some cases, may inhibit it. That study comes on the heels of other major research, particularly a large-scale study in Tennessee, which also showed little positive impact from tying teacher pay to student results. Critics of popular, corporate-driven, reforms like Diane Ravitch say that pay doesn't motivate teachers in a way that increases learning. Nevertheless, merit pay is expected to get a boost from a reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, the federal government's major education legislation, due for action this year. The underlying assumptions of merit-pay also underpin Colorado's controversial Senate Bill 191, passed into law last year. The study's author, Roland Fryer sums up his research : Financial incentives for teachers to increase student performance is an increasingly popular education policy around the world. This paper describes a school-based randomized trial in over two-hundred New York City public schools designed to better understand the impact of teacher incentives on student achievement. I find no evidence that teacher incentives increase student performance, attendance, or graduation, nor do I find any evidence that the incentives change student or teacher behavior. If anything, teacher incentives may decrease student achievement, especially in larger schools. The paper concludes with a speculative discussion of theories that may explain these stark results.
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