Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Merit Pay Debate

I have had a little bit of time to read about the new study published  by the National Center on Performance Incentives on merit pay.   I recommend reading the executive summary and the discussion section at the end.   I always like to read the report, and then read the headlines that are published.

A good example on the MCEA BLOG: "Teacher merit pay fails the test."  

However, for those interested in learning more about merit pay, I recommend Jay Mathews blog.  Not so much the article, but the comments by readers and Jay that follow   Every once in awhile, you get some interesting ideas circulating.  And incidentally, some of the best, are not necessarily proponents of merit pay.

My contribution to the conversation.

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 recommend using at least 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 problematic. We should be investigating 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.

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