Merit Pay for Teachers Doesn’t Work (2011 study) … In case you had forgotten

A lot of Rhee-formers have bet that they can improve test scores in school districts by paying good teachers bonuses. 

In DC, Atlanta, and many other cities, we now know from Eraser-gate scandals in the news that paying money for good test scores and firing teachers with low student scores will cause a significant number of teachers to cheat.

But a large, three-year study in Nashville, TN, involving hundreds of teachers, and large bonuses, showed that even if everyone is honest, it doesn’t work either. What’s more, even Roland Fryer found it didn’t work in NYC, and that paying students to be good and do their work wasn’t successful, either (“Capital Gains” experiment). Unfortunately, my own blog is one of the few places you’ll find any mention of that.


Published in: on September 24, 2015 at 3:05 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I taught in three different school districts that tried to implement merit pay. When I first heard about it, I thought the idea was great. But then I saw the mess that was made of the evaluations. The criteria were bad, the evaluators were bad, the attempt to somehow quantify quality ridiculous, the competition divisive and the rewards not worth the effort. The worst aspect was the reward of brown noses when finally “working.”


    • The idea of merit pay (or paying for piece work) sounds very plausible, but W. Edwards Deming and Daniel Pink also have given very good explanations of why they don’t work for anything more complicated that making widgets on an assembly line. And teaching is a LOT more complicated than that.


  2. ‘The worst aspect was the reward of brown noses when finally “working.” ‘

    There were enough people who ingratiated themselves with their chosen administrator without the promise of merit pay. They always managed to position themselves to benefit from any perks tossed their way.


  3. If teachers were motivated by money … they wouldn’t be teachers. Is this not obvious?


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