Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Merit Pay Does Not Work

To the uncritical ear, Merit Pay sounds like a good thing. You become good at your job and you are rewarded with more money. Seems fair and, when it comes to teachers, it seems like it should be good for students, too, as it should encourage teachers to grow and develop professionally and to strive to become better at their jobs. The problem is that it does not work, and there are studies to back this up.

One reason for this apparent contradiction is that teachers do not go into teaching for the money (which, contrary to the rants of the anti-teacher pundits, is still not that good). They enter the profession because they care about children and they want to make a difference in their lives. With this as the primary motivator, most teachers strive to become better and to develop professionally, regardless of compensation, because it allows them to better achieve their goal of helping children.

A new randomized study by Harvard economist Roland Fryer, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, concludes that New York City’s $75 million experiment in merit pay failed to raise student achievement. In fact, according to Fryer, student achievement actually declined at the participating schools. The program, which was funded by foundations and later by taxpayers, had no impact on teacher behavior, nor did it improve student attendance, behavior and graduation rates. The experiment involved 200 schools and 20,000 teachers between 2007-2008 and 2009-2010.

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