Bonus pay for teachers thoroughly discredited

Debate closed: paying teachers extra for student performance does not work. The research community’s conviction that giving teachers bonus pay for high student test scores does not work was solidified in the fall of 2013 when the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences added a RAND report to its What Works Clearinghouse and commented that the research met its high standards “without reservations”. The report,  A Big Apple for Educators, found that under its current design, New York City’s pay-for-performance program did not improve student achievement or teachers’ reported attitudes, perceptions, or behaviors. A separate RAND study, the nation’s first randomized experiment to test teacher incentive pay, also found that students of the teachers who were eligible to earn bonuses did not outperform the students whose teachers were not eligible for bonuses. The NYC report also received the American Educational Research Association’s 2012 Outstanding Policy Report (Short Report) award.

Can we extrapolate that the same would be true for students? Is it equally ineffective to pay your child for good grades? Curious what the data say.

It’s also interesting to think about this “market failure,” as economists would call it, and understand why so many market-based solutions fail in education.


POSTED BY Jill Barshay ON October 11, 2013

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Peter Cook

Totally agree that performance pay does not result in increasing performance – there’s absolutely no evidence to support it – but that’s not necessarily the only rationale behind performance pay. It would be interesting to study whether performance pay increased retention among those teachers who earned it.

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