Saturday, January 13, 2007

Merit Pay Chronicles: The Tennessee Story

It looks as though someone is actually going to do a little research in order to see if merit pay will help improve both teacher and student performance:
Metro teachers voted overwhelmingly to take part in a comprehensive study that will examine the effectiveness of paying incentive bonuses to educators who improve student performance, union officials said Friday.

Members of the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association voted 70 percent to 30 percent to participate in the $10 million scientific study, in conjunction with Vanderbilt University's new National Center on Performance Incentives.

"MNEA is pleased that teachers had a chance to have their say on this scientific study about the individual and institutional effects of incentives on student performance," the association said in a news release.

The project is being billed as the definitive study on performance pay in the United States, and Metro schools would be the first lab.

Almost 300 Metro middle school teachers were selected to participate in a five-year study.

Some teachers will walk away with a $750 stipend for participating, and others will net $5,000 to $15,000 a year for improving student test scores.

"Many people from a national standpoint are moving forward with the idea of incentive pay without understanding the impact on student learning," Matthew Springer, director of the center and a professor at Vanderbilt, said late last week.
The chief concern we've always had with performance-based pay schemes for teachers is who would measure the effectiveness of teachers and how.

We are concerned because many, if not all, public school systems are plagued by those Evil Twins: Cronyism and Nepotism.

This institutional infestation is the result of an orginizational structure that usually places nearly-absolute power in the hands of petty tyrants well-entrenched superintendents who, because of their insistance on four-year contracts with automatic annual renewel clauses and huge "buy-out" provisions, come to dominate and "tame" the school boards that are supposed to provide oversight for their districts.

So.... in an EduWorld that has long been dominated by favoritism in just about everything from the distribution of instructional resources to teaching assignments, how can teachers and their classroom effectiveness be fairly measured?
See our latest EduPosts.