"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Let's Have Performance Pay for Economists Who Muck Around in Education Issues

The NYTimes blog, Economix, has a posting by Harvard economist, Edward Glaeser, on a recent conference in Cambridge to air some of the research on teacher pay based on test scores.  The conference brought together the customary lineup of pro-corporate and pro-privatization forces, those described by Dr. Paul Peterson as the good against the evil (see Bush v. Holmes (Fl. Sup. Ct.) for some background on Peterson's self-described "small band of Jedi attackers, using their intellectual powers to fight the unified Death Star forces led by Darth Vader, whose intellectual capacity has been corrupted by the urge for complete hegemony”(p. 3).

This illustrious group of Jedi warriors are now ensconced at Harvard within The Program on Policy and Governance (PEPG), whose Advisory Committee is headed by Jeb Bush and whose members include the Who's Who of research chefs and ideologues who earn their bread by manufacturing reports to support the corporate vision of schooling.

Since there was no U. S.  research presented at the conference to support the current plan to base tenure and pay on test scores, Glaeser focuses on a rehash of a study done ten years ago in Israel and a more recent one done in India, both of which show some evidence to support performance based pay. 

Glaeser also focuses on a study by Jedi warriors, Jay Greene and Scott Buck, that found that local administrators and teachers often subvert the intent of pay per score plans.  Glaeser also fumes that teachers will probably cheat to make their increase their pay, since they hate the performance pay plan, anyway.  While there is good reason to believe that teacher cheating will indeed occur when money for test scores comes to town, Glaeser offers no such warning when he presented the Israeli and Indian studies mentioned earlier.  Obviously, cheating is only a problem in the U. S. and in systems where pay per score is unpopular.

What Glaeser does not mention at all is the research presented at HIS conference by Goodman and Turner from Columbia that shows the New York pay for performance plan has not worked.  Valerie Strauss has a rundown that includes other recent evidence that would make any sane national policymaker change course from the full speed ahead that Arne's Oligarchs have chosen:
Just the other day we heard that a program in Chicago that attempted to link teacher pay with student standardized test scores wasn’t working, at least not in the first two years.

A 2009 analysis of a major program in Texas that also linked teacher pay to student achievement gains on tests showed no evidence of success. The multi-year Texas Educator Excellence Grant involved teachers at about 1,000 campuses, with a total of more than 140,000 students in lower-income neighborhoods. It was discontinued because of “design problems.”

Now, a paper prepared by two Columbia University researchers for a recent education conference at Harvard University said that the New York City Bonus Program, which attempts to raise student achievement by paying teachers for it, was -- you guessed -- also unsuccessful.

The researchers, Sarena Goodman and Lesley Turner, investigated the impacts of group-based incentive pay over two academic years (2007-2008 and 2008-2009) on a range of outcomes that included teacher effort, student performance in math and reading, and classroom activities. Also evaluated were impacts on the market for teachers by examining teacher turnover and the qualifications of newly hired teachers.

“Overall, we find the bonus program had little impact on any of these outcomes,” the researchers concluded.
In each of these reports, the authors noted that the design of the program was flawed in some way. Teachers weren’t paid enough or they were not paid individually or some other part was not well conceived.

The Goodman/Turner study says, for example, “We argue that the lack of bonus program impacts can be explained by the structure of the bonus program. Group bonuses led to free-riding, which significantly reduced the program’s incentives.”

Maybe. But maybe not. And this is our problem: Nobody yet knows.

That hasn’t stopped performance-based pay from becoming the new mantras in school reform. It was, in fact, a key part of the new teachers' contract negotiated in Washington, D.C., by Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and just ratified by members of the Washington Teachers' Union. It is also part of a number of school reform laws recently passed in various states to win favor -- and federal Race to the Top dollars -- from Education Secretary Arne Duncan. . . .

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