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

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Merit Pay Fails to Raise Scores: Duncan Says Full Steam Ahead with Meritless Plan

The U. S. Education Department has tremendously expensive pay for test score grant programs that don't have a lick of empirical evidence to support them.  In fact, the National Research Council has warned Duncan that his value-added pay per score incentive systems that he is "incenting" have no scientific credibility (look immediately to your right).  That has not stopped the billionaires who run the department from going all in with a $437 million grant project to bribe states and localities to come up with pay for score plans in the poorest schools.

The results of a three year study are out, and the news is not good for the Team Gates-Duncan.  From WaPo:
A study released Tuesday found that offering teachers annual bonuses of up to $15,000 had no effect on student test scores - a result likely to inflame debate about performance pay programs sprouting in D.C. schools and many others nationwide.

The study suggests that teachers already were working so hard that the lure of extra money failed to induce them to intensify their effort or change methods of instruction. The experiment, in Nashville public schools, calls into question a key aspect of market-driven initiatives to improve schools that have become the vogue in some education circles.

"Pay reform is often thought to be a magic bullet," said Matthew Springer, a Vanderbilt University education professor who led the study. "That doesn't appear to be the case here. We need to develop more thoughtful and comprehensive ways of thinking about compensation. But at the same time, we're not even sure whether incentive pay is an effective strategy for improving the system itself."

With backing from federal and state governments and private foundations, a growing number of public schools in recent years have embraced paying teachers at least in part on how much they raise student achievement.

President Obama has encouraged the movement despite skepticism from some teachers unions and from lawmakers within his party. D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee became a hero to reformers in part because of her insistence on a new teachers' contract that allows performance bonuses.

Central to such reforms is the notion that teachers should be rewarded when their students achieve outsize gains on standardized tests. That is a major shift from the tradition of determining pay by seniority and credentials such as master's or doctoral degrees.

But the study from the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt casts doubt on hopes that performance pay alone can dramatically improve public schools.

In a three-year experiment backed by federal funding, researchers tracked what happened in Nashville schools when math teachers in grades 5 through 8 were offered bonuses of $5,000, $10,000 and $15,000 for hitting targets in annual test-score gains. About 300 teachers volunteered, and half were assigned to a control group ineligible for the bonuses.
Researchers designed the bonuses, funded by a private donor, to be large enough to function as a legitimate incentive. There were no additional variables - no professional development, mentoring or other elements in the experiment meant to help elicit better test scores.

On the whole, researchers found no significant difference between the results from classes led by teachers who received bonuses and those led by teachers who did not.

Obama administration officials and a wide range of experts were quick to note that the study did not examine the effect of performance pay in combination with other measures to improve teaching.

"While this is a good study, it only looked at the narrow question of whether more pay motivates teachers to try harder," said Peter Cunningham, assistant U.S. education secretary for communications and outreach. "What we are trying to do is change the culture of teaching by giving all educators the feedback they need to get better while rewarding and incentivizing the best to teach in high need schools, hard to staff subjects. This study doesn't address that objective.". . .
To put it politely, Peter Cunningham does not speak the truth.  Prior to this year the Feds did have some grant money available to attract teachers to high needs schools, but the announcement in May 2010 changed all that by holding any grant money for such purposes hostage to the necessity to put into place pay for score plans.  The Federal Education Budget Project's Facebook page makes it quite clear that Cunningham is a liar, to put it clearly:
by Federal Education Budget Project on Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 5:15pm
Today, the U.S. Department of Education announced the release of applications for $437 million in Teacher Incentive Fund grants (TIF). TIF grants are competitively awarded federal grants that local education agencies (LEAs), state education agencies (SEAs), and partnerships between either of these entities and non-profit organizations can use to implement programs that address the distribution of high quality teachers among high-need schools and subject areas. These grants are made possible through both a fiscal year 2010 appropriation of $300 million and a carryover appropriation of $137 million from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The Department of Education is likely to award between 40 and 80 grants ranging from $5 million to $10 million, and applications are due July 6, 2010.
These grants will be awarded specifically to programs that support Performance Based Compensation Systems (PBCSs) for teachers and principals. In the past, TIF grants have been available for other basic types of teacher compensation programs like pay incentives for teachers that work in hard-to-staff schools and subjects. However, the Obama Administration shifted its focus for the grants over to PBCSs after the Department of Education announced that ARRA funding for the TIF will go to support these performance-based programs. . . .

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