Sunday, April 30, 2017

Jersey Jazzman: Desperately Searching For the Merit Pay Fairy

Jersey Jazzman: Desperately Searching For the Merit Pay Fairy:

Desperately Searching For the Merit Pay Fairy

It's been a while since we've talked about the Merit Pay Fairy.

Yo, it's me -- da Merit Pay Fairy, makin' all your reformy dreams come true!

The Merit Pay Fairy lives in the dreams and desires of a great many reform-types, who desperately want to believe that "performance incentives" for teachers will somehow magically improve efforts and, consequently, results in America's classrooms. Because, as we all know, too many teachers are just phoning it in -- which explains why a system of schooling that ranks and orders students continually fails to make all kids perform above average...

One of the arguments you'll hear from believers in the Merit Pay Fairy is that teaching needs to be made more like other jobs in the "real world." But pay tied directly to performance measures is actually quite rare in the private sector (p. 6). It's even more rare in professions where you are judged by the performance of others -- in this case, students, whose test scores vary widely based on factors having nothing to do with their teachers

But that doesn't matter if you believe in the Merit Pay Fairy; all that counts is that some quick, cheap fix be brought in to show that we're doing all we can to improve public education without actually spending more money. And, yes, merit pay as conceived by many (if not most) in the "reform" world, is cheap -- because it involves not raising the overall compensation of the teaching corps, but taking money away from some teachers and giving it to others, using a noisy evaluation system incapable of making fine distinctions in teacher effectiveness.

Which brings us to the latest merit pay study, which has been getting a lot of press:
Student test scores have a modest but statistically significant improvement when an incentive pay plan is in place for their teachers, say researchers who analyzed findings from 44 primary studies between 1997 and 2016.
“Approximately 74 percent of the effect sizes recorded in our review were positive. The influence was relatively similar across the two subject areas, mathematics and English language arts,” said Matthew Springer, assistant professor of public policy and education at Jersey Jazzman: Desperately Searching For the Merit Pay Fairy:

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