Another Thumbs Down on Individual Merit Pay

There was big news this week out of Vanderbilt University, which released a study that showed that individual merit pay for teachers (in this case, $15,000 over three years) did nothing to improve student standardized test scores. The Vanderbilt report, base on a study conducted in he Nashville Public Schools drew national reaction. A good piece on the Vanderbilt report from the Hechinger Institute based at Columbia appeared in USA Today. Apologists for individual merit pay came immediately out of the woodwork saying essentially that individual merit pay was never meant to be anything but a part of a whole package, and so on.

“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.” Read a good overview of the merit pay debate in the Washington Post.

Incidentally, the whole debate on individual merit pay ought to ring a bell with us. You may recall that Exxon Mobil tried to implement an individual merit pay scheme with the Advanced Placement exam. We insisted that the team approach, not an individual reward, was key to improvement. Read the Globe article.

We are also glad to report that both the BTU and the school department agreed to the team approach in Turnaround Schools. Our position has  consistently been that good education and good schools take a group effort “€” and that individual rewards are divisive and non-productive.

Education Turmoil in DC: Did it cause Mayor Fenty’s Defeat? And School Superintendent Rhee’s Potential Ouster?

See a good report in the Washington Post of Mayor Fenty’s electoral loss and the school system’s possible gain as Michelle Rhee Education Czar comes under attack as belong partly responsible for his loss.  See the Diane Ravitch-Deb Meier blog about how the DC election was, in effect, a referendum on Michelle Rhee, poster child for bad school managemeent. Have no fear: If she loses her job, she’ll be back very quickly, wherever a quick fix is sought. Newark is among the early suitors.