New York City’s heralded $75 million experiment in teacher incentive pay — deemed “transcendent” when it was announced in 2007 — did not increase student achievement at all, a new study by the Harvard economist Roland Fryer concludes.“If anything,” Fryer writes of schools that participated in the program, “student achievement declined.” Fryer and his team used state math and English test scores as the main indicator of academic achievement.
The program, which was first funded by private foundations and then by taxpayer dollars, also had no impact on teacher behaviors that researchers measured. These included whether teachers stayed at their schools or in the city school district and how teachers described their job satisfaction and school quality in a survey.The program had only a “negligible” effect on a list of other measures that includes student attendance, behavioral problems, Regents exam scores, and high school graduation rates, the study found.
[...]The study adds to a research literature on teacher incentive pay that is decidedly more lukewarm than much of the popular conversation about teacher pay. Fryer, himself a strong early advocate of experimenting with financial incentives to improve student achievement, calls the literature “ambivalent.” While programs in developing countries such as India and Kenya have had positive effects, few teacher incentive pay efforts in the United States have been deemed effective.
Nevertheless, a person’s position on teacher merit pay has become a litmus test for her reform credentials in many education circles. During his campaign, President Obama used his support for merit pay — traditionally scorned by teachers unions — as evidence that he was willing to challenge traditional Democratic Party thinking. Now, the Obama administration has boosted support for the Teacher Incentive Fund, a program that funds local experiments in incentive pay. [emphasis mine]All serious people who "put kids first" know that it doesn't really matter if merit pay - or, for that matter, charter schools or tenure "reform" or VAM or whatever the flavor of the month is - actually works. All that matters is that we are "doing something."
And addressing childhood poverty, raising teacher pay, and fixing funding inequities is just so... hard...