I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Friday, November 16, 2012

News For Christie & Weingarten: Merit Pay Doesn't Work

Chris Christie, Randi Weingarten, and Bradley Cooper (?) were guests today on Morning Joe, discussing the Newark teachers contract:

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I will have plenty to say about this segment over the weekend. But let's start with something that was not said here; something that needs to be said loudly and clearly, over and over if necessary:

Merit pay does not work.

From my project at Blue Jersey, Ed Reform 101:
Myth: Paying teachers on merit will work because it's so logical.
The Truth: Every time merit pay for teachers has been tried in a controlled study, it has failed.
- Merit pay has been tried and failed in New York City, Tennessee, Texas, Chicago, Michigan,and even 18h century England. (These are "controlled" studies where merit pay is the only variable.)

Myth: Earning more money will be a great motivator for teachers.
The Truth: Merit pay has never been shown to be particularly effective, and teachers don't want it.
- Decades of research shows that pay for performance is a weak motivator. (See the bonus video below for an entertaining take on this idea!)
- Teachers overwhelmingly agree that tying their pay to performances on state tests is a bad idea.
Myth: Teaching is the only profession where people aren't paid on merit.
The Truth: Merit pay as conceived by "reformers" is rare in the private sector.
- Only six percent of workers are awarded regular output-based payments (p.6)
- Most of those are concentrated in the finance, insurance, and real estate industries.
Still don't believe me? Ask Daniel Pink:

Since we did Ed Reform 101, a study was published that purports to show merit pay can work - if you employ it in a tactic called "loss aversion." The basic idea is to give teachers a bonus up front, then force them to pay back some of that money if their students don't achieve a certain level on a standardized test.

Leave aside the methodological problems with the study; leave aside the difficulty any district would have in actually implementing the policy; leave aside the assault on basic human dignity this plan represents.

Loss aversion is not coming to Newark; it's a step so radical that not even Randi Weingarten would acquiesce to it (I think...). What we're talking about here are straight up bonuses that will inevitably be tied to test scores. That policy has been tried, and it's always failed; Diane Ravitch sums up the history nicely.

So there is no reason to believe that the Newark bonuses will do anything for Newark's students. And there's every reason to believe Mark Zuckerberg just wasted a huge pile of money that could have been put to better use.

Weingarten says she's surprised that so much focus has been put on merit pay. Maybe that's because, just this past summer, the Chicago teachers went on strike to excise merit pay from their contract. And that may be the fundamental question teachers and their unions must ask themselves going forward:

Would you rather teach in Chicago or in Newark? More in a bit...

1 comment:

Zeno said...

Great post and Pink's video is a must see. The intellectual basis for merit pay must be exposed as a fraud.
These folks have no idea why teachers become teachers - purpose in life is one reason.