Second, EAG believes it is unwise to view merit pay only as a carrot to be dangled in front of teachers, enticing them to perform better. Merit pay should be given to teachers who already perform better. Excellent teachers will be excellent teachers regardless of their compensation. Merit pay should simply reward them for their excellence and the positive results they produce. Pink slips should be given to those who don’t produce positive results.
The study’s authors write:
“The limited motivational effect of the bonus might have resulted from school staff viewing the award as a reward rather than an incentive: It made them feel appreciated for their hard work, but they claimed that they would have undertaken this work with or without the bonus.”
If the bonuses made effective teachers “feel appreciated for their hard work,” then EAG believes the value of merit pay is affirmed. No further study is required.
Merit pay proponents believe such bonuses work because they allow schools to recognize and honor effective teachers for their professionalism. EAG believes merit pay is an ideal way to elevate the education profession, and will help attract and retain top talent.
Teacher unions, on the other hand, refuse to acknowledge that teachers have various levels of talent and ambition. Instead, unions treat educators as interchangeable and indistinguishable workers – each one no better or no worse than the teacher down the hall. That’s why the unions resist the concept of merit pay, and rejoice when studies such as this one get published.
Bottom line: The RAND study seems to use a debased concept of merit pay and may have a design flaw that makes its conclusions unconvincing.
EAG hopes additional social scientists review the study and clarify some of these questions before the report is enshrined as conventional wisdom.Until that happens, we hope the RAND study does not undercut many of the promising innovations that are being implemented in public schools nationwide.
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