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Performance Pay Developments
posted by: Alix | March 22, 2011, 03:25 PM   

Performance pay continues to be one of the most hot-button education reform policies being proposed by reformers and lawmakers across the country. Last week, Senate Bill 736 passed in Florida and it is now awaiting Governor Scott's signature. Among other broad reforms, the Florida bill is one of the most progressive in terms of performance pay, also known as merit pay. It requires 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation to be based on state standardized tests or other national, local, or industry measures for those subjects not gauged at the state level and evaluations are based on four distinct levels of teacher performance.

With performance pay legislation moving full steam ahead in states like Florida and Idaho, teachers and legislators are struggling to come to terms with this revolutionary policy, raising many questions about the depth of the research and whether tying teacher pay to performance will really help student outcomes.

A performance pay study conducted by the University of Arkansas in 2008 examined a program called the Achievement Challenge Pilot Project. It was implemented in five schools in Little Rock with primarily African-American students. Under the ACPP, teachers could earn as much as an $11,000 bonus based on how much their students' test scores improved.

According to the study, after adjusting for factors such as prior achievement, socioeconomic status, race and gender, it found students in the ACPP schools outperformed their peers in nonparticipating schools by 3.52 normal curve equivalent (NCE) points in math, meaning nearly seven percentile points.

In language arts, the students in ACPP schools outperformed their peers by 4.56 NCE points, or nearly nine percentile points. In reading, the ACPP students outperformed their peers by 3.29 NCE points, or six percentile points.

According to another cutting edge study released this week by the New York City Department of Education, in schools with fewer teachers, school-wide performance pay did lead to improved student achievement. The authors estimate that the New York City-based program had a positive effect on student math achievement in these schools in both program years, although the estimated effect in the second year was not as high.

Conversely, this analysis also indicates that the program may have slightly lowered student achievement in schools with larger teaching staffs.

Supporters of performance pay argue that it encourages teachers to work harder, be more creative with their teaching, and, as a result, be more satisfied in their careers. Proponents cite reduced student outcomes despite record per-pupil spending as a catalyst to move toward a performance pay system. Could tying teacher pay to student performance be the key to giving teachers the "push" they need?

Florida Governor Scott likens the policy to testing students for competency in school, "All of us know that measurement works. We measure students. We know that works."

Opponents of the policy argue performance pay causes toxic competitive atmospheres among colleagues and encourages teachers to neglect low-performing students. The nuances of the policy are also up for debate, including percentages of pay tied to performance and a complete opt-in or out all together.

While the studies about performance pay are few and show mixed results, the data hasn't stopped many legislatures around the country from considering elements of performance pay. Faced with grim news of our place among international education rankings, many education experts advocate for performance pay as a way to close these gaps.

While AAE members oppose evaluation based solely on student test scores, the perception that educators do not want to be evaluated by test scores is a sweeping generalization that leaves many caveats unaddressed. Eighty percent of teachers surveyed support a value-added assessment when student test scores are used as part of teacher evaluation. Student test scores ranked higher in evaluating teacher effectiveness, second only to administrative/ faculty review. Notably, years in the system ranked last among quantifiers of evaluation.

What do you think of performance pay? Is there a happy medium that would allow teachers to make more money in a fair way while improving student outcomes?
Comment below.

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Delicate Balance
written by Cole Kelley, Orem, UT, August 06, 2012

I agree that we need to develop a system of paying rewarding great teaching to help encourage great teaching in the classroom. I worry about the level to which standardized testing is considered in the equation. It needs to be a factor, but parents, administrators and students can also give valuable feedback about quality teaching. It is interesting that teachers don't mind measuring students, but many teachers don't want to be measured for the job that they are doing.

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