Merit pay for teachers was linked to higher test scores for students in a University of Florida study.
Pay incentives for teachers had more positive effects on student test scores than such school improvement methods as smaller class sizes or stricter requirements for classroom attendance, said David Figlio, a UF economics professor.
Pay incentives made the most difference in schools with low-income students.
About 16 percent of American schools have teacher pay-for-performance programs in place, Figlio said. Such financial incentives were the rule rather than the exception early in the 20th century, but they gradually became less prevalent starting in the 1960s, probably because of the rising strength of teachersâ€™ unions, he said.
Performance pay linked to principal’s evaluations of teachers isn’t effective, said Figlio, because “principals are under a huge amount of pressure to say that everybody is excellent.â€ Merit pay also makes little difference if most teachers get a small amount; what works is giving more money to a few teachers.
Update: Vanderbilt’s National Center on Performance Incentives will study the effect of merit pay for Nashville teachers.
Almost 300 Metro middle school teachers were selected to participate in a five-year study. Some teachers will walk away with a $750 stipend for participating, and others will net $5,000 to $15,000 a year for improving student test scores.
The Metro Nashville Education Association, the teachers union, must OK the bonus payments. Last year, the union rejected a $400,000 merit pay donation that would have paid up to $6,000 extra to teachers at two low-performing elementary schools.
Association President Jamye Merritt said the money was rejected because the terms of the gift were unclear, and teachers didnâ€™t know what expectations they would need to meet.
â€œPeople take money every day for things I would not do … there are people that are paid to be assassins,â€ she said. â€œSometimes itâ€™s just not worth the sacrifice you would have to make for the money.â€
Raising test scores, committing murder. Pretty much the same thing.
However, union leaders are backing the Vanderbilt study.