In an Arkansas study, students improved scores in low-income, high-minority schools where teachers received bonuses linked to students’ progress. At schools with similar demographics but no merit pay, scores declined slightly.
This gain in achievement after one yearâ€™s time is roughly equal to one-sixth of the nationwide average test score gap between black and white students. If the observed benefit of the merit pay program were to compound for six years, it would close the black-white test score gap.
Teachers in the merit-pay schools didn’t report working harder or being more innovative than comparison teachers. The experiment didn’t produce more “counterproductive competition.” In fact, teachers in the pilot schools reported a more positive work environment than the control group and said the program increased collaboration.
This strikes me as very significant:
The ACPP (merit pay) teachers were more likely than comparison teachers to view low-performing students as an opportunity to demonstrate teaching ability rather than as a burden.
Teachers in the merit-pay schools could earn as much as $11,000 extra; school staffers earned a bonus based on schoolwide improvement.