Study: Bonuses boost retention, scores

More teachers stayed on the job and students’ scores improved modestly at Texas schools that offered performance pay, reports a study by researchers at Vanderbilt University, the University of Missouri and Rand Corp. Bigger bonuses — $3,000 and up — produced better results, “although a majority of districts chose to spread the money around to more teachers and give smaller payments,” notes the Dallas News.

The study cautioned, though, that achievement gains shown by merit pay schools were small and could have resulted in part from other initiatives at those schools. Student test scores are a primary factor in determining bonuses, a criterion that many teachers oppose.

The merit-pay plan strongly affected teacher retention:  “The probability of turnover surged among teachers who did not receive a DATE award, while it fell sharply among teachers who did receive such an award,” the researchers said.

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  1. Roger Sweeny says:

    “The probability of turnover surged among teachers who did not receive a DATE award, while it fell sharply among teachers who did receive such an award,” the researchers said.

    Which suggests to me that the major effect of the rewards was to make some of the teachers feel appreciated.

  2. Is there ANY hint of causality in the data?

    So, lower performing teachers are more likely to leave the profession? This is news? We need merit pay for that?

    Teachers have long self-selected out of the classroom. That’s been going on forever.

  3. With continued budget cuts affecting school districts everywhere, how can teachers (and students) expect to perform to their fullest? I also think that a further integration of tech in the classroom will help ease the burden from teachers and engage students more actively. Continue this trend to higher education and you have a society that is better prepared for the real world.

  4. Sarah, further integrating tech in the classroom requires far greater outlays of money than are currently available, and actually require more work on the part of teachers if the lessons are going to be done well. It won’t ease the burden on teachers at all.

    Do note that I am not saying further integration of technology is necessarily a bad thing (although it’s often done poorly by administrators who think it’s a magic bullet).

  5. Under the details of that plan, large numbers of campuses dropped in and out of the program every year, making it difficult to determine whether the teacher bonuses were improving student performance.

    In other words, this “study” proves nothing.

    I’m amazed that the universities quoted have entire organizations devoted to studying the effects of performance pay in schools. I’m NOT amazed they claim to have found it helps; after all if they didn’t claim it their funding would be shut off.

  6. I meant tech integration in a broad sense, one that is a goal for future generations, not one that is done overnight. I can understand that teachers would get an increased burden at first. However, there have already been classrooms given the opportunity to have modern tech like an iPad, and the teachers have commented on the fact that with students more actively engaged and excited about learning, the teaching process has become a lot more rewarding, and as they ease into the new tech, less demanding.

    I am a dreamer, however. Dreams of budget cuts in federal gov’t not affecting schools and libraries. Dreams that lawmakers will understand that cutting funding to the younger generation’s education opportunities will only encourage t American “Averagism” compared to other countries.

    One can dream, right?

  7. Roger Sweeny says:

    there have already been classrooms given the opportunity to have modern tech like an iPad, and the teachers have commented on the fact that with students more actively engaged and excited about learning ….

    If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that said about the latest hot idea in education, well, I’d have a couple extra dollars.

    Early adopters are excited by the new thing they have adopted. Often they see more excitement in their students than is really there. Even when the excitement is there, it is partly a reflection of the teacher’s excitement and does not transfer to less enthusiastic teachers. And all too often, excitement in the classroom doesn’t actually mean learning.

    (The first day of class one year, my high school science class was excited that the previous year they had “turned an egg into rubber.” But they had no idea of the science of what they had done. When I tried to probe, the best I got was, “We put it in something that made the shell disappear. Then we put it in something that turned it into rubber.”