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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Study: Merit pay works

Merit pay for teachers can lead to higher test scores for students, reports Ed Week‘s Teacher Beat. In the U.S., teacher participation in a merit-pay program was linked to three extra weeks of schooling, concluded a Vanderbilt meta-analysis of 44 studies.

“The findings suggest that merit pay is having a pretty significant impact on student learning,” said author Matthew G. Springer, an assistant professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University.

Incentive-pay programs that provided on-the-job training for teachers –a requirement of the federal Teacher Incentive Fund — had little effect on student achievement, the study found.

The authors did find that merit-pay programs aimed at groups of teachers who worked together to earn incentive pay, as opposed to individuals competing against one another, resulted in an effect more than two times the average. “The group incentive-pay system may encourage teachers to collaborate more, and so teachers end up learning new instructional practices or new ways to approach the curriculum,” Springer conjectured. “As a result, they become better teachers.”

It’s not clear what teachers are doing differently as a result of merit pay ow whether other programs would be more cost effective.

Future research will look at whether merit-pay systems keep higher-performing teachers in the profession.

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