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Hi, Ann,

With all due respects, you did not do your due diligence on this one. P4P suffers an apparent body blow, but you did not read the Vanderbuilt University study which made the negative report to evaluate it. Instead, you repeat the negative comments of someone from the CATO Institute, which is a well known conservative think tank and hardly an objective source on teacher merit pay matters. Seems like you were playing to your pro-business audience on this one.



Why do you assume I did not read the Vanderbilt University study? As a general rule, I don't comment on the results of studies without first reviewing the sources myself - as I made a particular point of doing this case. In fact, I found a number of aspects of that study which troubled and/or caused me to question the conclusions reached, beyond what I mentioned here or what was addressed in CATO and other reactions - but didn't have the space to address them in the context of one blog post.

Can you elaborate on what you believe I overlooked?

Your comment on the CATO Institute is valid, and I hesitated to use that quote for that reason, because it does have a strongly conservative reputation ... but I went with it anyway because I believed the point to be a valid one, and in line with my reading and interpretation of the study results, as well as my broad experience working with rewards in a large range of settings.

I could be wrong, but I don't think it is the pro-business audience alone that is interested in promoting systemic change in our public schools. My point here is meant to be that I recognize the futility of pushing a single reform in a system that likely needs broader kinds of change - but that I also think a broader look at rewards in this setting could produce some valuable insights and possibilities.

I don't claim to be an expert here - but it is an area that I'd like to encourage reward professionals to weigh in on. That was the other purpose of my post.

Appreciate the comment.

The whole system needs to go away and something that actually works needs to be implemented. Yes- pay for performance will work just as it does in the free market. If you do well, you are compensated for that. But like you said- other changes need to be made along with this policy. Implementing the ability to terminate a poor performer- just as any company would- would certainly be an incentive to work harder- make the curriculum more exciting and create a thirst for knowledge. Really- how motivated would you be if you knew that regardless of how well you worked or the results of your performance- you would always receive your step increases every 6 months and you could never be terminated. Not to mention a 3 month paid vacation each year. I'm sure most would give just enough to get by each day and not care about the end result.

Hi Ann,

From someone who works in this space quite a bit (performance pay in schools), I wasn't surprised at all by the results of the POINT study.

While the researchers are quality people and scientists, the entire experiment hinged on a cash for test scores scheme. For this to work, the underlying psychological mechanism at play has to be that educators really could do better for kids, but have been holding back their talents waiting for some money to "motivate" them to do better.

Educators are already motivated to do great things for kids - they come hard-wired that way. This behavioristic framework just doesn't work for this group of people who are much more motivated for altruistic reasons than financial ones.

Where we have seen performance pay have success in schools is where it is part of a larger reform that includes supports like collaborative professional development programs, multiple career options, quality and transparent measures, and a "we" factor in the implementation where those involved in the compensation program are closely involved in the design.

I'd point to recent studies published on the Benwood Initiative in TN, Denver Public Schools model, the Teacher Advancement Program, and my own personal experience with Eagle County Schools in CO as examples of where this can be a success as part of a "full court press" approach to change.

To be more direct - the POINT study showed us its not a stand alone reform and its not a silver bullet that will cure everything. It takes a much more comprehensive approach to positively effect the distribution.

Finally, another thing the POINT study tells us is that the cash for scores scheme used in the experiment did no worse than just a step and level pay system. So, this should also defuse those who would say performance pay systems do harm to schools - the POINT study would not indicate that is the case. This should free us up for more experimentation and adaptation in schools - which is what's really missing.

Thanks much!

Jason Glass
Battelle for Kids


Thanks for your comments and for adding your thoughts to the conversation!


Thanks so much for weighing in here and sharing your considerable experience with readers.

Your experience and findings are encouraging and make complete sense - that success can best be found not in narrow, stand-alone pay schemes, but in a larger, collaborative reform effort which honors the motivation and intent that great teachers bring to their profession and all the elements that can and do make their work rewarding.

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