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Well said, Dan. People tend to do what is rewarded, regardless of what you actually intended.

This is a ridiculous article- sorry to say because the author seems like he is really trying to make an effort here at resolving this issue. The premise is that pay for performance would work under certain conditions. However, the author says the mistake in Atlanta is that the base salaries of these teachers are so low that it creates a desperation that makes the $2000 worth cheating for and that this is one of the situations that would make performance pay not work. He also says it must be linked to actual performance and have controls- yet he does not elaborate on this very critical part.
It must be linked to actual performance and this is the biggest problem with pay for performance. The teacher MUST perceive that they have control over whether they receive the merit pay- full control. That means that it must be given when a teacher does their job in an exceptional manner. In reality though, it is judged by how children do on a test- something teachers have very little control over. So, teachers do not feel like they realistically have full control over this chance at merit pay. Until merit pay is given for those things that a teacher has full control and influence over, it will not be effective. The author tends to paint a more positive view of the chances merit pay can work. Yet, by his own admission there is very little chance of this.

@Jim: Thanks

@Jupiter Mom: Thanks so much for your comments.
It has been proven, many times over, that pay for performance can and does work. It only works when structured, communicated and managed correctly. As I opined, a key piece of correct structure is making sure that the basic motivations for doing a GOOD job are met, before trying to reward people for doing a GREAT job.

I speak, write and consult regularly on the specific design elements and controls that must be in place for performance pay to work. An example of a generally poor design mechanism is paying for something like a test score, when the teachers have little or no ability to influence: 1) who their students are, 2) what their administrators do, 3) How politicians fund (or de-fund) education, 4) How their students parents view education, and many other factors.

Tests are only one measurement that should be considered. While they are important, they do not, alone, show the true impact of a teacher.

In any industry, including teaching, we can change the ability for those being paid to influence and impact how well their jobs are done. Without changes to the underlying structure (including the current concept of tenure) pay for performance will be hit or miss. With proper changes pay for performance can and does work. The questions are: A) Can we see the flaws and; B)Are willing to do the difficult things it will take to correct them.

Not all teacher's salaries are so low. The teachers in the Northeast U.S. are routinely above average and their benefits far exceed most other workers. In our county, for example, the average household earns about $45,000, while a teacher with just a couple of years experience earns that.

@Chris: US News ranks the top ten states for public high schools as:
1 Connecticut
2 Massachusetts
3 California
4 New Jersey
5 New York
6 Illinois
7 Vermont
8 Washington
9 Maine
9 Maryland
(Quite a few from the North East, although I do not know specifically where you are located)

A ranking of Elementary Schools based on data from the Nation's Report Card provided by U.S. Department of Education is similar:
1 New Hampshire
2 Massachusetts
3 Connecticut
4 Vermont
5 Minnesota
6 New Jersey
7 North Carolina
8 Wyoming
9 Kansas
10 Maine

Again, this is not causal evidence, but it may show some support for not skimping on teacher pay.

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