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Merit pay


Merit pay is a term that describes performance-related pay, most frequently in the context of educational reform or government civil service reform (government jobs). It provides bonuses for workers who perform their jobs effectively, according to easily measurable criteria. In the United States, policy makers are divided on whether merit pay should be offered to public school teachers, and other public employees, as is commonly the case in the United Kingdom.

Merit pay's roots lie in behavioral psychology and incentive theory. These theories are based in the belief that people are rational and react to incentives and that you can increase performance with the correct catalyst.

One example of a system that uses merit-pay is the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) created by the Milken Family Foundation in 1999. TAP is currently in place in more than 180 schools all across the United States. In this program, salary raises are based on some aspects of teacher performance, measured by a combination of observations and student test scores. TAP teachers can advance their career in three ways: (1) remain in the classroom and become a mentor to others, (2) leave the classroom and become a master teacher, or (3) advance to administration through traditional means. This program is focused on helping teachers improve performance by learning from others. Teachers are put into small groups that—for a few hours each week—collaborate about what's working in the classroom. The opportunity allows teachers to build skills that will improve classroom learning.

Since adopting TAP in 2001, Bell Street Middle School has doubled the percent of students with advanced scoring in math and reading. The school has also reduced the number of students scoring "below basic level of math" by 46 percent. Another benefit of the TAP program for the middle school has been a reduction in teacher turnover from 32 percent to 10 percent.

One criticism of TAP is that it is expensive for schools, costing from $250 to $400 per student per year. Many TAP schools use grants to fund the program cost. An independent study conducted by Vanderbilt University researchers compared TAP schools' test score gains to non-TAP schools. TAP seems to do better at the elementary school level, but in fact does worse than non-TAP schools in grades 6 through 10.

In 2006, the United States Congress created a $600 million federal grant program called the Teacher Incentive Plan (TIF). In 2009, the program was expanded and supported with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the TIF "supports efforts to develop and implement performance-based teacher and principal compensation systems in high-need schools." The program's goals include:



Proponents argue that paying teachers according to their effectiveness would be consistent with management precepts from the private sector and would lead to better educational outcomes. Lewis Solmon, President of the TAP and a control group that merit pay contributes toward student achievement. The RAND study concluded that fifty percent of the schools with these reforms outperformed the control schools in math and forty-seven percent outperformed the control in reading.
Schools that use merit pay are better able to attract teachers than schools with no merit pay system. This is especially helpful in enabling schools with lower socioeconomic status attract qualified teachers. For instance, a review of the Teacher Advancement Program [2] in Arizona showed that over a three-year period, 61 teachers started working at the two schools of lowest socioeconomic status in the Madison school district, both of which use the TAP and of these teachers 21% have come from schools in high socioeconomic areas.
Merit pay programs can also alleviate the problem of teacher retention. Stronge, Gareis and Little (2006) argue that merit pay or other performance pay programs provide added motivation for teachers in keeping novice teachers from leaving the profession after a few years and especially in retaining experienced teachers.
Teachers who actually strive for their students to be better will show under the performance pay.
Higher scores will demonstrate a teacher's ability of going the extra mile.
In 1994 the Urban Institute conducted a study and found some positive short-lived effects of merit pay, but concluded that most merit pay plans "did not succeed at implementing lasting, effective ... plans that had a demonstrated ability to improve student learning." Problems included low teacher morale because of increased competition between teachers, as well as wasted time and money in the administration of the merit pay plans. The same study found "little evidence from other research...that incentive programs (particularly pay-for-performance) had led to improved teacher performance and student achievements."
In 1994 the Urban Institute conducted a study and found some positive short-lived effects of merit pay, but concluded that most merit pay plans "did not succeed at implementing lasting, effective ... plans that had a demonstrated ability to improve student learning." Problems included low teacher morale because of increased competition between teachers, as well as wasted time and money in the administration of the merit pay plans. The same study found "little evidence from other research...that incentive programs (particularly pay-for-performance) had led to improved teacher performance and student achievements."
Marie Gryphon, an education policy analyst at the Cato Institute, makes some practical objections:
  • The system can't simply reward high scores. If it did, it would favor teachers in wealthy neighborhoods whose students came to school with excellent skills. Nor can the system reward only improvement. If it did, it would unfairly penalize teachers whose students were already scoring too well to post large gains.
  • Moreover, any money for test results scheme will worsen the problem of teachers cheating on standardized tests to avoid the consequences of the No Child Left Behind Act. Teachers willing to erase wrong answers on exams to avoid having their school labeled "needing improvement" will also be tempted by the thought of a personal raise.
Marie Gryphon, an education policy analyst at the Cato Institute, makes some practical objections:
  • The system can't simply reward high scores. If it did, it would favor teachers in wealthy neighborhoods whose students came to school with excellent skills. Nor can the system reward only improvement. If it did, it would unfairly penalize teachers whose students were already scoring too well to post large gains.
  • Moreover, any money for test results scheme will worsen the problem of teachers cheating on standardized tests to avoid the consequences of the No Child Left Behind Act. Teachers willing to erase wrong answers on exams to avoid having their school labeled "needing improvement" will also be tempted by the thought of a personal raise.
  • (1) improving student achievement by increasing teacher and principal effectiveness
  • (2) reforming teacher and principal compensation systems so that teachers and principals are rewarded for increases in student achievement
  • (3) increasing the number of effective teachers teaching poor, minority, and disadvantaged students in hard-to-staff subjects
  • (4) creating sustainable performance-based compensation systems (PBCSs)
  • The system can't simply reward high scores. If it did, it would favor teachers in wealthy neighborhoods whose students came to school with excellent skills. Nor can the system reward only improvement. If it did, it would unfairly penalize teachers whose students were already scoring too well to post large gains.
  • Moreover, any money for test results scheme will worsen the problem of teachers cheating on standardized tests to avoid the consequences of the No Child Left Behind Act. Teachers willing to erase wrong answers on exams to avoid having their school labeled "needing improvement" will also be tempted by the thought of a personal raise.
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Wikipedia

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