The latest fad in education is performance-related pay. It didn't work in England in the 1700s, and it doesn't work in the US now
march 27, 2011
At wit's end over the tortoise pace of school reform, taxpayers constitute a perfect audience for self-styled reformers who claim to have the solution for failing schools. The latest panacea being peddled by these modern-day Elmer Gantrys is merit pay for teachers.
The pitch is straightforward: education is no different from any other policy area in what shapes behaviour. Paying teachers strictly on the basis of their classroom performance will result in positive outcomes for students.
But a working paper (pdf) just released by Harvard University economist Roland G Fryer flatly contradicts the argument. In a randomised trial in more than 200 New York City public schools, he found "no evidence that teacher incentives increase student performance, attendance or graduation". On the contrary, Fryer reported that teacher incentives may actually decrease student achievement, especially in larger schools.