Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Teacher incentives

Dana Goldstein writes about a program that gives a $20,000 bonus to teachers who transfer to "high poverty, low test score" schools.  These are all established mid-career teachers, not ivy-leaguers parachuted in to help.  They showed benefit in elementary schools but not middle school.  All of these transfers were inter-urban.

I have two thoughts.  One, huge merit pay bonuses are the precise opposite of revenue neutral.  There is no evidence that cutting everyone's pay to afford these bonuses for some teachers would be a cost-effective strategy.  Its an average causal effect applied to a population already getting an underlying rate of compensation.  So what this really has to be judged against are other interventions that would spend the same money in different ways. 

Two, the political feasibility seems low.  So long as education is funded via local taxes, it seems challenging to build support for a program to pull good teachers out of well funded schools and push them into high poverty area schools (almost certainly with lower funding).  Just how one might build the political coalition to do this (without encouraging mass abandonment of existing public schools) seems to be a open question.


  1. I have huge problems with the way this story has been covered (including Dana Goldstein's piece). The highly touted merit-pay angle is based on completely rewriting the definition of the term.

    Ravitch does a good job spelling it out

  2. I was more reacting to how this was not a revenue neutral reform, but you are right that the interpretation is likely more than experience matters than that high stakes testing and merit pay work