Here’s a quote from a major new study about merit pay:
Overall, our results consistently indicate that the increased focus on individual teacher performance caused a sizable and statistically significant decline in student achievement.
Read it again. It’s a bold accusation. “…increased focus on individual teacher performance caused a sizable and statistically significant decline in student achievement.”
That’s right, a DECLINE.
Here’s the link to the entire piece.
Now, I am not going to get into a debate about the veracity of this study. There might be a ba-zillion things wrong with it which I have no means — or desire — to try and defend. But it does raise an interesting question:
Isn’t it just speculation to assume that merit pay is actually going to raise student performance in a significant and salient manner? And what if this hypothesis about the merits of merit pay are wrong? How is it going to ravage our current system? What is going to be the fallout for kids, schools and teachers? What might we expect in terms of collateral damage to our current feeble structure and are these costs that make prudent sense to pay?
Merit pay is a weird one for me. I mean on one hand, I think I’d get a salary bump. I work hard, my kids do well and I toil with diligence at my job to the point of workaholic-ism (in an inner-city school where we have severe issues top-to-bottom). Like I said, for me personally, I suspect I’d benefit. Maybe not, but I think I’d be a candidate.
On the other hand, I am not sure how good it’s gonna be for the kids? Or morale? Or communities? Am I going to want to share my best lesson plans with the teacher down the hall if only one of us is going to be financially rewarded for higher test scores? Do I really want to see my allies as my competitors? Am I really going to want to take on kids with issues of truancy knowing that their absenteeism might be taking food off of my own dinner table?
All in all, I just don’t know — but the study about makes me hope that the people in charge are looking before they leap.