Welcome to the Profit of Education website. Continuing the conversation begun in the book Profit of Education, we discuss the latest economic evidence on education reform.

Merit pay in name only

Did you get the press release from EducationNext titled “In the United States, Merit Pay Plans for Teachers are Few and Far Between?” I strongly advise you to read the whole report there, not just the press release.

The headline is that only 3.5 percent of U.S. school districts use merit pay at all. Not very surprising (although still depressing), but getting a hard number certainly advances the discussion. The report then goes on to provide qualitative information of a very helpful sort.

  • Lot’s of specific examples of unions and teachers blocking merit pay plans.
  • Lot’s of examples of plans that have been abandoned.
  • Points out that many measures of merit remain “input” (credentials, experience) rather than “output” (student results) based.

This news is not good.

But here’s why I want you to read the whole report rather than the headline version. The authors also discuss several recent studies (Mostly ones I’ve blogged about. Look here and here and here.) that question whether merit pay really generates the results we want. The press release might leave the casual reader with the notion that merit pay is a magic formula, and that all that stands in the way of a great breakthrough in education is an obstreperous educational establishment. Read the complete report. Separate out the opinions from the facts. (I thought the authors make the latter pretty easy.) You won’t come away any happier, but you might come away less convinced that all we need is a political breakthrough.

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