The Final and Absolutely Definitive Study on Merit Pay
This rigorous empirical study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, tracks a teacher-bonus pilot program conducted by Albuquerque charter schools between 2005 and 2010. Every year, each participating teacher was offered a unique reward, to be collected if he/she was able to raise student achievement in his/her respective subject by at least two full grade levels. Potential bonuses ranged from $250,000 in cold, hard cash at the high end to dollar-store trinkets at the low end. The findings offer sweeping implications for teacher compensation: Controlling for race and class, teachers who were offered a week’s supply of chocolate-frosted cupcakes were most likely to meet the desired student-achievement goal. (Those offered vanilla-frosted goodies only moved their students 0.4 grade levels.) The report concludes with recommendations for districts seeking to implement effective, lasting, and relatively affordable merit-pay systems. Forget the big-buck bonuses. Just never skimp on the butter and always use unsweetened cocoa powder from Cote d’Ivoire for the frosting. Thank goodness that debate has been settled.
Linda Oh My Darlin’-Hammond, “The Final and Absolutely Definitive Study on Merit Pay” (Music City, TN: Vanderbuilt/Randy Publications, March 2011).
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