Merit pay has merit

Teachers and staff at a Little Rock elementary school recently received bonuses totaling $134,800 after they improved student test scores by a whopping 17 percent in one year. The privately funded pilot bonus-pay program used a value-added scale, with teachers receiving $100 for a 4 percent improvement in a student's score, $200 for a 5-9 percent improvement, $300 for a 10-14 percent improvement, and $400 for a 15 percent or higher improvement. Teachers screamed and cried as bonuses were announced, which ranged from $1,800 to $8,600 apiece. Lisa Black, executive director of the Public Education Foundation and the program's sponsor, said, "We are here to show that the quality of teaching impacts the education of children, and that the clear measurement of data is important and necessary." While the program was only a small-scale experiment, it demonstrates that, contrary to teacher union claims, teachers can be motivated by incentives like bonuses (hey, who can't?) to produce better results. Also, as first-grade teacher Kathy Thomas noted, testing pinpoints the areas in which students need extra help and shows the positive results of a year of hard work: "I've taught since 1970 and have never had the opportunity to look at what my students knew and how they changed. The money is nice; the tools are better."

 

"LR elementary scores bonuses for test gains," by Cynthia Howell, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 21, 2005

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