School 'Bonus' Plan Comes Up Short
It's no surprise whatsoever that this merit pay experiment failed, once the union was done watering it down into meaninglessness:
In 2007, New York City and its teachers union launched an experiment to determine whether rewarding teachers with extra cash would boost student performance.
Four years and $57 million later, the answer appears to be no. Backers of incentive pay are blaming the way New York's program was structured, and school and union officials are pointing fingers at each other.
The hope was that the program would result in improved student test scores. But scores didn't budge, according to two studies, and the city recently suspended the program. The Department of Education is awaiting results of a RAND Corp. analysis of the program while still calling teacher incentives "critical."
The bonus program was billed as a test of a bold idea: Recognize and reward the best teachers beyond salaries set in a union contract.
But unlike traditional incentive programs, New York didn't identify stand-out teachers and shower them with money. Instead, in a compromise reached with the union, the city gave bonus pools to schools that had performed well.
Teachers could vote on whether to distribute the money evenly or to specific staffers. Most schools chose to distribute the money evenly, according to a Harvard University study. Backers of merit pay for teachers say that eliminated the direct link between individual performance and rewards.