Teacher Incentives & Student Performance

Let me be clear from the beginning; rewarding individuals for exceptional performance is good. While the form of the reward can range from pat on the back to a monetary award, but most people enjoy acknowledgement of their hard work and achievement. Nobel Prizes, Olympic medals, the Oscars, and Super-Bowl rings, represent a few of the prizes awarded to those who excel in their respective fields. Merit pay for teachers is good. However, the caveat for educational administrators is how to measure success. Because grading students usually involves a subjective component, report card grades are not an accurate assessment of teacher effectiveness
A study released by the Institute for the Study of Labor this year indicated an inverse relationship between individual teacher incentives and student performance in Portugal’s public schools. Specifically the authors maintain that “increased focus on individual teacher performance caused a significant decline in student achievement, particularly in terms of national exams. The triple-difference results also document a significant increase in grade inflation. According to The Atlantic “The teachers may have been inflating classroom grades to cash.” Obviously, an objective measurement of student achievement, like standardized exams, would provide a more accurate assessment of teacher effectiveness
However, an earlier study released in a 2006 report from the Journal of Public Economics provided different results. In this situation, “test scores are higher in schools that offer individual financial incentives for good performance. Moreover, the estimated relationship between the presence of merit pay in teacher compensation and student test scores is strongest in schools that may have the least parental oversight. The association between teacher incentives and student performance could be due to better schools adopting teacher incentives or to teacher incentives eliciting more effort from teachers.”
So, choosing the appropriate measure can provide better insight into good teacher practices. Those effective teachers should be rewarded if their students are performing well. As I indicated in a previous entry, high teacher quality can contribute a year or more of increased learning. They can then serve as mentors and models for their less effective colleagues.

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