Monday, April 4, 2011

Would We Get Better Results if the Wall Street Journal Gave Merit Pay for Better Reporting?

"Of course, not everything you try works." 
- Joel Klein on wasting $57 million on failed merit pay schemes.

Hey, Joel, how about "nothing you tried worked?" Except turning the UFT into a wus, which in the ed deform world is all that really matters anyway.

From the Joel Klein School of Management
I was howling with laughter after reading this article on teacher merit pay in the WSJ today blaming poor results on the NYC merit pay boondoggle on the fact that entire schools got pay instead of individual teachers.
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.
Researchers posited that because the bonuses were based on how well entire schools performed, and how well they performed compared to similar schools citywide, the money didn't offer much incentive to individual teachers to excel.
"It was clear in 2007 that this plan wouldn't enable the best teachers to earn dramatically more, and therefore would likely be limited in long-term effect," said Bryan Hassell, co-director of Public Impact, a research and consulting organization that is often at odds with the teachers union. He wasn't involved in the studies.
"This plan paid chump change compared to what the best teachers should be earning for reaching more kids successfully," Mr. Hassell said.

Boy, if only they has offered individual teachers lots more money instead of chump change. The scores would have soared. Just like they did in Washington DC under Michelle Rhee.

The funniest lines in the entire piece belong to "no excuses" Joel Klein who always makes excuses:
"I believe and have always believed in merit pay at the individual teacher level," said Joel Klein, who was then schools chancellor. "The union would agree only to a schoolwide program. It made sense to try. Of course, not everything you try works," he said. Mr. Klein is now an executive at News Corp., which owns The Wall Street Journal
Poor Repert. He hires a guy who made a $57 million losing bet. A guy who believed individual merit pay would work but because the union wouldn't sign onto that tossed enormous amount of money into the trash because "It made sense to try."

No follow-up on this issue from reporter. Like, do you think it was wise to spend so much money that could have been used for real instruction or supplies on something you just wanted to try? Like in throwing it against the wall to see if it sticks?

Let's parse the reporting a little further:
Research is mixed on merit pay's success. A rigorous and closely watched study of a Nashville incentive-pay program found it didn't improve student test scores, while a study of Denver's merit-pay initiative found it attracted higher-quality teachers and kept them in hard-to-staff schools. [CONVENIENTLY LEAVING OUT - BUT DIDN'T IMPROVE SCORES]
But there is a key difference between those programs and New York's. Both Nashville and Denver directly linked performance pay of teachers to the performance of students in their classes. The Denver program also considers classroom evaluations as part of the bonus pay and allows teachers in non-tested subjects to get cash based on schoolwide improvements.
So, the Nashville experiment which DID use individual merit pay failed but Denver is somehow counterposed as not failing to justify saying "Research is mixed on merit pay's success" when in fact there it also failed in raising scores. In fact research has been clear that merit pay has been a total failure wherever it has been tried. But here comes a bait and switch tactic by saying the Denver experiment "attracted higher-quality teachers and kept them in hard-to-staff schools." Exactly what is meant by higher quality teachers? Based on what? Test scores? Or were they from Teach for America which automatically makes them higher quality in the world of ed deform?

A working paper (pdf) just released by Harvard University economist Roland G Fryer flatly contradicts the argument. In a randomised trial in more than 200 New York City public schools, he found "no evidence that teacher incentives increase student performance, attendance or graduation". On the contrary, Fryer reported that teacher incentives may actually decrease student achievement, especially in larger schools.

Another failed ed deform "experiment" on the children in this country. But why site research that refutes WSJ editorial policy? 

Sorry, I have to give this piece an "F". But I have an idea for how Rupert can improve the quality of reporting on the WSJ. Launch an experiment to determine whether rewarding reporters with extra cash would boost performance.

Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I am a retired New York Public School Teacher. I always enjoyed meeting with my colleagues to share ideas about what worked best in my classroom and visa-versa. I believe that individual teacher merit pay would pit teachers against one another. Why would you share your best ideas if you were competing for merit pay? Schools are supposed to be communities that work together for the common good. Merit pay works against that end.