Once upon a time, the topic of merit pay (also known as incentive pay and pay-for-performance) was hot button issue for the players in the education game in Nashville. The teacher’s union was strongly against it, while business and political leaders were crowdfunding to finance an incentive plan.
In 2010, Vanderbilt University released the first scientific study ever conducted on the impact of merit pay on student test scores. The study concluded that merit pay had no impact on increasing student test scores even though the teacher is aware of the reward. Yikes!
“…if teachers know they will be rewarded for an increase in their students’ test scores, will test scores go up? We found that the answer to that question is no. That by no means implies that some other incentive plan would not be successful.”
Recently, Vanderbilt University released a meta-analysis of 44 studies on the same subject, but with a somewhat different conclusion. There are documented instances of success with merit pay’s effect on increasing student test scores, depending on program design and implementation.
Interestingly, the analysis provides lukewarm support of the argument that merit pay provides teachers motivation to do well, attracts higher quality talent, and inspires retention.
Read more about Vanderbilt’s recent study here.