On July, 27, 2010, Secretary of Education and former Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan made this statement to the National Press Club about Chicago’s pay-for-performance program: “…every adult in the building—teachers, clerks, janitors and cafeteria workers—all were rewarded when [a] school improved. It builds a sense of teamwork and gives the whole school a common mission. It can transform a school culture.” However, we know, from studies of similar programs in New York and elsewhere that results of such programs have been inconclusive.
In New York City Public Schools, from 2007−2010, teachers chose to receive bonuses based on the test performance of the entire school. Schools were randomly selected for the study from the city’s highest needs schools, and participation was mandatory. After analyzing data from over 200 participating public schools, researchers found no evidence that the bonuses influenced student performance. In fact, in some schools, student performance actually decreased during the trial.
In 2006–2009, Vanderbilt University conducted a merit pay study that offered randomly selected middle-school math teachers up to $15,000 to increase student test scores. The result: Their students progressed no faster than the students of teachers not selected. And last year, Learning Point Associates conducted a review of Iowa’s merit pay program and found insufficient student test data to determine the real impact of the program on student achievement.
Education Week blogger Justin Baeder points out what most teachers are probably thinking: “Teaching is highly complex…and teachers are already motivated.” So if it isn’t money, what motivates us? Daniel Pink wrote Drive to answer to that question. As it turns out, employees are increasingly more intrinsically, rather than extrinsically, motivated, especially in a heuristic task—one that requires experimenting with possibilities to devise a novel solution—such as teaching. Pink cites the principle of Harvard Business School’s Teresa Amabile’s, which holds, in part: “Intrinsic motivation is conducive to creativity; controlling extrinsic motivation is detrimental to creativity.”
Is teaching a creative task? Can we be extrinsically motivated to be more creative? If not, do performance pay incentives help us or hold us back?