VU study: Teacher bonuses don’t boost test scores

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at 1:46pm

Rewarding teachers with bonus pay does not translate into higher student test scores among their students, according to a new study released Tuesday by Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development.

The findings — the product of a project called POINT, or The Project on Incentives in Teaching — stem from a three-year study in which Vanderbilt researchers analyzed the effect of performance-based pay on middle-school Metro math teachers. The think tank RAND Corp. partnered in the report.

Under the study, teachers in a treatment group were given bonuses based improvements in their students’ scores on annual TCAP tests. In all, the initiative dished out almost $1.3 million in bonuses, with the maximum annual bonus totaling $15,000.

The study compared those teachers to peers in a control group who were not given bonuses. Teachers were evaluated based on historical performance benchmarks for Metro teachers, not with one another.

“We tested the most basic and foundational question related to performance incentives — Does bonus pay alone improve student outcomes? –– and we found that it does not,” Matthew Springer, executive director of the National Center on Performance Incentives, said in a written statement.

The report could prove to be a key document as education leaders in Nashville and the state explore whether to adopt a performance-based pay system.

More than one year ago, Director of Schools Jesse Register and Mayor Karl Dean held a summit to discuss the topic of performance-based pay. In August, they rolled out a new called ASSET, which seeks to transform the way Metro schools recruit, develop and retain teachers. The new plan lacks a teacher-pay component.

6 Comments on this post:

By: Nash19 on 9/21/10 at 12:56

NO TESTS! Tests are unfair and cruel. The pressure on the children is immense and if they fail they are damaged psychologically for life! Everyone should get a trophy and an A plus plus plus. No more tests! in a world where everything will be free (yes we can) why give tests!? If the fat kid can get his parents to ban dodgeball from the schools so can the kid who is bad at math get math banned from schools.

By: localboy on 9/21/10 at 1:26

"NO TESTS! Tests are unfair and cruel. The pressure on the children is immense and if they fail they are damaged psychologically for life!" amen.

By: cval on 9/22/10 at 7:06

Of course we test. If we don't, the damage to the country will be immense. Look, people. Drop the absurdity. Students have been tested since time began and there have been no psychological damages due to testing. Due to coddling? Yes! Due to parents' inanity? Yes! Testing? No! Ever seen the test samples from 6th graders from back in the 1950's or even the 1890's? Today's' children wouldn't be able to understand the questions, let alone answer them. Education has already been dumbed down in America for the sake of minorities whose parents are not able to assist their children at home in their studies due to ignorance or a stupid and inane perception that education is a "white" instrument of social power. The average graduate from schools like UT (not Vanderbilt) are not as educated as top academic students from high school prior to mid 1970's.

By: budlight on 9/22/10 at 2:31

localboy, how can someone be damaged psychologically for life is they fail a test? That is bunk. Failures in school should be an incentive to study harder or get a tutor.

I failed a lot of tests through school. Gee, I'm not still crying over them.

By: HorseFly on 9/22/10 at 6:45

I catch yr sarcasm. People want to make the education problem about teachers but it is about students. We aren't going to get better teachers. And the teachers we have are better than we deserve. Until students value learning, instead of resenting having to work for a "piece of paper," schools will keep on going down hill as they have been doing for decades now. Students try to negotiate the difficulty of the curriculum. You can't negotiate the difficulty of algebra, or of composition, but that is what is going on in our schools. That is the level of foolishness we've sunk to. We need to require students to ask permission to attend school. When they ask, politely, we should always say, sure, so long as you contribute to an atmosphere conducive to instruction. When, in the teacher's sole opinion, the student resists instruction, the teacher should kick him out, with no documentation required and leaving him responsible for getting his own ride home. Under these circumstances the schools would vastly improve.

By: localboy on 9/24/10 at 10:23

thanks, HorseFly.