The results of a recent study conducted by Vanderbilt University notes that teacher bonuses usually don’t result in increased test scores for students. Merit pay has increasingly become a key staple of President Obama’s educational plan and has been praised by some school districts and counties much to strong opposition from teacher unions. The US Department of Education has made merit pay almost an informal requirement in their Race to the Top competition though most school districts argue there is not a clear or precise way to accurately measure student performance.
The research was conducted by the National Center on Performance Incentives (NCPI) at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College of Education over three years and involved 296 middle school math teachers in Nashville. The general methodology and results of the study are as follows:
Half were placed randomly in a control group, while the rest were eligible for bonuses of $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000 if their pupils scored significantly higher than expected on the statewide exam known as the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program. One third of the eligible teachers — 51 of 152, or 34% — got bonuses at least once. Eighteen teachers received bonuses all three years. Except for some temporary gains for fifth-graders, though, their students progressed no faster than those in classes taught by the 146 other teachers.