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Merit pay could boost learning

By Jay P. Greene and Marcus A. Winters Modified: August 5, 2007 at 8:41 am •  Published: August 5, 2007
Thus, contractual hours provide a meaningful basis for discussing teachers' earnings.

It is important to keep in mind that the above figures are for the average public school teacher, not each teacher. But again, focusing on the average teacher is appropriate since we pay public school teachers in a uniform way that is unrelated to performance. The current system does not allow us to reward those teachers who are working the hardest and who are making the biggest difference in the lives of their students.

Some recent evidence suggests that altering the current system to compensate teachers in part based on the academic performance of their students leads to greater student learning. With colleagues at the University of Arkansas, we found that paying teachers for their classroom performance substantially increased math proficiency in Little Rock. David Figlio and Lawrence Kenny also evaluated performance pay using nationwide data and found that it led to large academic improvements.

Until we stop hiring and financially rewarding teachers according to qualifications that are irrelevant to their performance, it will be hard to expect improved quality in classroom instruction.

Greene is the endowed chair in education reform at the University of Arkansas and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Winters, a student at the University of Arkansas, is a senior research associate at the Manhattan Institute. The above is excerpted from the August issue of "Perspective,” published by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

Jay Greene


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