Maine’s education establishment on performance-based pay: “Let’s study it some more.”


According an article in today’s  Kennebec Journal, the Maine
Education Association’s collective bargaining and research director, Joe
Stupak, suggested to legislators yesterday that it “would be premature for the
Legislature to adopt any public policy that encourages alternative pay
systems,” because “there is substantial disagreement as to whether any
alternative approach to teachers’ pay represents an improvement … over the
traditional education- and experience-based salary system.”

Sandra MacArthur, Deputy Executive Director of the Maine School Management Association, which represents the superintendents and school boards, agreed that we do not want to be too hasty here.  She called for “further study.”

Really?  More study is what we need?  Some  kind of blue ribbon panel to author a report that then sits on a shelf somewhere?

Despite the misgivings of the public school establishment, the fact is that the research that has been done on this issue has
found that performance-pay plans improve student achievement.  We noted the
flowing studies in a research paper we released last year:

A recent
study of a pay-for-performance model in Arkansas
found “students whose
teachers were eligible for performance pay made substantially larger test score
gains in math, reading, and language” than students of teachers who were
ineligible for bonuses.


A 2007 study of
teacher incentive programs using data from the National Educational
Longitudinal Survey
found that “test scores were higher in schools that
offer individual financial incentives for good performance.”


A 2004
study of a “teacher bonus” system in Israel
, in which sizable salary
bonuses were tied to student performance on a number of assessments, found “the
performance of participating teachers increased, relative to a comparison group
of teachers who did not participate in the incentive program.”


A new
study of a performance incentive system for teachers in India
“the incentives led to significant improvements in both math and language test
scores.  The gains were spread out evenly
across grades, districts, skills and competencies, and question difficulty.”
The study found the incentive system to be “highly cost-effective,” compared to
other reform strategies.


A 2000 study
of teacher incentive systems in more than 500 public and private schools

found that “high school seniors in schools with incentive pay programs scored
slightly higher than those in schools without these programs.  Moreover, the effects were strongest in
schools serving high-poverty students and those that rewarded teachers
individually rather than in groups.”



Additionally, the left-leaning Center for American
Progress (CAP) has authored not one, but two research reports outlining the
effectiveness of pay-for-performance systems.


In a November
2007 piece
, CAP’s Robin Chiat reviewed six performance-pay systems and
concluded that “several recent studies and evaluations of compensation
strategies that incorporate performance pay suggest that the strategy holds
promise for improving teacher performance and student achievement.”


 In a December
piece for CAP, Dan Goldhaber concluded, after a review of research,
that “actual studies of the impacts of merit pay on student achievement suggest
that, if anything, it has positive benefits for student achievement.

As for further study by a blue ribbon panel, we’ve been down this road before.  The Maine Board of Education’s “Learning State” report, authored in 2006, concluded that “a compensation structure that treats all teachers the same rather than rewarding teachers on the basis of performance as measured in part by student learning” is an impediment to high quality teaching.  The panel called for a pay system under which “high-performing teachers advance financially at a faster pace than is currently the case.”

There are millions of federal dollars available to assist districts in developing teacher pay systems for the 21st century.  More study?  Lets get it done already.