Adam Reed's Page
Grand Blanc Cohort
Performance-based Teacher Evaluation

The movement toward merit pay or performance-based teacher evaluation seems to be gaining steam with each passing year. It is my intent to find examples of programs that have been implemented and detail characteristics of these programs. I'd like to give particular attention to successful programs, but also cite failed attempts and try to summarize the reasons for their failure.

Here's an early article from Education World from 2002 that details the system for incorporating performance-based pay that failed in Cincinnati. The attempt seemed doomed to failure because all of the stakeholders were not brought in early in the process, and there was very little trust between the two sides.

Dan Brown, in this Huffington Post article from December 2007, voices his opposition to the merit pay program implemented in the city of New York. He doesn't oppose it because he disagrees with the idea of merit pay, but because the system detailed in this article is based almost solely on standardized test scores. Brown contends that the ever-increasing emphasis on standardized tests encourages static bad teaching.

This January 2010 article from Education Week describes the plan presented by the Governor of Tennessee that will make up to half of of teacher evaluations and tenure decisions contingent on student test scores. The law was created as a response to the 'Race To The Top' competition for federal education dollars and similar laws have been passed across the country, many with very little detail with regard to how the laws will be enacted and applied at the district level.

A program is Texas that was grant-based and had a great deal of teacher involvement in determining how the the merit pay was awarded, and in what amounts, was deemed a significant failure in terms of raising student test scores. However, according to this article by Debra Viadero from Education Week in November of 2009, it did succeed in retaining a higher percentage of those teachers who received the merit pay bonuses.

This brief Education Week article from December of 2009, while not detailing a specific merit pay program, makes mention of the much larger study being done at Vanderbilt University's National Center on Performance Incentives that is exploring the successes and failures of dozens of merit pay programs currently in use across the country. The article written by Viadero makes note of the fact that, while the federal government is pouring tens of millions of dollars into encouraging and piloting merit pay program, the good people at Vanderbilt are urging patience until the results of their study can be compiled and analyzed, so that a comprehensive and effective system can be recommended.

This Associated Press article from February 2010 presents a problem that states and districts will have to address as they consider and implement systems for performance pay. An Arizona court struck down a state program for teacher performance pay because it was only made available to the lowest performing districts, and not to districts statewide.

This Education Week article from March 2, 2010 outlines the criteria for qualifying for the federal Teacher Incentive Fund grant monies. The Fund requires, among other things, evaluation systems for teachers and principals that account for student achievement, and data management systems that will provide the information on which to base professional development and evaluation.

This Education Week article from November 2009 references a book that seems to do an effective job of summarizing many of this issues surrounding performance-based evaluation and performance pay. Some of the major topics discussed are the weeding out of ineffective teachers, retaining quality teachers, and improving student achievement. The book is Performance Incentives: Their Growing Impact on American K-12 Education, a book written by researchers recruited by the Vanderbilt Center for Performance Incentives.

Here is an interesting video I found on YouTube.

......and here are some equally intriguing thoughts from then Senator Obama on performance pay and teacher evaluation in 2008.

Ultimately, specifics about changes to contracts and work practices related to performance-based evaluation and pay have been difficult to find due to the relatively short time since the Race To The Top monies have been announced to the states. Most of the states wanting to become eligible for the federal money have adopted laws that say they will tie teacher evaluation to student performance, and they will further implement aggressive intervention plans for failing schools, but the laws, almost universally, lack specifics. The example from Tennessee listed above seems to be at the more draconian end of the spectrum. The schools in New Haven, CT, adopted a new contract in October of 2009 that was widely touted as extremely progressive and a model for districts across the country. But upon further review, the provisions of this contract seem fairly commonplace. It seems the truly progressive and comprehensive instruments for teacher evaluation have yet to be implemented, though there is some amount of hope that the people at Vanderbilt University are developing such instruments at the present.

This just in: The legislatures in Florida and Nebraska are among the first legislatures, respectively, to introduce bills that address performance pay and teacher evaluation as outlined by the RTTP funding. This March 27, 2010 article from The Orlando Sentinel details the proposed FL plan. The Nebraska plan, as described in this article from March 29, 2010, is only a plan for additional performance pay, and is not tied specifically to student test scores.