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Education, Performance Pay for Teachers, Research on Education

Background Research on Performance Pay

researchToday someone queried my assertion that there is a lot of research confirming the detrimental effects of performance pay.  The challenge seemed to be that volume of research does not equate to good research.  That’s a good point, and I think the person that made it is in a position to know it is true.

So, for anyone wanting to check out some of the research for themselves (which is always a good plan – you shouldn’t take my word or anyone else’s word for anything) here are some links to research and reports to start you off, along with some quotes to give you food for thought.

Eight brief points about “merit pay” for teachers, by Daniel Pinks


Government proposal for education needs to be based on evidence, says The New Zealand Psychological Society (NZPsS)


Credentials Versus Performance: Review of the Teacher Performance Pay Research, by Michael Podgursky, Department of Economics, University of Missouri–Columbia, and Matthew G. Springer, Department of Leadership Policy, and Organizations, Peabody College of Vanderbilt University (2007) – This research argues that performance pay may be a positive move, but the researchers state they have not outlined what that would look like or how it would work, and they suggest field trials and more research on this.


We find that financial incentives may indeed reduce intrinsic motivation and diminish ethical or other reasons for complying with workplace social norms such as fairness. As a consequence, the provision of incentives can result in a negative impact on overall performance.”

London School of Economics 


New York City abandons merit pay for teachers

“…in light of a study that found the bonuses had no positive effect on either student performance or teachers’ attitudes toward their jobs.”


“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.


Teacher performance pay alone does not raise student test scores

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Final Report: Experimental Evidence from the Project on Incentives in Teaching (POINT)

Rewarding teachers with bonus pay, in the absence of any other support programs, does not raise student test scores

National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody

College of Education and Human Development in partnership with the RAND Corporation.


Performance-Related Pay – Wikipedia:

Academic evidence has increasingly mounted indicating that performance related pay leads to the opposite of the desired outcomes when it is applied to any work involving cognitive rather than physical skill. Research[2] funded by the Federal Reserve Bank undertaken at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology  with input from professors from the University of Chicago and Carnegie Mellon University repeatedly demonstrated that as long as the tasks being undertaken are purely mechanical performance related pay works as expected. However once rudimentary cognitive skills are required it actually leads to poorer performance. These experiments have since been repeated by a range of economists…


Pay-for-Performance (Federal Government) – Wikipedia


Merit Pay – Wikipedia


Dollars and Sense:

“…mixed findings underscore the challenge of designing a system of teachers’ compensation that rewards quality in a fair and equitable manner”

(Note this research deemed success to be raised test scores in maths and English, which raises the question of whether merit pay led to teaching to the test or whether things really improved for the students’ education as a whole)


A Big Apple for Educators



“Financial incentives for teachers to increase student performance is an increasingly popular education policy around the world. This paper describes a school-based randomized trial in over two-hundred New York City public schools designed to better understand the impact of teacher incentives on student achievement. I find no evidence that teacher incentives increase student performance, attendance, or graduation, nor do I find any evidence that the incentives change student or teacher behavior. If anything, teacher incentives may decrease student achievement, especially in larger schools. The paper concludes with a speculative discussion of theories that may explain these stark results.”



Again, feel free to add links to other research in the comments below, so we can read, ponder and learn more.

Thanks, Dianne

About Save Our Schools NZ

"One needs to be slow to form convictions, but once formed they must be defended against the heaviest odds." Gandhi


3 thoughts on “Background Research on Performance Pay

  1. Well done, Dianne. It has become too convenient for people to hide behind assertions that performance pay is the silver bullet.


    Posted by hobbitlearningMarian | March 13, 2014, 2:51 pm


  1. Pingback: Dearest Hosko, regarding those pesky teacher unions… | Save Our Schools NZ - August 3, 2016

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