Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Merit Pay: a 123 year old bad idea

Below is an excerpt about the history of merit pay from David Berliner and Sharon Nichols' book Collateral Damage:

Another warning about the dangerous  side effects of high-stakes testing surfaced, when a plan to pay teachers on the basis of their students' scores was offered, making student student test scores very high stakes for teachers. A schoolmaster noted that under these conditions, "a teacher knows that his whole professional status depends on the results he produces and he is really turned into a machine for producing these results; that is, I think unaccompanied by any substantial gain to the whole cause of education." This concern about testing students to judge a teacher's worth first surfaced in the year 1887, but is as fresh as recent headlines about pay-for-performance in Denver, Colorado; Houston, Texas; Florida; Minnesota and Iowa.

The idea of merit pay is not a new, ground-breaking idea that will save education. Sadly, it is yet another bad idea that has been recylced over and over again. 123 years ago, it was clearly established that the cons of merit pay clearly out-weighted the pros - and so it was rightfully abandoned.

And yet, here we are. ugh


  1. Anyone who has ever read Daniel Pink's book "Drive", would know that this is a terrible idea as well. Educators need more time to explore passions to make learning better; merit pay would simply have them focus on making more money as opposed to making better schools. Well said Joe...bad idea.

  2. Dan Willingham, cognitive scientist and author of "Why Don't Students Like School?", made a 3-minute video for our president describing why merit pay is such a horrible idea.


  3. I can think of only two things worse than a bad idea: a bad idea dressed up as a good one or a good idea done badly.

    This is a bad idea dressed up as a good one done badly.