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Researchers say merit pay does not improve student test scores

NEA President urges broader approach to improve teacher practice and student achievement

WASHINGTON - September 22, 2010 -

A new study shows that merit pay bonuses alone do not equal improved student test scores.

The National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development released the first scientific study of performance pay conducted in the United States. During the three-year experiment, educators were rewarded with $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000 bonuses based on whether their students’ achievement rose by a specific amount over a certain period of time. Researchers found that bonuses based on student achievement do not improve student outcomes.

The following can be attributed to NEA President Dennis Van Roekel:

“I am not surprised by the results of the study. We need a broader approach to improving teacher practice and student achievement. As demonstrated by the findings, the answer is not as simple as providing bonuses to teachers.

“Good teachers are good every day, not just on payday. This study indicates what we’ve known all along: that teachers are giving their very best, regardless of whether they may get a bonus.

“Extra money is not a silver bullet. It must be part of a comprehensive system that invests in things that make a difference in teaching and learning, such as experience, knowledge and skills. You have to start with a base of strong, competitive professional salaries and then reward teachers for professional growth and offer mentoring, support and solid feedback to help them improve their craft.”

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing
3.2  million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Ramona Parks-Kirby  (202) 822-7823,