Commentary: Asking the Right Question on Performance Pay—and Getting a Surprising Answer

Source: Kate Walsh, Public Administration Review, Volume 77, Issue 6, November/December 2017
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The idea of paying effective teachers more than less effective teachers has been hotly debated for more than two decades, ever since it became possible to estimate an individual teacher’s effect on student learning. A new study by Michael Jones and Michael T. Hartney, “Show Who the Money? Teacher Sorting Patterns and Performance Pay across U.S. School Districts,” tackles a promising benefit of performance pay long asserted by proponents but largely unexamined by researchers: whether performance pay improves district recruitment efforts.

Most research on performance pay has focused on its purported benefit as a motivator, hypothesizing that higher pay motivates teachers to work harder and become more effective—a notion that troubles me because it suggests that many teachers are not already working as hard as they can. The recruitment question pursued by Jones and Hartney seems more to the point, as is the use of performance pay as a strategic retention tool. Higher pay targeted to great teachers should encourage them to stay in the classroom while nudging less effective teachers who do not qualify for higher pay to consider other careers.

Related:
Show Who the Money? Teacher Sorting Patterns and Performance Pay across U.S. School Districts
Source: Michael Jones and Michael T. Hartney, Public Administration Review, Volume 77, Issue 6, November/December 2017
(subscription required)