Study: Bonus pay didn’t improve student performance

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A recent Vanderbilt University study concluded that performance-based pay for teachers did not significantly increase student achievement but also did not create ill will among educators, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

The study tracked the performance of 300 middle school math teachers in Nashville who volunteered to participate, the report said. One group received bonuses of between $5,000 and $15,000 depending on student achievement; the control group received standard wages, according to The Press. It was up to teachers to choose methods to increase student performance, the published study said.

Citing an article in Education Week, The Press reported that academic increases were found only among fifth-graders in the final two years of the three-year program, but that no effects were seen for students in sixth- through eighth-grade. The study said that teachers did not feel that the goals were too high.

The program did not have a negative effect on school culture, the report said. Merit pay programs have been criticized in the past for generating undue competition among teachers.

The study was supported by the National Center on Performance Incentives, while an anonymous foundation paid for the teacher bonuses, according to the published report.


The Grand Rapids Press, "Study shows merit pay 'no silver bullet' to school reform," Sept. 21, 2010

National Center for Performance Incentives, "Teacher Pay for Performance," Sept. 21, 2010


Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Merit Pay," June 30, 2008