NYC's Failed Attempt at Merit Pay

The news came out this week that New York City officially ended it's merit pay experiment. It had already suspended the pilot program last year due to budget constraints, but a study conducted by the RAND Corp apparently was the final straw.

The study found no improvement in math or reading scores at schools where the merit pay program was implemented. This would seem to vindicate critics of performance-based pay. In reality, there aren't many lessons that can be drawn from New York City's attempt at merit pay, other than how not to do it. As per an agreement with the UFT, bonuses were awarded to whole schools that met certain benchmarks and schools were then given the power to dole out the money. According to the study,
"The majority of schools split their bonus pay equally among teachers, rather than awarding individual teachers for higher performance. As the report noted, "Many case-study respondents reported viewing the bonus as a reward for their usual efforts, not as an incentive for changing their behavior."
So a few years and a few hundred million dollars later, New York City is giving up on a project that wasn't even conducted according to the hypothesis. Sounds about right.


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