Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Pay and Conditions - Results-Based Bonus Idea Is Turning Heads: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Pay and Conditions - Results-Based Bonus Idea Is Turning Heads: News

Article excerpt

Initiative forces teachers to hand back pay if they miss targets.

A controversial new performance-related pay system could lead to teachers receiving bonuses in advance - but being forced to hand them back if their students fail to hit exam targets.

Research co-authored by an economist at Harvard University in the US found that the threat of having to return a portion of their salary led to a marked improvement in the attainment of teachers' students, compared with simply giving teachers a performance-based pay rise at the end of the school year.

After a small-scale trial looking at the impact of so-called "loss aversion" on teachers in Illinois last year, the findings have now been rubber-stamped by the US Department of Education, and several US school districts have expressed an interest in the system.

The research has also attracted attention in the UK, where the Education Endowment Foundation - a charity offering grants for educational projects that is part-funded by the government - has been following it closely.

Chief executive Kevan Collins told TES that he is "very interested" in trialling the approach in UK schools, should a partner organisation come forward.

The system has come in for strong criticism from classroom unions, which have accused the academics of treating teachers "like salespeople".

But Roland Fryer, professor of economics at Harvard and one of the report's co-authors, insisted that the approach "works" for schools and called for "leaders with courage" to carry out further pilots across the world.

"We need to see school districts trying this and assessing it," he said. "It's well worth trying; it's one of the few things that work.

"With teachers, people want a solution (to improving performance) that makes them feel warm and fuzzy, but if you find something that works, you've got to try it. No one likes pushback but we need leaders with courage who are prepared to try it."

The research, Enhancing the Efficacy of Teacher Incentives Through Loss Aversion, focused on 150 teachers in the city of Chicago Heights. Half the teachers involved were eligible for a bonus of up to $8,000, payable at the end of the school year depending on their performance. The other half received $4,000 in advance; they would have to return a portion of it if their students failed to meet exam targets, but could receive another $4,000 if their students performed exceptionally. …

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