Friday, June 11, 2010

Arne Duncan; the Chicago story on school reform

Arne Duncan's own 'pay for performance' program in has been a fiasco, according to a new study described by Valerie Strauss below (

It turns out that bribing teachers doesn't even work on its own terms -- i.e., in producing significant gains in test scores. Nevertheless, the Obama administration heavily cites the Teacher Advancement Program, the same outfit that Duncan relied on in Chicago, in "research" documents supporting its Blueprint for ESEA:

Apparently, the Mathematica report doesn't go into all the negative side-effects of test-based teacher pay. For an excellent summary of research in that area, see:

Jim Crawford

Chicago's teacher performance-based pay didn't work -- new analysis

Education Secretary Arne Duncan and all of his acolytes who are rushing to implement performance-based compensation for teachers might want to take a close look at thepreliminary results from a Chicago program with this focus that was initially started when Duncan ran the city school system.

Today is the deadline for the second round of the Obama administration’s $4 billion Race to the Top competition, which has states battling each other for federal dollars based on school reforms favored by Duncan, including performance-based pay for teachers. Maryland and the District were entering, though Virginia decided to stay out of the second round.
A study released today by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. shows no evidence that the Chicago Teacher Advancement Program improved student math and reading tests when compared with a group of similar schools that did not use the system, Education Week reported.
Chicago’s program is a version of the national Teacher Advancement Program, or TAP, which was first implemented in Chicago in 2007-08, when Duncan led the schools.
The analysis looked at the first two years of a four-year program, which has multiple steps, including increased teacher development, and an incentive payment scheme in which teachers are paid more when their students do better on standardized test scores.
The concept ignores the fact that standardized tests in schools today were not designed as teacher assessment tools and aren’t valid measures, but that isn’t stopping a headlong rush into implementation in school districts across the country.
Under the program in Chicago, payments to teachers under the program averaged $1,100 for those in schools in their first year of implementation, and $2,600 for those teachers in schools in their second year.
The comparison with similar schools that didn’t use the program revealed no real difference in student scores or in teacher-retention rates among those schools.
Here’s what Education Week quoted Chicago school system spokesman Franklin R. Shuftan as saying about the results:
“The report acknowledges that programs such as TAP take time to change attitudes and alter a school’s culture, and that measurables such as test scores and teacher retention might be better thought of as longer-term or final outcomes.”
And here’s what it quoted U.S. Education Department spokesman Peter Cunningham as saying:
“We know TAP and other reforms are hard work. We can’t expect immediate results. That’s why we’re committed to evaluating programs over the long term and identifying ones that deliver the results for children.”
Why is it, then, that education officials can recognize that reforms take a long time even though they are pushing states to undertake reforms right now that have no research base of success?
It would have been better for America’s schools if he had waited to find out what really will help kids do better in school before forcing changes that we have no reason to believe will work.

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By Valerie Strauss  |  June 1, 2010; 1:38 PM ET
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