Teacher Bonuses Fail to Improve Student Results

A research brief published by the public education group, Save Our Schools, says that Labor and Liberal claims that teacher bonuses will improve student achievement is not supported by research evidence.

SOS National Convenor, Trevor Cobbold, said that the proposed bonuses will be a huge waste of money and encourage more teaching to the test in schools.

“The weight of research evidence is that teacher performance bonuses do not improve student results. Yet again, faith has ruled over evidence in the formulation of education policy. Cash bonuses for teachers will only encourage more teaching to the test and artificial inflation of test scores.

“Labor proposes to spend $1.25 billion over five years while the Liberal’s scheme will cost $210 million over three years. It all promises to be a huge waste of taxpayer funds.

“These funds would have been better committed to reducing the vast achievement gap between rich and poor students in Australia by being directed to schools with high levels of learning needs.”

Mr. Cobbold said that the SOS brief summarised the findings of recent reviews of research studies on teacher performance bonuses and evaluation studies of the major programs operating in the United States.

“The most recent studies show that teacher bonuses have no effect on student achievement. Students in schools participating in teacher performance bonus programs do no better than students in schools not participating in such programs.

“Evaluation studies of four of the most significant teacher performance pay programs in the US have been published in the last year. These programs operate in Iowa and Texas and in the Chicago and Denver school districts. Each study found that cash bonus for teachers do not improve student results.

“A policy brief prepared for the incoming Obama Administration by the RAND Corporation in 2009 found there is insufficient evidence to support claims that teacher performance bonuses will improve achievement in the United States.

“Some older studies of teacher performance pay schemes in several countries found positive effects and others mixed effects. However, several of these studies were conducted in India, Israel and Kenya – countries whose education systems and circumstances are quite dissimilar to Australia.”

Mr. Cobbold criticised the Labor and Liberal parties for adopting new policies without regard to the evidence:

“It is a sad commentary on the state of education policy formulation in Australia that neither party has even attempted to justify their scheme with research evidence that it will work, or even has some prospect of working.

“Julia Gillard’s early promise as Federal Education Minister that she would be guided by evidence in setting education policy has long since gone by the wayside. Labor’s campaign spokesman, Chris Bowen, repeatedly dodged questions last week about evidence to support his party’s policy. Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne did no better.”

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