October 26, 2009

Article: Experiment on teacher pay
Source: Marginal Revolution

Performance-based pay has long been heralded as the solution to the poor quality of education that permeates US-based primary education schools.  These educational institutions – elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools – significantly lack quality when compared to other similar schools in other countries.  Standardized exams prove this.  The question, then, is: how can we improve those primary education institutions?

The model, it’s often argued, is to copy the strategy that US-based institutions of higher education follow, since these institutions are better than any other in the world.  Professors of higher education (colleges, universities, trade schools, etc.) get paid better than teachers at primary education institutions.  Simple.  The article by Marginal Revolution (above) proves that incentive-based teaching works, at least in their sample size (India).

But, it’s not really that simple.  While student performance may have increased in the study done in India, what about the general trajectory of the teaching profession?  That’s the other side of the equation, isn’t it?

Teaching was once considered an art of passion.  Teachers were required to have a passion for teaching, a love for knowledge, and an addiction to spreading that knowledge to the coming generations.  Will incentive-based pay transform a profession of passion into a profession void of passion?  Or, is incentive-based pay the correct solution to turning around the downward spiral of the quality of education in US primary schools?