Martin J. Blank, in a Huffington Post article, writes about a rigorous study led by Raj Chetty, entitled ‘The Long-Term Impacts of Teachers.’ Blank explains:
“Chetty and his colleagues estimate that substituting a very poor teacher for an average one in one school year could increase each student’s age-28 earnings by nearly $200 per year. While that is a small improvement, the entire class could see gains of as much as $250,000 over their lifetimes.
Unfortunately, it is much harder to figure out how to make that teacher swap happen, and how to keep the good teachers once they have been recruited. As Chetty and his colleagues acknowledge, bonuses for excellent teachers have not proven effective...Great teachers consistently report that they are motivated largely by the pleasure they derive from the job, not bonuses.
Unfortunately, the joy of teaching has taken some serious hits in recent years. Policies that focus on reading and math tests increasingly narrow curricula, neglecting important subjects and making instruction more rigid in core subjects. Emphasis on student test scores as a means of evaluating teacher performance, often with serious consequences for those teachers’ careers, punishes teachers who take on the very at-risk students we want them to work with. Those policies also fail to promote or reward team teaching and collaboration, factors shown to improve teacher effectiveness and morale.”
Source: “Thinking Outside the Box to Boost Teacher Effectiveness” by Martin J. Blank, The Huffington Post , February 16, 2012
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If the suggestion is that teachers don't appreciate bonuses, I think maybe researchers haven't been asking the right questions (or perhaps it's a misinterpretation of the results?).
In my experience, great teachers would love to get bonuses, but the general feeling is that a bonus alone doesn't make up for poor leadership, a lack of respect, unrealistic demands, too much time/energy spent on standardized testing, inadequate facilities and material resources, etc.. When teachers are asked what it would take to get them to take a job in a high-needs school, they are sometimes asked specifically if a bonus would motivate them to do so. The response is not related solely to their thoughts about a bonus per se, but about how much more comes into play related to how well they would be supported in doing their job in those settings. Would they have adequate resources? Would they have strong leadership? Would the culture in a particular school building be a supportive one (or a toxic one)?
Based on research I've seen, based on my own personal experiences, and based on what I hear from other educators I know from across the country, it's a gross oversimplification- and very misleading one- to state that "Great teachers consistently report that they are motivated largely by the pleasure they derive from the job, not bonuses." Teachers have consistently and clearly expressed- for many years- exactly what motivates them, so the mystery implied by the author here ("...it is much harder to figure out how to make that teacher swap happen, and how to keep the good teachers once they have been recruited.") is frustrating. I would hate to think that policy decisions in education might be made based on statements like these.
The truth is that it takes much more than bonuses to turn around a low-performing school, and that's the problem that needs to be addressed.
What a beautiful thought that every teacher should be motivated largely by the pleasure they derive from the job, especially their love for children.