Merit pay has been the subject of much skepticism for good reason. Just last week Mathematica, a nonpartisan research firm, released its second report on the TAP program (the Teacher Advancement Program implemented in Chicago while Arne Duncan was CEO).
TAP was introduced in the 1990s by the Milken Foundation and is a career ladder and pay for performance program. It’s a fairly modest program which has had some success over the years, but apparently not in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) – at least not yet. Here’s what the researchers concluded:
After the second year of CPS rolling out TAP, we found no evidence that the program raised student test scores. Student achievement growth as measured by average math and reading scores on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) did not differ significantly between TAP and comparable non-TAP schools.
We also found that TAP did not have a detectable impact on rates of teacher retention in the school or district during the second year it was rolled out in the district. We did not find statistically significant differences between TAP and non-TAP retention rates for teachers overall or for subgroups defined by teaching assignment and years of service in CPS. The findings of no significant impacts on student achievement or teacher retention are robust to the use of different samples and estimation methods. We did not have reliable data on the quality of teachers retained or the career paths of teachers who left TAP and non-TAP schools, but will examine these aspects of teacher mobility in future reports.