Jean-Claude Brizard, Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel's choice as CEO of Chicago Public Schools, likes the idea of merit pay for teachers. But recent studies of existing pay-for-performance efforts suggest it's no panacea.
Many of the headlines Jean-Claude Brizard generated in Rochester, New York during his tenure leading the school system there will be all too familiar for anyone who has followed Chicago Public Schools over the last few years: controversial school closings; a rift between the administration and the teachers; angry parents; frustration with declining budgets and central office hiring decisions.
It's for these reasons that the day-after reports about Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel's pick of Brizard to head CPS focus on battle lines and mention boxing gloves.
For a plethora of resources about Brizard's time in Rochester, check out the lists put together by Chicago Magazine's Whet Moser, Gapers Block's Ramsin Canon, and reporter Rachel Barnhart of WHAM, a television station covering upstate New York.
There will be many more discussions in the coming days and weeks about what Brizard and the Emanuel education team will bring to CPS. But we wanted to take a look today at one of Brizard's policy commitments Chicago Teachers Union leaders criticized at a press conference yesterday: merit pay for educators, linking teacher pay to student performance.
Brizard likes the idea. He lauded a merit pay system at a Rochester charter school during an interview with the Rochester City Paper in January:
People always ask me, "What do you need?" And I always tell them two things: leverage and talent. You allow me to do what needs to be done, and then hire the people I need, and you're going to get magic. When you look at some charter schools like Rochester Prep, the principal was able to do what she needed to do, hire the talent she needed, get rid of people, pay them different amounts of money, and operate much more like a business.
It wasn't discussed at CTU's press conference yesterday, but Chicago Public Schools is in the last year of a five-year merit pay initiative called the Chicago Teacher Advancement Program (CTAP).
First rolled out at 10 schools during the 2007-2008 school year, CTAP is backed by a $27.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education plus support from CPS and funders like the Joyce Foundation and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.
The program is jointly administered by CPS, representatives from CTAP schools, CTU, the city's principals' association, and the Chicago Public Education Fund. Eleven CPS institutions are participating this school year.
Teachers at CTAP schools work closely with lead or mentor instructor (who get stipends above their base compensation) to create an "Individual Growth Plan" that brings "research-based, data-driven best practices to daily classroom instruction," according to a FAQ on a program website.
"[C]lassroom gains are measured through 'value-added' growth, rather than reaching a specific attainment level. This means that regardless of where their students start the year academically, teachers are evaluated and compensated based upon how much their students improve, not by the percentage of students that 'meet' or 'exceed' on standardized tests," the FAQ says.
Bonuses for teachers in CTAP's second year averaged $2,600.
Researchers from the firm Mathematica, however, found the program had little impact in its second year. Here's what Mathematica said in its May 2010 report (PDF) about CTAP, shortened as just TAP below:
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.
To be sure, Mathematica's researchers cautioned last year's snapshot looked at the early phase of CTAP, and there have been important questions raised about the program's design, which paid out bonuses to teachers "based on schoolwide-, rather than classroom-achievement growth."
It remains to be seen what kind of merit-pay system Emanuel and Brizard will seek to implement for Chicago Public Schools, if any. But there's plenty of skepticism about the ability of pay-for-performance efforts to improve educational outcomes. Vanderbilt University's three-year study of a teacher incentive program in Nashville found that merit pay alone does not raise student outcomes. Merit pay, in other words, is no panacea for CPS.