Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: lauriegood@mac.com

Monday, August 22, 2011

When incentives are incentives to cheat.

Does anyone else see the irony in the fact that the NYC principal who was removed from her job for changing students’ grades and giving course credit to failing students was retained by the NYC public schools as an “Achievement Coach?” (See New York Times article.) That seems like a stretch. Apparently she will still be paid a principal’s salary “but will no longer be eligible for a $25,000 performance bonus like the one she earned in 2009.” Well, that’s a relief.

I’m not even going to bother being outraged (or even surprised) that this principal wasn’t fired, that the NY schools chancellor seemed to think this wasn’t a very big deal. Let the NYC parents get upset about that. I’m more concerned about the lesson to be learned by those who push financial incentives for higher test scores. This type of thing – tweaking scores or massaging grades or “misapplying grading policies” or, let’s be real, cheating – is going to become tempting as the stakes get higher and higher. Perhaps you’ve heard about the cheating scandal recently coming to light in some Pennsylvania public schools? Or what about Atlanta? Desperate people, in desperate times, will do desperate things to keep their jobs.

Of course, another irony is the fact that incentives like bonus pay have been shown to have ZERO effect on student performance. (Click here and here.) But lawmakers don’t want to hear that. The public doesn’t want to hear it. It’s easier for them if the answer is simply to reward educators for higher test scores.

Seems pretty clear to me that this is not going to end well…

Update: There's a new story today on the NY Times website, reporting that allegations of cheating and grade tampering in the NYC public schools have tripled since 2002. Yep, expect to see more and more stories like this...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That "Achievement Coach" is an outrage.
However a big reason that bonus pay doesn't have the expected results is
"Schools could distribute the bonus money based on individual teachers' results, but most did not. Most teachers received the average bonus of $3,000." This is in the chart in the first link on bonus pay.
The bonuses and the testing, is all being done rather haphazardly. People have to know they will be rewarded for success, punished for failure, and have a reasonable method for determining those things.
This should be a revolution, instead it is just another regulation poorly planned and implemented.