Report says policymakers should focus on creating collaboration, not competition, among teachers

Published on Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Merit pay programs that reward teachers based solely on their students' standardized test scores do little to improve student achievement or help to attract and retain good teachers in high-need areas, according to a new report. “Creating Teacher Incentives for School Excellence and Equity” was released last month.

"What most teachers desire is the know-how to teach their subjects as well as the autonomy and supports to best meet the needs of their students," according to the report’s authors Barnett Berry, founder and president of the Center for Teaching Quality, and Jonathan Eckert, an education professor at Wheaton College in Illinois and former Teaching Ambassador at the U.S. Department of Education.

Basing teacher bonuses on standardized test scores alone is ineffective in attracting and retaining good teachers. Instead, the report says, effectively addressing the conditions that the best teachers want and need will go a long way toward supporting their professional activities and retaining them — particularly in high-need schools.

Berry and Eckert maintain that working conditions go well beyond the issues of time, class size and the length of the workday. Policymakers should focus on the conditions that allow teachers to teach effectively, including:

  • Principals who cultivate and embrace teacher leadership.
  • Time and tools for teachers to learn from one another.
  • Specialized resources for high-need schools, students and subjects.
  • The elimination of out-of-field teaching assignments.
  • Teaching loads that take the diversity of students into account.
  • Leeway to take risks.
  • Integration of academic, social and health services for students.
  • Safe, well-maintained school buildings.

The report was produced by the National Education Policy Center with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice and the Ford Foundation.

The full report can be found at

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