I just finished writing about the history of merit pay and I was struck by a simple fact: Merit pay has been tried again and again and again and again, and it died again and again and again and again.

Study after study says it made no difference.

Teachers don’t like it.

It doesn’t raise test scores.

But it never dies.

It is the Undead Policy Idea. It is the Dracula of American education.

Despite the absence of any evidence whatsoever, the U.S. Department of Education got Congress to authorize $1 billion for the Teacher Incentive Fund.

This is a total waste of money.

It should have been spent on early childhood education or pre-natal care for poor women. That would have done some good.

This teacher in Wisconsin has a fresh idea to wed merit pay and choice (I keep saying that the readers of this blog are brilliant):

Sounds like Bill Gates probably thinks highly of Merit Pay schemes. Unfortunately I think we are going to have to ride the storm out for a while in Wisconsin as Scott Walker has put things in place to “pay for performance” based on test scores. In the meantime I’ve been a tryin’ to beat them at their own game (which they don’t like btw). These “corporatizers” really like to sell the choice idea as we all know. I’m trying to get my State Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R), who voted along with the other republicans to end collective bargaining rights and for Scott Walker’s education reform bill, to introduce some choice to our education system if we end up going the merit pay route. I propose that schools in Wisconsin be mandated to provide a 2 tiered pay scale system; one based on merit pay tied to performance on mandated tests and one based on experience and education, you know the status quo way. The catch being that the merit pay system would be substantially higher,,,maybe 10,000 more than the status quo way. However, the status quo teachers would be free from all required standardized testing and would have minimal govt meddling. Of course teachers would be allowed to choose which tier they would like to “volunteer” for and parents would also get to choose which system to put their kids in. At the end of the day we would have choice, accountability, “rewarding” the best teachers by paying them more to raise test scores, etc. We would also know that the status quo teacher at least wasn’t greedy. I’m usually looked at like I’m from outer space when I bring it up. So, then I suggest another radical idea: If you can motivate teachers to teach “better” by rewarding them with more money when they improve test scores, then it would tend to reason that learners (students) would also be motivated by money. So, I ask “why not cut out the middle man”? Isn’t that another basic business model to save money? Why not just pay the kids to raise their test scores? Or perhaps we could combine the two ideas and make this a 3rd choice. Parents could choose from one of the three: 1. teachers compete for big money to raise test scores 2. Teachers get paid mediocre money but the kids compete for big money for raising their own scores 3. Teachers get paid low money but are freed from all testing and govt meddling is minimized. I know where my 5 year old is going; that’s for sure!