Economist Roland Fryer has been trying for years to find the magic incentive that would produce higher scores.

He tried merit pay, and that didn’t work.

He tried paying students to get higher scores, but that didn’t work.

Now, he has at last found the key:

He and his colleagues have perfected a technique called “loss aversion.”

They give teachers a bonus (say, $4,000) at the beginning of the year. If the scores go up, the teachers keep the money.

If the scores don’t go up, they lose the money!

That’s called “loss aversion.”

Barnett Berry thinks this is a stupid idea, but hey, it works. That’s good enough for Dylan Matthews writing on Ezra Klein’s blog at the Washington Post , who calls this study a success for merit pay. It is also good enough for the Broad Foundation, which funds Fryer’s quest for the golden test score.

What will people do to avoid a loss?

What if you tell teachers that you will cut off their fingers if the scores don’t go up?

What if you tell doctors that their pay will be cut whenever any of their patients die?

What if you say to economists that they lose their computers if their predictions don’t pay out?

What would you say to journalists to get them to produce better stories?

Here is the contest:

What is your best idea to raise the scores through “loss aversion”?

What is the very best threat you can think of to compel/frighten/intimidate/and/terrify teachers to make the students’ scores go up?

I will publish the responses of those who come up with the best ideas to improve American test-score productivity through “loss aversion.”

Is that enough of an incentive for you?