Jersey Jazzman has posted an obituary for the Merit Pay Fairy. He says it died in Newark, when teachers negotiated a new contract, deep-sixing a Merit Payplan that they endorsed in 2012.

JJ demonstrates with facts and evidence that merit pay failed.

He begins:

The Merit Pay Fairy lives in the dreams of right-wing think tanks and labor economists, who are absolutely convinced that our current teacher pay system — based on seniority and educational attainment — is keeping teachers from achieving their fullest potential. It matters little that even the most generous readings of the research find practically small effects* of switching to pay-for-performance systems, or that merit pay in other professions is quite rare (especially when it is based on the performance of others; teacher merit pay is, in many contexts, based on student, and not teacher, performance).

Merit pay advocates also rarely acknowledge that adult developmental theory suggests that rewards later in life, such as higher pay, fulfill a need for older workers, or that messing with pay distributions has the potential to screw up the pool of potential teacher candidates, or that shifting pay from the bottom of the teacher “quality” distribution to the top — and, really, that’s what merit pay does — still leaves policymakers with the problem of deciding which students get which teachers.

Issues like these, however, are at the core of any merit pay policy. Sure, pay-for-performance sounds great; it comports nicely with key concepts in economic theory. But when it comes time to implement it in an actual, real-world situation, you’ve got to confront a whole host of realities that theory doesn’t address.

Of course, it failed! As I explained in my 2010 book The Death and Life of the Great American School System, merit pay has been tried again and again for almost a century, and it has always failed.

I would like to believe that it has died, that—as Dorothy said about the Wicked Witch, it is “really, truly dead”—but I have my doubts.

Every time it has failed, someone rediscovers it and thinks that this time it will work, unlike every other time.

I remember AFT President Albert Shanker saying at a meeting in the early 1990s that merit pay was ridiculous. The way he put it was, “Let me get this straight: if you offer to pay teachers more, students will work harder? That makes no sense.”