April 13, 2015

Patricia H. Hinchey, (570) 479-1794, phinchey@psu.edu
Daniel J. Quinn, (517) 203-2940, dquinn@greatlakescenter.org

Paying the best teachers to teach more students is unsubstantiated, review finds

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Apr. 13, 2015) – A recent report from the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University proposed that school districts pay top performing teachers a bonus for accepting additional students into their existing classes. The report claimed that larger classes and reductions to the teaching force would create significant savings.  However, an academic review of the report finds that the report is largely unsubstantiated, ignores what is known about teacher pay, and fails to offer guidance for policymaking.

Patricia Hinchey, professor of education at Penn State University, reviewed Paying the Best Teachers More to Teach More Students for the Think Twice think tank review project. The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) produced the review with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

According to the report, districts should pay teachers in the top quartile a bonus for increasing their class size by up to three students.  The report considers that students working with more effective teachers would offset any potential sacrifice in student learning.

In her review, Hinchey finds that the report: (1) ignores the technical problem of how the best teachers might be reliably identified; (2) neglects a strong research base that has established a link between class size and student learning; and (3) misrepresents what is known about teacher pay, teacher attitudes, and teacher job satisfaction.

Specifically, Hinchey notes that the report's assumptions regarding identifying the "best" teachers rest on using increases in standardized test scores using Value Added Models (VAM). Value-added modeling has been shown to be an unreliable measure of teaching ability.  She continues, "With no reliable way to identify the 'most effective' teachers, the proposed plan is untenable."

Regarding the overall merits of the report, Hinchey says, "On the whole the plan is misleading because the averages used to project practical outcomes are not representative of diverse schools and districts across states."

In her conclusion, Hinchey restates that the plan is unsupported by either original research or existing research. "Finding better strategies to pay teachers fairly and adequately for their work will require far more rigorous and nuanced thinking and research than reflected in this report."

Read the full review at:

Find Paying the Best Teachers More to Teach More Students on the web:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at http://www.greatlakescenter.org/