For the past few decades reports on teacher’s performance in relation to motivation have hit the country’s media. Although the concept of improving on teachers attention seems new to many policy makers, the discussion started as early as in 1860’s. During this time teachers were required to place their focus on moral character of students more than their performance (Brandt, 1990). A high percentage of teachers by then were women who had elementary education qualifications, and who could leave the field once they got married.
As a result of industrialization, the purpose and duties of schools and teachers shifted to replacements of house to house learning to schoolhouses, and buildings. It introduced division of classes by ability to learn and age (Moon, 2000). This triggered change in standards of teachers, academic qualifications of teachers, and levels of responsibility to teach. This also introduced a new compensation approach referred as grade-based model.
The new compensation approach was criticized on gender disparities though it served better purposes for learning than the boarding room model (Odden, and Kelley, 2002). Women were given what was considered as cheap tasks like teaching grammar, and subjected to performance evaluation. This created a significant gap between their male counterparts who earned 50% more than women, and also received recognition for high school posts (Kelley, Odden, Milanowski, and Heneman, 2000).
The 20th century marked the most significant turnaround of events in teaching practice; the single salary or position-automatic system was introduced (Dale, 2001). The system introduced the degree held and number of years of experience as criteria for hiring and compensation of teachers (Moon, 2000). The National Education Association (NEA) endorsed this policy in 1944, and by 1950 almost every school used this model. Other elements introduced were knowledge and skills performance based compensation, career development ladders, staff performance bonuses, and the pay for performance model that forms the discussion of this paper.
According to (Marsh, and McCaffrey, 2012), this model uses financial incentives for compensation and motivation to teachers. Advocates for the model argue that using financial motivators assists in improving teachers’ performance and practice (Marsh, and McCaffrey, 2012). They argued that the strategy also attracts other professionals, and qualified teachers into the field. They provided that linking finances with performance was an effective tool to reduce inequalities and labor selection policies that existed (Kelley, Odden, Milanowski, and Heneman, 2000). Opponents, however, argue that attaching finances to work detracts the collegiality and morale of teachers. They provided that the move would affect teacher’s intrinsic motivation from the externally motivated factor. According to Brandt (1990), the new policy could fail from the difficulties in measuring the teacher’s output for lack of valid, reliable, and fair measurement criteria.
Kelly (2004) argues that the basis for the implementation of pay for performance was grounded from the existing weak compensation policies. These policies were not motivational incentives if best practices of teaching were anything to be concerned about. Studies conducted by Lavy (2007) provide that the pay for performance strategy will improve on the existing educational systems by providing a goal clarity to teachers, and attracting new teachers while reducing the teachers retention. From his study in schools from US and other international schools who have implemented the policy, Lavy (2007) found that the program has provided significant gains for students and teachers in Israel. Evidence from his studies reveals that with this strategy teacher’s performance improve although it may also contribute to undesired consequences such as lack of intrinsic motivation.
The success of implementation of the pay for performance strategy depends on the quality of teachers in effective teaching (Marsh, and McCaffrey, 2012). Studies conducted by Kelley et al (2000) revealed that the levels of student’s encounters with qualified or above-average teachers defined their performance. These findings have shifted the focus to the inclusion of policy makers and education stakeholders on the sensitivity of effective teaching on performance results.
Following is a case study on the effectiveness of teacher’s motivation using the pay for performance strategy in New York public schools. The School performance bonus program (SPBP) was introduced in United States in 2007 by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), and New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE). The case study reveals the extent of motivation that finances add on teachers’ performance, and provides recommendations on how the limitations of the policy may be solved (Marsh, and McCaffrey, 2012).
In 2009 RAND, a nonprofit corporation that assists in decision making and policy improvement through conducting research and providing analysis was contracted by the New York City Fund in partnership with NCPI to evaluate the effectiveness of SPBP (Marsh, and Rand Education Institute, 2011). This was a two year research project aimed at evaluating the, $3000 bonus program’s implementation and its effectiveness.
According to Marsh, and Rand Education Institute (2011), .427 public schools were identified for participation in the study. From a random selection half of the schools were to participate for the first year, 198 in the second year, and 196 in the final year. 55% of the teachers in these schools also needed to participate. At least $50 million was distributed in these schools over the three years of study. In year one (2007-08) $20 million was rewarded in 62% of the participating schools. In year two (2008-09), 84% won the awards and $30 million was rewarded. In year three, (2009-2010), the percentage decreased from 84% to 13% with $4.2 million given as bonuses.
In addition, a review of official documents of the program, and interviews to UFT and NYCDOE representatives, funders, and other stakeholders were used to provide the theories of application, history, and goals of the program. The analysis of students’ performance relative to those without the program was also conducted (Marsh, and Rand Education Institute, (2011).. The data used, in this case, involved biographical, achievement information, demographic and publicly available information elements. NYCDOE also supported the study with data on school participation, bonus awards in each year, and CC plans.
The report released by RAND upon this survey indicated that the program did not improve students’ performance and grades. On average English and Mathematics performance in elementary, middle, and K-8 were performed poorly in relation to control schools during the three years of study (Marsh, and Rand Education Institute, (2011). The differences in performance were, however, significantly small for statistical significance during the final year when bonuses reduced. The findings also revealed that performance was not independent on school sizes or bonus distribution plans.
The teacher pay for performance program did not contribute to teachers’ attitudes, behavior, and perceptions in instructions and collaboration aspects. Teachers in both controlled and treatment groups showed no statistical difference in instructional practices, efforts, collaboration, mobility, participation in career development, and attitudes. Most of the teachers who received the awards indicated that the bonuses had minimal impact on their performance.
The UFT and NYCDOE implemented the procedures of the plan as expected. At the beginning of each learning year, schools voted for selection to participate, and later in yearend formed CC’s, and submitted submission reports (Marsh, and Rand Education Institute, (2011). Schools were at liberty to compensate their staff as desired without UFT or NYCDOE interfering. Bonuses were awarded each year according to stipulated guidelines (Odden, and Kelley, 2002). Most CC’s developed egalitarian distribution awards where preferences were made on equal distribution of bonuses by giving $3000 award to staff members. This plan had some minute differentiation depending on working hours and time of the school year. Inequalities in disbursement resulted in resentments in schools with differentiated allocation plans.
Findings indicated that SPBP had no effects on aggregated school progress reports. In the three years of the study there was no difference in scores of the treatment and control schools, and between participating schools each year and other schools eligible for the study (Kelly, 2004). This held the same findings for high schools, middle, and elementary schools.
The implementation of the program had mixed reactions on success of SPBS. The program depended on information dissemination in participating schools, staffs, and CC’s in determination of award determinations, distributions, and subsequent payouts (Dale, 2001). This contradicted the expectancy theory, and previous studies on pay for performance studies that indicates that the need for reasonable lead and time line for understanding a program, expectancy, understanding a program’s worthiness, and buy-in or acceptance time.
The report also indicated that few CC members and respondents had issues with bonus distribution. Some problems such as staff being left out of the list, and unfair distribution of bonuses were reported among some teachers. Some participants in some case study schools also reported some dissatisfaction on the criteria used in awarding, and lack of communication among staff members (Goldhabar, 2009). Contrary to expectations that the awards and bonuses, being motivating actors as provided by the pay for performance policy, could impact on school’s performances, and teachers synergy towards the practice, the findings revealed the opposite.
In public and private schools, pay for performance programs are implemented with aims of motivating workers to performance and productivity by linking these elements with financial rewards. Adopting this strategy was an adjustment to the policies that were deemed to provide job unfairness and inequalities (Goldhabar, 2009). With this policy the terms of recruitment, hiring, promotion, training and development have been changed providing justice and fairness to the system.
The case study provides an understanding of the different levels of motivation; the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The former implies the inner drive of personality that is defined by an individual’s ambitions and objectives (Odden, and Kelley, 2002). Extrinsic motivation is driven by external forces such as promises for bonuses and rewards so that an employee works for the bonus not from inner passion (Dale, 2001). From the case study, the element of the significance of intrinsic motivation can be derived by the provision that even with the rewards and bonus the teachers and students did not improve on their performance.
The failure of SPBP in improving performance of teachers may have been contributed by the newness of the program in public schools. However, this justification may not be useful if performance in the third year was to be considered (Kelly, 2004). The third year marked a fall in the number of teachers who received the rewards.
Some factors that may have triggered its success were not put into place; for example lack of communication of the program, misunderstandings about the implementation, uncertainty towards teachers response, lack of defined means of achieving targets, timing issues, and procedural fairness, among others. SPBP also lacked an underlying framework of action and resources to bring about the intended change. Additionally, there lacked monitoring of the progress, and accountability incentives to push for motivation (Goldhabar, 2009). Some teachers acknowledged that the desire to receive bonuses and rewards contributed towards their attitude and practice thereby taking the program seriously, whilst for others the program did not impact on their attitude and behavior towards the practice.
The pay for performance strategy may have been effective if the implementers considered integrating it as part of the management system. The UFT, NYCDOE and CC’s should have the mandate, discretion, authority, and resources for recognizing and reward appropriately. Public schools should have high levels of organizational trust defined by shared objectives and values between employees and program executors (Marsh, and McCaffrey, 2012). The CC members could also have been provided for technical assistance to boost their decision making process for determining the most effective way to implement the distribution plans.
Additionally, teachers should be motivated to link their individual objectives with that of their learning institutions so as to meet goal congruence. This will boost the consensus between personal interest and organization’s objectives. Improved communication to participating respondents on the bonus criteria used, funds available for rewards, and the implementation of the whole process could have enabled its success. This could have ensured transparency on plans and distribution criteria.
For the SPBP program to be successful in motivating teachers communication is vital, availability of funds, and proper planning, and adjustable time lines so that its understandable, and inclusive of all teachers (Odden, and Kelley, 2002). In any other organization that may have intentions to motivate employees in a financial manner these elements should also be applied so that employees do not work for the rewards but also incorporate their passion towards the work (Goldhabar, 2009).
Effective rewards are those provided to employees who work from their intrinsic command. Providing financial benefits to such employees motivates them to be self driven and creative in their thinking. Additionally, the different levels of motivation should be considered as not all employees feel motivated by finances; some employees find their motivation from recognition, or job rotations, and this motivates their performance.
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