Improve Education in America Today  Term Paper

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But high schools have been reporting rising grade point averages. Regardless of whether grade inflation is to blame, or an ineffectuality on the part of standardized testing to adequately measure student achievement, this points to another difficulty of using either higher grades or higher test scores to measure student success and thus take into consideration 'teacher quality' and variables that play into assessing teacher quality when hiring new staff members or retaining existing staff members. (Daily Policy Digest, 2001)

If measuring student achievement is difficult, and thus coming to terms with an adequate assessment of teaching 'quality,' then how does one improve teacher quality. Perhaps, suggests educational researcher Victor Lavy, the real question is not the assessment of incoming teachers or outgoing students. Rather, administrators should ask the question, how to increase existing teacher's incentives to improve the quality of teaching, and once this is determined, make such incentive based-programs an ingrained part of modern education. Lavy has examined performance-related incentive pay for teachers, which has being introduced in many countries. Lavy evaluated a rank-order tournament among teachers of English, Hebrew, and mathematics in Israel. Over the course of the study, teachers were rewarded with cash bonuses for improving their students' performance on high-school matriculation exams. Two identification strategies were used to estimate the program effects, a regression discontinuity design and propensity score matching. "The regression discontinuity method exploits both a natural experiment stemming from measurement error in the assignment variable and a sharp discontinuity in the assignment-to-treatment variable. The results suggest that performance incentives have a significant effect on directly affected students with some minor spillover effects on untreated subjects," in other words, the teachers seemed to exhibit more efforts if they were given merit-based cash bonuses, and the students, although not rewarded with monetary incentives, showed a minor improvement in their efforts. According to Lavy, the improvements recorded in the survey appeared to derive from more varied and student-tailored teaching methods, an increased incentive on the part of teachers to offer after-school tutoring and mentoring, and an overall "increased responsiveness to students' needs. No evidence found for teachers' manipulation of test scores. The program appears to have been more cost-effective than school-group cash bonuses or extra instruction time and is as effective as cash bonuses for students." (Lavy, 2004)

Of the four articles, two strategies have emerged as showing a statistically significant improvement in quality education -- increasing the affordability and availability of continued vocational education in the professional subject of education (as opposed to mere subject-based education) for teachers, and to increase the financial and professional incentives for teachers to make a commitment to their students and the school's overall academic improvement. Standardized tests may prove difficult to use as a measurement of success, given that students taking the tests come from a variety of backgrounds, and the tests measure aptitude on some level as well as purely quality of education -- they do not take into consideration how far a student has come. Merely getting more intelligent people into the profession of teaching is not necessarily an answer either. What are needed are teachers who are more competent and more motivated to teach, regardless of student ability and motivation, to create better quality of teaching overall. Thus, increasing availability of continuing education and financial bonuses may be the most cost-effective and motivational techniques at most district's hands to increase overall teacher quality.

This lesson could be learned for all companies, corporate as well as educational -- monetary incentives related to higher quality of output in the form of improved scores, determined from where the students began before the pay bonuses were introduced, combined with job-related training rather than general training, creates a better quality of work and a more motivated workforce.

Works Cited

Darling-Hammond, L. (1 Jan 2000)."

Teacher Quality and Student Achievement: A Review of State Policy Evidence." Retrieved on 28 Apr 2005 at http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v8n1/

Grades Rise While Test Scores Languish" (15 Aug 2001) Daily Policy http://www.ncpa.org/images/1pix.gif

Education Issues.

Lavy, Victor. (2004)"Performance Pay and Teacher's Effort: Productivity, and Grading Ethics." National Article retrieved from the Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved on 28 Apr 2005 at http://www.nber.org/papers/W10622

Office of Educational Accountability "Teacher Characteristics" (2005) Retrieved on 28 Apr 2005 at http://education.umn.edu/oea/II/BestPractices/Admin_and_Policy/TeacherCharacteristics/TeacherCharacteristics.htm

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