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May 17, 2018
As NYC encourages more elementary teachers to specialize in math, new research shows the strategy could hurt student learning
This year, 139 city elementary schools are adopting the departmental approach, almost twice as many as a year ago.
December 12, 2011
Study of city charter schools attempts to isolate what works
What happens inside New York City charter schools is more important than their ideological affiliations in determining academic success, according to a new paper. The paper, which did not undergo peer review, is based on a detailed analysis of 35 city charter schools by two Harvard University researchers, Roland Fryer and Will Dobbie. Fryer is a MacArthur "genius" award winner who has conducted experiments and studies in New York City in the past, often in order to test his theories about the impact of incentives. For the newest paper, "Getting Beneath the Veil of Effective Schools: Evidence from New York City," the researchers conducted in-depth case studies at self-selecting charter schools that received $5,000 for supplying required information. By interviewing principals, teachers, and students; analyzing test scores and lesson plans; and videotaping classroom activity, Fryer and Dobbie built a database of "the inner workings of schools" and compared them. They wanted to find which traits of city charter schools appeared most closely linked with academic success. They also asked whether schools with a particular philosophy, such as the "whole child" approach of providing wraparound services or the "no excuses" approach typified by KIPP charter schools, did better than others. The researchers conclude that teacher credentials, class size, and per-pupil spending did not account for test score differences across the schools, but that five other features did. Those traits — frequent teacher feedback, high rates of data usage, "high-dose" tutoring, more class time, and a culture of high expectations — are features of many charter schools. Without them, schools that adhere to particular philosophies don't outperform other charter schools, according to the analysis.
September 27, 2011
Fryer: Incentives should spur action, rather than reward scores
A chart in Fryer's report shows the effect of incentive programs from city to city. (Click to enlarge) Despite several spectacular setbacks, Harvard economist Roland Fryer isn't ready to throw in the towel on incentives to boost student performance. In recent years, New York City abandoned two different inventives programs that Fryer designed — one for students and another for teachers — after it became clear that the promise of more cash for higher test scores wasn't paying off. But Fryer, who last week was awarded a "genius grant" by the MacArthur foundation, has experimented with incentives in other cities and gotten different results. In a report released today, he and a colleague from Harvard University's EdLabs offer instructions for designing incentives programs and argue that, contrary to what economic theory would predict, programs that reward "inputs" such as reading or completing homework are more effective than those that reward "outcomes" such as test scores, as New York's program did. In Houston, students who were paid $4 for each math skill they learned mastered more skills — and they did even better when the prize grew to $6 a skill. In Dallas, students who were paid to read books read more books. More study is needed to figure out exactly why the Texas students responded to incentives and students in New York City did not, the researchers write. But they hypothesize that New York City students might not understand that comprehending content is key to raising scores.
July 18, 2011
Pension changes could be enduring effect of merit pay pilot
The full impact of the city's short-lived experiment in teacher performance pay could still be felt. The Department of Education confirmed today that it has ended a three-year-old school-wide bonus program that was called "transcendant" when it was introduced. The decision, spurred by a RAND Corporation report that was commissioned by the Department of Education's private fundraising wing, follows a previous study that found no performance boost for participating schools. We reported in March that the city had quietly suspended the bonus program. (Read the complete RAND report.) The city will save money this year by not disbursing the bonuses, which it says cost $56 million over the life of the initiative. (The previous report, which the city did not commission, put the costs even higher, at $75 million.) But the long-term effect could come from a pension sweetener introduced to get the teachers union on board with the controversial program. Then-UFT President Randi Weingarten hinged her support for the bonus program on a change in the law that would allow teachers to retire early, starting at 55 instead of 62, without taking a hit to their pensions.
March 7, 2011
Study: $75M teacher pay initiative did not improve achievement
New York City's heralded $75 million experiment in teacher incentive pay — deemed "transcendent" when it was announced in 2007 — did not increase student achievement at all, a new study by the Harvard economist Roland Fryer concludes. "If anything," Fryer writes of schools that participated in the program, "student achievement declined." Fryer and his team used state math and English test scores as the main indicator of academic achievement. Schools could distribute the bonus money based on individual teachers' results, but most did not. Most teachers received the average bonus of $3,000. The program, which was first funded by private foundations and then by taxpayer dollars, also had no impact on teacher behaviors that researchers measured. These included whether teachers stayed at their schools or in the city school district and how teachers described their job satisfaction and school quality in a survey. The program had only a "negligible" effect on a list of other measures that includes student attendance, behavioral problems, Regents exam scores, and high school graduation rates, the study found. The experiment targeted 200 high-need schools and 20,000 teachers between the 2007-2008 and 2009-2010 school years. The Bloomberg administration quietly discontinued it last year, turning back on the mayor's early vow to expand the program quickly. The program handed out bonuses based on the schools' results on the city's progress report cards. The report cards grade schools based primarily on how much progress they make in improving students' state test scores. A so-called "compensation team" at each school decided how to distribute the money — a maximum of $3,000 per teachers union member, if the school completely met its target, and $1,500 per union member if the school improved its report card score by 75%.
January 9, 2009
A student says money can be a motivator, but not a good one
Angelica is one of two students who are writing occasional columns for GothamSchools on their experiences attending a New York City public school. Read her previous post. Roland Fryer, a Harvard economist who is set to change schools as we know them in NYC, claims that every student could be an A-student. That is, as long the right incentive is applied. Fryer plans to pay students for every A they get. He thinks they would work more diligently if they were paid for good performance. He is presently testing the idea in some schools in New York City. Honestly, would I work harder at school if I were getting paid? Duh. That basically goes unsaid. When I asked my classmate at NYCiSchool, Kyjah Coryat, if she would put more effort into her grades if given money, she was quick to say she would. “Obviously. That would give me something more to strive for,” she said. Realistically, few teenagers would refuse the money given the chance; it’s common logic. Undoubtedly, Fryer's method could be effective. However, whether it is ethical is another issue.
December 12, 2008
Colbert to Geoff Canada: Are there baby frats at baby college?
Stephen Colbert, who has in recent months hosted KIPP charter school founder Mike Feinberg, cash-for-grades guru Roland Fryer, and New York…
October 17, 2008
Scaling up motivation campaigns could cost millions
A number of privately-financed education programs have turned public in recent years, the latest example being Chancellor Klein’s move to create a new,…
October 10, 2008
DOE's failed cell phone incentive plan inspires from beyond the grave
Increasing students’ “motivation to learn” by offering incentives for school performance is essential to their success, argues Kent Pekel, executive director of the University…
October 2, 2008
Wayback Wednesday Thursday: Educational Innovation Lab
Preceding Roland Fryer by more than 70 years, the New York City school board voted in 1936 to create "a 'laboratory' to analyze teaching methods and curricula," according to a New York Times article from that year. Unlike Fryer's Educational Innovation Lab, which will be funded by the Broad Foundation and other philanthropic organizations, the 1936 lab was part of a reorganization of the Board of Ed's Bureau of Reference, Research, and Statistics. And while Fryer's effort will cost $44 million, the board member offering the 1936 resolution requested only $156,000 — about $2.3 million in 2007 dollars. The laboratory was to focus on experimenting with new teaching methods and promoting the sharing of successful strategies, though no details were given as to what new methods were being tested. Fryer intends to start out by testing motivational strategies like those he piloted in New York City's Million Motivation Campaign, now discontinued for lack of funding. More on the 1936 ed innovation lab after the jump.
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