At a conference held at Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance, which I direct, a fine paper was presented this morning by the Munich University economist Ludger Woessmann on merit pay in 28 industrialized countries around the world.

He found that students in countries with merit pay policies in place were performing approximately 0.25 standard deviations higher on an international math and science test than students in countries without such policies.

The paper is still in draft form, but if these results hold up, the case for Michelle Rhee’s merit pay initiative in the District or Columbia—and the merit pay component of the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top initiative–is pretty strong, as 0.25 standard deviation is about a full year’s worth of learning.

But any merit pay policy needs two components, conference participants concluded:  The good teachers need to be rewarded, and the very ineffective ones need to be encouraged to find a more appropriate occupation.

Click here to read more about the conference.

Last updated June 4, 2010