While I have yet to learn who is responsible for cobbling together the proposed RAISE Act of 2016, one thing is evident.

They know precious little about what motivates teachers and the realities of today’s classroom.  At its heart, this legislation assumes that money is what motivates a teacher’s performance.   That is laughable and has been substantiated by countless research efforts.

Go to any college or university in Alabama and ask a group of sophomores planning to be teachers if they chose education because they want to get rich.  You will be met with a roomful of laughter.

Yet the whole premise of RAISE is that we will offer bonuses to teachers if their students get better grades and magically, hard-working teachers will suddenly become smarter, harder-working and better trained.  This is the same premise used in shirt factories 50 years ago where some of my kinfolks sat at a sewing machine all day putting collars on shirts or zippers in pants.  It was called piece work.

It’s the classic (and often discounted) idea that we should “run schools like a business.”

A few years ago the Business Council of Alabama created the Business Education Alliance.  Here’s a statement from the BEA web site.

Just as competitors force businesses to improve quality, service and products for their customers in order to maintain a share of the market, school choice does the same for education. Failing schools are provided the incentive they need in order to improve or risk losing students to better performing facilities.

Would someone show me ONE, just ONE, example of where this has worked.  Students are not customers.  Teachers are not robots.

When my cousin Sybil put those collars on shirts in Andalusia, guess what?  Every collar she picked up to attach was just like the last one and the next one.  But when her daughter Hilda taught school in Pike County, where any of her students the carbon copy of another one?

I live in Montgomery and the giant Hyundai assembly plant is about 10 miles from where I’m sitting.  Each day hundreds of truckloads of parts come to that plant from suppliers all over the region.  Each part has to meet rigid specifications as to quality.  Suppliers are judged as to how well they furnish parts that meet specs.

Today, 730,000 students sat in Alabama public school classrooms.  NONE of them had the same specs.  Instead, teachers had to do the best they could with what they got from 730,000 different suppliers.  So making the claim that a classroom and an assembly line are one and the same is foolhardy and shows how detached someone is who believes they are.

Back to the teacher bonuses.  They are hardly new.  And hardly the way to the promised land of school improvement.

Look at this study, Incentive Pay Programs Do Not Affect Teacher Motivation or Reported Practices; Results From Three Randomized Studies.  Researchers looked at incentive pay programs in Nashville, Texas and New York City.  Incentives for teachers were as much as $15,000 in Nashville.

Here are some conclusions:  Teachers did not consider their programs as motivating.  Teachers did not have high expectancy that their personal efforts would lead to student achievement gains due to concerns about the influence of family environment on student achievement.  Analyses did not find that any of the three programs had affected teachers’ reported instructional practice or number of hours worked.  (However, teachers in Nashville did report they put greater emphasis on test prep.)  It is difficult to obtain teachers’ support of incentive pay programs if they think the performance measure is problematic.

And the bottom line conclusion: Given our findings and the previous literature that finds weak effect of performance pay for teachers, policymakers might favor other reforms.

Interpretation.  Ditch the RAISE Act of 2016!!!