Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Is it a bonus if everyone gets one?

In my children's athletic endeavors, they often get trophies or awards for 'participation'. The emphasis is on making everyone feel good for making an effort. For a child, this is not a bad thing. But when we become adults, we must put childish ways behind us. At least that's the classical view. A new incentive plan would pay Advanced Placement teachers $100 bonuses for each student who passes the test, and up to $3,000 a year for meeting other goals. Students also can also receive $100 for passing. But, it doesn't look like it will happen:
The Boston Teachers Union staunchly opposes a performance bonus plan for top teachers - launched at the John D. O’Bryant School in 2008 and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates and Exxon Mobil foundations - insisting the dough be divvied up among all of a school’s teachers, good and bad.
Union head Richard Stutman bristled at criticism he doesn’t have his members’ interest at heart. “We’re not taking money away from teachers,” Stutman claimed.

He also objected to the suggestions his union is a foe of school reform, insisting he backs the incentive program - so long as the bonus goes to all teachers, not just AP instructors.

Unfortunately, unions think Woody Allen's line that "80% of life is just showing up" to be a creed, not a cynical remark.


Anonymous said...

I agree, but rewarding kids for being smart (or winning) is dangerous - they can then lose motivation when things are hard for them. Congratulating (true) effort is the right approach to maximize productivity, since in the end the rewards in life are based on performance.

Anonymous said...

Ask this question in the executive suite at Goldman.

Anonymous said...

They track the kids (put them into tracks based on testing) at most middle and high schools.
Is the concern that no one will want to teach the bottom tracks?
If the AP tests are taken in 11th and 12th grade, wouldn't the teachers in 9th and 10th grade have a role?

Anonymous said...

This is similar to a finance problem:
Do teachers generate alpha? How do you identify and compensate for it?

My guess is large % of the alpha comes from the kids, their parents and resources available to the parents.

Anonymous said...

'Congratulating (true) effort is the right approach to maximize productivity, since in the end the rewards in life are based on performance.'

The second clause above contradicts the first.

Anonymous said...

Fortunately, the kid's aren't stupid and they know that the "awards" for participation are a joke. The bad news is that it teaches the kids that it is okay, if not mandatory, to lie and pretend so as to protect other's feelings from the truth. This is not the lesson their egalitarian parents want but it is what they get. Hopefully I do not hurt anyone's feelings with this post.

John Cook said...

Have you seen The Incredibles? There's a great line in the movie "If everyone's special then no one is special." That's not just a throw-away line but a theme running through the movie.