Buyout Package Bingo: A Reason to Choose More Work for Same Pay?

An example of irrationality? A colleague at another university was offered a buy-out: A full year’s pay if he would resign/retire at the end of the current semester. At the same time his school also offered a phased retirement deal: Two years at half pay, with half a usual teaching load.

This economist chose to take the phased retirement, thus choosing the same pay, but teaching four courses over two years instead of no teaching. I think he's crazy; but I think you can write down a utility function that is consistent with his behavior and violates none of our assumptions about preferences.

Bring Your Questions for Peg Tyre, Author of The Good School

Peg Tyre is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who specializes in writing about education policy. In her 2008 book, The Trouble with Boys, she delved into the growing academic achievement gap between boys and girls to examine why boys are falling so far behind in the classroom. In her new book, The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Kids The Education They Deserve, Tyre mines education research data to find out which programs and strategies give kids the highest probabilities of academic success. The result is a concise handbook for parents, one that applies a macro-economic view of education in an effort to create a more rational market around school choice.

As another school year kicks off, Tyre has agreed to answer your questions about The Good School, and anything else education-related. So fire away in the comments section. Before you do, take a look at the table of contents from The Good School printed below, and also read Tyre's adapted excerpt from the book on the merits (or lack thereof) of teaching to the test.

Study Shows School Uniforms Improve Attendance, But Not Grades

The school uniform debate isn’t exactly raging these days, but there's still data to be gathered and examined as to how slacks and blazers affect school kids. According to a new study by researchers at the University of Houston, school uniforms seem to be decently effective at improving student attendance and teacher retention, but have no real impact on improving student achievement. For their data, researchers looked at the effects school uniforms had on a large urban school district in the Southwest United States.
Here’s the abstract:

Will Rahm Emanuel's Merit-pay System Work Where Others Haven't?

Last week, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that he's rolling out a merit pay program specifically for school principals, using $5 million in donated funds. The plan is particularly bold considering its announcement comes on the heels of quite a bit of evidence, from research to scandals, showing the faults of merit pay.

In March, we wrote about Harvard economist Roland Fryer's study on New York City's failed merit pay experiment, the Schoolwide Performance Bonus Program, which was shutdown last month. A subsequent RAND report echoes much of Fryer's findings:

...the theory underlying school-based pay-for-performance programs may be flawed. Motivation alone might not be sufficient. Even if the bonus here had inspired teachers to improve, they might have lacked the capacity or resources — such as school leadership, expertise, instructional materials, or time — to bring about improvement.

Our Daily Bleg: How Should a Professor Incentivize Classroom Attendance?

Art Wright, a professor*, writes in to say:

I have this problem: I am course-planning for the fall term right now, and I'm trying to figure out the best way to develop an attendance policy. Many professors deduct points or letter grades for a certain number of absences. In contrast, I had someone recommend that I give points if students come to most or all of the class meetings. So I'm left wondering: What is the best way to incentivize class attendance for my students? What, in your opinion, will get them to attend most – if not all — of the class meetings?

What advice do you have for Art?

If you're a professor, let us know what you've tried that has worked or failed. If you're a student or used to be one (I assume that means everyone here), what did it take to get you to show up regularly?

*By the way, Art is a visiting professor of New Testament at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. Am wondering how readers might answer (or engage with) his question differently if I'd introduced him as such rather than simply as a "professor." Of all the assumptions we make and biases we carry, it strikes me that religion encourages some of the strongest ones.

FREAK-est Links

Georgia's shriveling peach economy, one-third of Michigan teachers feel pressured to cheat, the annual Big Mac index, a public library incentive scheme, and why West Virginia is awash in car crashes the week after a televised NASCAR race.

Another Case of Teacher Cheating, or Is It Just Altruism?

From the results of this year's high-school "maturity exam" in Poland (courtesy of reader Artur Janc), comes this histogram showing the distribution of scores for the required Polish language test, which is the only subject that all students are required to take, and pass.
Not quite a normal distribution. The dip and spike that occurs at around 21 points just happens to coincide with the cut-off score for passing the exam. Poland employs a fairly elaborate system to avoid bias and grade inflation: removing students' names from the exams, distributing them to thousands of teachers and graders across the country, employing a well-defined key to determine grades. But by the looks of these results, there's clearly some sort of bias going on.

Massive Teacher Cheating Scandal Erupts in Atlanta

An investigation into Atlanta's public school system has uncovered evidence that teachers and principals have been secretly erasing and correcting answers on students' tests for as long as a decade. A state investigation found that 178 educators at 44 of the district's 56 schools engaged in cheating. The report is a huge blow to an urban school district that for years was hailed as one of the country's most successful due to increased student performance.
From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Superintendent Beverly Hall and her top aides ignored, buried, destroyed or altered complaints about misconduct, claimed ignorance of wrongdoing and accused naysayers of failing to believe in poor children’s ability to learn.

For years — as long as a decade — this was how the Atlanta school district produced gains on state curriculum tests. The scores soared so dramatically they brought national acclaim to Hall and the district, according to an investigative report released Tuesday by Gov. Nathan Deal.

In the report, the governor’s special investigators describe an enterprise where unethical — and potentially illegal — behavior pierced every level of the bureaucracy, allowing district staff to reap praise and sometimes bonuses by misleading the children, parents and community they served.

The report accuses top district officials of wrongdoing that could lead to criminal charges in some cases.

Have D.C.'s "Best Schools" Been Cheating?

A handful of Washington D.C. schools are embroiled in a scandal over whether teachers corrected wrong answers to boost students' test scores, and thereby, increase their bonuses.

Teacher Incentives Ineffective in New York

Roland Fryer continues to work with incentives in education -- for students, parents, and teachers. His newest working paper (gated) describes an experiment in New York City that was unsuccessful in moving the needle.