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Incentives to Improve Education

A New Perspective

Robert McMeekin

Incentives to Improve Education identifies three categories of incentives: rewards, (financial rewards for teachers), competition (educational choice, often in the form of payment for education by voucher) and threats (introduction of external standards and accountability for performance).
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Chapter 1: The Theoretical Framework

Robert McMeekin


1.1 INTRODUCTION Few policy issues have generated greater interest and controversy than improving the efficiency and effectiveness of education systems. The debate over how to do this is intense and highly polemical. A central part of that debate concerns the provision of different systems of incentives that will bring the kind of competitive pressures found in the private sector to bear in education. Extensive research plus experimental programs of various sorts have sought to cast light on how to provide incentives. The outcome has been disappointing. Surprisingly little clear information has emerged about what kind of incentives work, although advocates of one approach or another continue to argue for their preferred solution, and education authorities continue to make very large and important decisions about applying incentives. In the United States the ‘No Child Left Behind’ legislation of 2001 (signed into law in January 2002) mandates that, within a very few years, all US states shall implement accountability systems based on achievement tests and take other steps to provide incentives. The issue of incentives is very much alive. This book offers a different perspective on the issue of how to provide incentives. Unlike large comparative studies that attempt to prove that one approach is better than another, it examines the effects that incentives have on the behavior of key participants at an extreme micro level, inside schools. Rather than view schools as ‘black boxes’ and attempt to measure their ‘outputs’ under different conditions, this study dares to ask what goes...

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