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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 6: Conclusions

Robert McMeekin


6.1 WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED? The importance of incentives The subject of incentives to improve education could hardly be more relevant than it is today. In the US the ‘No Child Left Behind’ legislation of 2001 conditions Federal funds for education on state actions to establish accountability systems based on a single standardized test and encourages states to implement other approaches to providing incentives. Elsewhere in the developed and developing world, countries are experimenting with or debating various initiatives to reward or sanction schools on the basis of their performance. A great number of research studies have explored the merits of programs to provide rewards, competition or threats. Some incentive programs appear to have positive effects, or at least to be benign; yet others have failed to produce the clear improvements in student learning their advocates expected, and some simply do not work. Almost independent of the research, debate in the political realm continues to be polemical and based more on ideology than information. This book provides a different perspective from which to consider educational incentives. It develops a theoretical framework that draws on concepts from New Institutional Economics that have not been applied to education in this way before. It is my hope that these new ideas can add to understanding the complex factors that underlie the debate on incentives. About the theory The theoretical framework presented in Chapter 1 and applied in later chapters helps to explain a number of things that have puzzled economists, educators and other...

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