Cornell economist Michael Lovenheim, assistant professor of policy analysis and management in the College of Human Ecology, has received a 2011 National Academy of Education (NAEd)/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship to support his research on teacher merit-pay programs.
With the $55,000 award, Lovenheim will examine data from a school district in Houston that ties teacher pay bonuses to student standardized test scores -- one of the first studies on how U.S. educators respond to specific merit rewards. The Obama administration has made such performance pay structures one of the cornerstones of its Race to the Top strategy for school reform.
"This research has the potential to tell us a lot about the impact of incentive programs on teacher behavior and student performance," said Lovenheim, one of 20 NAEd/Spencer Foundation fellows this year. "Although teacher incentive pay is a hot topic in education reform, there currently is very little evidence from developed countries on its effectiveness. The Houston system is one of the first in the United States that incorporates individual (rather than grade-specific) performance incentives into a merit-pay system, and this fellowship will give me the time and resources to be able to provide an in-depth empirical study of this program."
Lovenheim, with a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan, joined Cornell in 2009 following two years as a Searle Freedom Trust Postdoctoral Scholar at the Stanford University Institute for Economic Policy Research. He studies public finance, labor economics and education economics, including how student resources influence postsecondary education decisions and the effect of teachers' unions on school district resources and student achievement.
Ted Boscia is assistant director of communications for the College of Human Ecology