Inquiring Minds

Performance Pay Alone Doesn’t Raise Scores

Rewarding teachers with bonus pay, in the absence of any other support programs, does not raise student test scores, according to a study by the National Center on Performance Incentives at Peabody College. This and other findings from a three-year experiment—the first scientific study of performance pay ever conducted in the United States—were released in September and widely reported by the national media.

“These findings should raise the level of the debate to test more nuanced solutions, many of which are being implemented now across the country, to reform teacher compensation and improve student achievement,” says Matthew Springer, executive director of the National Center on Performance Incentives. Springer is an assistant professor of public policy and education at Peabody College.

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Liquid Crystals Offer Commercial and Scientific Potential

Vanderbilt chemists have created a new class of liquid crystals with unique electrical properties that could improve the performance of digital displays used on everything from digital watches to flat-panel televisions. The achievement, which is the result of more than five years of effort, is described by Professor of Chemistry Piotr Kaszynski and graduate student Bryan Ringstrand in a pair of articles published online Sept. 24 and 28 in the Journal of Materials Chemistry.

“We have created liquid crystals with an unprecedented electric dipole, more than twice that of existing liquid crystals,” says Kaszynski. Electric dipoles are created in molecules by the separation of positive and negative charges. The stronger the charges and the greater the distance between them, the larger the electric dipole they produce.

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Landmark Study Examines Social Stress and Health Disparities

Vanderbilt is launching a major study of the role stress plays in health disparities across socioeconomic status and race. The study will seek 1,600 individuals in order to assess physical, emotional and behavioral dimensions of health and evaluate social factors that affect health risk.

Researchers aim to prove that the differences come from difficulties, circumstances and stressors experienced over a lifetime, and to identify factors that could be modified. Reducing health disparities is among the highest priorities of the National Institutes of Health.

“If you think of health as a house being weathered by storms, then the houses of minorities and those of lower socioeconomic status are weathering at a much faster rate,” says Jay Turner, professor of sociology and principal investigator.

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