The impact of pay-for-performance

A new report from Alison Wellington and colleagues, published by the Institute of Education Sciences, looks at the implementation and impacts in US schools that offered pay-for-performance as part of their 2010 Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grants. These grants, now named the Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program, support performance-based compensation systems for teachers and principals in high-need schools.

An experimental study design was used to assess the impacts of pay-for-performance on educator and student outcomes. Elementary and middle schools within the evaluation districts were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups. The treatment schools were to fully implement their performance-based compensation system. The control schools were to implement the same performance-based compensation system with one exception—the pay-for-performance bonus component was replaced with a one percent bonus paid to all educators regardless of performance.

For the 10 evaluation districts that completed three years of TIF implementation (between 2011 and 2014), key findings showed that pay-for-performance had small, significant positive impacts on students’ math and reading achievement. The report notes that after three years of TIF implementation, the average math score was 2 percentile points higher in schools that offered pay-for-performance bonuses than in schools that did not. The average reading score was 1 percentile point higher in schools that offered pay-for-performance bonuses than in schools that did not. This difference was equivalent to a gain of about four additional weeks of learning.

Source: Evaluation of the Teacher Incentive Fund: Implementation and Impacts of Pay-for-Performance After Three Years (2016), Institute of Education Sciences

Do higher salaries lead to better teachers?

New research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies explores the question of whether offering higher teacher salaries improves pupil attainment, and finds little evidence that it does.

Estimating the impact of teachers’ pay on pupil attainment is difficult as salaries tend to reflect the experience of the teacher, therefore making it difficult to separate the impact of teacher pay from teacher experience.

However, the authors of this study have dealt with this problem by comparing pupil attainment in primary schools close to the London “fringe boundary” (on the outskirts of the city). Teachers inside this boundary receive a London weighting – around £1,000 extra each year. The researchers compared schools that were broadly comparable in pupil composition, but either side of the boundary.

The results showed little evidence that higher teacher salaries increase pupil attainment in English and maths at the end of primary school. In fact, the difference in pupil attainment between schools on either side of the pay boundary is very close to zero for both English and maths.

The authors conclude that if individual schools offered salary differentials on this scale, they would not necessarily attract more effective teachers. They also argue that there is a remarkable lack of clear evidence about which combination of measures is likely to be most effective in attracting more high quality teachers into the profession or in attracting the best teachers to particular schools.

Source: Does Offering Higher Teacher Salaries Improve Pupil Attainment? (2014), Institute for Fiscal Studies (online ‘observations’ series).

Mixed success of moving the best teachers to challenging schools

Encouraging good teachers to work in low-achieving schools makes a positive difference at primary school level, according to a new report from the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance in the US.

It presents findings from a randomised experiment that tested whether transfer incentives can improve student test scores and other outcomes in low-achieving schools. The intervention, known to participants as the Talent Transfer Initiative (TTI), was implemented in ten school districts in seven states. The highest-performing teachers in each district – those who ranked in roughly the top 20 per cent within their subject and grade span in terms of raising student achievement year after year – were identified. These teachers were offered $20,000, paid in instalments over a two-year period, if they transferred into and remained in designated schools that had low average test scores. The main findings of the study were as follows:

  • The transfer incentive successfully attracted high-performing teachers to lower-performing schools and retained them in these schools during the two years.
  • Transfer incentives had a positive impact on maths and reading achievement at elementary school level (age 6–11). These impacts were equivalent to raising achievement by between 4 and 10 percentile points relative to all students in their home state.
  • There was no impact on student achievement at the middle school level (age 11–14) in either maths or reading.

Source: Transfer Incentives for High-Performing Teachers: Final Results from a Multisite Randomized Experiment (2013), Institute of Education Sciences.

Pay-for-performance programmes that don’t perform

New research, published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, has analysed the results of three randomised studies of pay-for-performance incentive programmes for teachers. The three programmes considered were: Project on Incentives in Teaching, Project on Team Incentives, and School-Wide Performance Bonus. Findings showed that the programmes did not motivate teachers to make the behavioural changes that lead to pupil achievement gains.

Similarly, the What Works Clearinghouse has released a review of a study into the Chicago Public Schools’ Teacher Advancement Program (Chicago TAP). Chicago TAP provides mentoring, leadership opportunities, and financial incentives to teachers. The study used a randomised controlled trial to examine academic achievement, and a quasi-experiment to examine teacher retention rates. After one year, pupils attending the Chicago TAP schools did not score significantly differently in maths, reading, or science, nor were there statistically significant differences in teacher retention rates between these schools and comparison schools after either one year or two years of implementation.

Sources: Incentive Pay Programs Do Not Affect Teacher Motivation or Reported Practices: Results From Three Randomized Studies (2013), Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 35(1).
WWC Review of the Report “An Evaluation of the Chicago Teacher Advancement Program (Chicago TAP) After Four Years” (2013), What Works Clearinghouse.

RAND Corporation: focus on K-12 education

A new report from the RAND Corporation in the US describes recent RAND work related to K–12 education (primary to sixth form), including teacher pay for performance, measuring teacher effectiveness, school leadership, school systems and reform, and out-of-school time. Headlines include:

  • No evidence that incentive pay for teacher teams improves pupil outcomes
  • Incorporating pupil performance measures into teacher evaluation systems (Recommendations include: (1) promote consistency in the pupil performance measures that teachers are allowed to choose, and (2) use multiple years of pupil achievement data in value-added estimation, and, where possible, use average teachers’ value-added estimates across multiple years.)
  • First-year principals in urban school districts: how actions and working conditions relate to outcomes (A key finding of this study was that teacher capacity and cohesiveness were the school and district conditions most strongly related to pupil outcomes.)

When viewing the report online, each headline links to the corresponding RAND report on the topic.

Source: Focus on K-12 education (2012), RAND

Are pupils paying the price for regulation of teachers’ salaries?

A paper from the Centre for Market and Public Organisation at the University of Bristol investigates the relationship between regulated teacher salaries and school performance and finds that regulated wages could be having a negative impact on pupils’ achievement.

The study analysed school performance data from around 3,000 state secondary schools in England and matched it with data on local wages. They identified a loss of approximately one GCSE point per pupil – the equivalent of dropping one GCSE grade in one subject per pupil – when average outside wages increased by 10 per cent. The study accounted for variances in schools’ intake to allow for different levels of difficulty in educating pupils of varying backgrounds.

Source: Does wage regulation harm kids? Evidence from English schools (2012), Centre for Market and Public Organisation