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.