Do teacher pay incentives improve pupil test scores?

A meta-analysis published in the American Educational Research Journal looks at the association between teacher pay incentives and pupils’ test scores, and suggests that teacher pay incentives have the potential to improve pupil test scores in some contexts.

Lam D Pham and colleagues analysed effect sizes across 37 studies, 26 of which were conducted in the US. To be included in the meta-analysis, studies had to include a sample comprising teachers and pupils in K-12 education (Year 1 to Year 13) located in a school district or area that had a teacher pay incentive programme. Studies also had to use a randomised controlled trial with a business-as-usual comparison group, and report on pupil outcomes on standardised tests.

Overall, among the US-based studies, the effect of teacher pay incentives on pupil test scores was positive (effect size +0.04), however, this varied across subjects and settings. The average effect size of pay incentives on pupils’ maths test scores (+0.05) was larger than the effect on English test scores (+0.03). Pay incentives for elementary (primary) school teachers were associated with larger effects (+0.10) than middle school teachers (+0.01). In addition, larger pay incentives, and pay incentives that are based on multiple measures of teacher effectiveness, were associated with larger effect sizes.

Source: Teacher merit pay: A meta-analysis (February 2020), American Educational Research Journal

The impact of testing on teacher retention

Reducing the number of high-stakes tests may contribute to the retention of new teachers, but not necessarily those who have been teaching longer, according to a working paper from the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER).

Dillon Fuchsman and colleagues used changes in testing practices in the US state of Georgia to consider what effect removing high-stakes testing for certain grades (year groups) had on teacher retention. Over the last four decades, Georgia has employed four different testing models which have included dropping all statewide achievement tests in some grades, excluding some subject areas from testing, and reducing the number of grades in which some subjects were tested. They looked specifically at teachers in grades 1 to 8 (Years 2 to 9).

Results showed that, overall, removing testing did not have an impact on how likely teachers were to leave the profession or change schools.

Source: Testing teacher turnover and the distribution of teachers across grades and schools (February 2020), National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, CALDER Working Paper No. 229-0220

The impact of increasing education spending: a study in seven US states

A recent study published in the Journal of Economics examined the effects of increasing education spending on pupil achievement in more than 3,000 diverse school districts in seven US states: Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin. Money for the increased spending was obtained via increases in property tax, sales tax and income tax – issues that had been placed on ballots and voted into effect.

Data for the study encompassed the years 2000–2015. Results showed that five to seven years after education spending increased by $1,000 per pupil, pupils in districts who had formerly been below the average in spending per pupil had gained +0.15 on standardised testing and showed a 9% increase in graduation rates. No statistically significant differences were found for pupils at or above the average spending per pupil prior to the tax increases.

Source: School district operational spending and student outcomes: Evidence from tax elections in seven states (March 2020), Journal of Economics, Volume 183

The evidence behind strategies to reduce absenteeism

Phyllis Jordan at FutureEd, a US think-tank, recently wrote Attendance playbook: Smart solutions for reducing chronic absenteeism, a report outlining strategies for reducing chronic absenteeism and the evidence behind each suggested strategy. The strategies are presented by Tier I, II, and III intervention levels as follows:

  • Tier I
    • Effective messaging and engagement (eg, nudging parents and pupils)
    • Removing barriers to attendance (eg, school-based health services)
    • Improving school climate (eg, relevant – and culturally relevant – curriculum)
  • Tier II
    • Effective messaging and engagement (eg, early warning)
    • Removing barriers to attendance (eg, addressing asthma)
  • Tier III
    • Including truancy courts, interagency case management and housing

Each strategy described is followed by a list of the evidence supporting it, ranked by US’s ESSA evidence strength (strong, moderate, promising, emerging), with a link to each report. Short descriptions of schools and districts using the strategies are also included.

Source: Attendance playbook: Smart solutions for reducing chronic absenteeism (July 2019), FutureEd

Importance of pupil-teacher relationships for pupil engagement and behaviour

In an article published in School Psychology, Mylien Duong and colleagues examine how important the pupil-teacher relationship is for pupil engagement and behaviour.

The study examines the effects of the Establish-Maintain-Restore (EMR) approach – a professional development programme for middle school teachers aimed at enhancing their skills in building relationships with pupils. In this randomised controlled trial, 20 teachers and 190 pupils from a US middle school (Years 7–9) in the Pacific Northwest region were assigned to either EMR or control conditions. Teachers in the EMR condition received three hours of training and ongoing implementation support. Control teachers were given the same amount of professional development time.

Observers rated academically engaged time and disruptive behaviour. Teachers reported on relationship quality using a modified version of the Student-Teacher Relationship Scale, which used only the five items deemed most relevant for EMR of the 28 items usually measured. The results showed that pupils of EMR-trained teachers had improved behaviour in the classroom (effect size = +1.07). EMR also resulted in improvements in pupil-teacher relationships (effect size = +0.61) and academically engaged time – instances when a pupil was paying attention to the teacher or working on a lesson task (effect size = +0.81).

While these findings are promising, it is important to note that the study included only teachers and pupils from one middle school, so replication with larger samples is needed before conclusions about effectiveness can be drawn.

Source: Brief teacher training improves student behavior and student-teacher relationships in middle school (March 2019), School Psychology, Vol 14, 2

What is the impact of the New York City Community Schools initiative?

Research published by the RAND Corporation assesses the impact of the New York City Community Schools initiative (NYC-CS) on outcomes related to attendance, achievement, pupil behaviour, and school climate and culture.

Launched in 2014, the NYC-CS is a strategy to organise resources in schools and provide various services to address the comprehensive needs of pupils, families, and communities through collaboration with community agencies and local government. As part of the study, William R Johnston and colleagues assessed the effects of NYC-CS during the 2017–2018 school year to determine whether pupils were performing better than they would be had their schools not been designated as Community Schools, using average pupil outcomes in each school.

Among the key findings, the results indicate that NYC-CS had positive effects on most of the outcomes examined. In particular, NYC-CS had a positive impact on attendance for pupils in all grades, and these effects appeared to be increasing over time. There was also evidence that NYC-CS led to a reduction in disciplinary incidents for elementary and middle school pupils (Years 1–9) but not for high school students (Years 10–13).

Source: Illustrating the promise of Community Schools: An assessment of the impact of the New York City Community Schools initiative (January 2020), Rand Corporation, RR-3245-NYCCEO