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Performance Pay Proves Challenging

"Evaluation of the Teacher Incentive Fund: Implementation and Early Impacts of Pay for Performance"

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An early study of a federal program that awards performance-based pay finds that districts didn't always adhere to all of its components, and that they seem to have struggled to communicate program goals and features to teachers.

On the upside, participating teachers generally said they were happy with the performance measures used to evaluate them, and didn't feel that collaboration in their schools decreased as a result—one of the oft-cited complaints about such programs.

The study, conducted on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education by Mathematica Policy Research, was released last week. It represents districts from the 2010 awards; the data come from the 2011-12 school year.

The Teacher Incentive Fund, begun in 2006, awards grants to states, districts, and nonprofits to implement performance-based pay programs for teachers and principals. Among other provisions, districts are to adopt measures of educator effectiveness, establish a pay-for-performance bonus system based on those measures, give extra bonuses to teachers who take on added roles and responsibilities, and provide professional development.

The study notes that:

•Although 80 percent of districts met the requirement to use test scores and observations to measure teacher effectiveness, just 46 percent included all four required components.

•Even though the program specified that awards should be reserved for educators who were far better than average, districts were prepared to give them to more than 90 percent of eligible educators.

•In a subset of 10 districts, fewer than half of teachers thought they were eligible for the bonus, even though all were. They also perceived the award amounts to be much lower than they actually were.

Vol. 34, Issue 05, Page 5

Published in Print: September 24, 2014, as Performance Pay Proves Challenging
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