School & District Management

Early Results Out From Teacher-Transfer-For-Cash Study

By Stephen Sawchuk — April 06, 2012 2 min read
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A cash incentive appears to have helped seven school districts attract effective teachers to low-income schools, though the longer-term impact of the transfers on teacher retention and student achievement results remains to be seen, a recently released analysis concludes.

The results are the first findings from the Talent Transfer Initiative, a U.S. Department of Education funded project. There’s a short description of the initiative in this Education Week story. The basic idea is to offer bonuses of $20,000 to teachers with high-value-added scores to transfer to positions in a low-achieving schools and to study the results, in up to 10 districts.

It has long been argued that such schools have a harder time attracting effective teachers, partly because they are often staffed by novices still at the beginning of their learning curve. So far most of those analyses have been based on credentials, which aren’t very predictive of classroom performance.

There are only a handful of studies that look at this question from the standpoint of classroom effectiveness. A Mathematica study from a little while back showed that students in low-income middle schools seem to have less access to the best teachers. This may be partly because low-income schools seem to have a wider distribution of teacher quality, including the very lowest-performing teachers.

The TTI study, also being carried out by Mathematica, builds on these two efforts. It’s designed to examine whether the transfer incentive helps to attract and retain teachers with high value-added scores. Secondly, it uses a random-assignment design to determine whether the transferring teachers’ students do better than those taught by teachers in a control group. It will also look to see whether the teaching team to which the transferring teachers are assigned does better on the whole than a comparison team.

We don’t have answers to those questions yet, but this early report gives us a few interesting tidbits:

• The project was successful in attracting the teachers to the low-income schools, but it took a large pool to secure enough teachers; only a third of eligible applicants attended an information session, 24 percent submitted an application, and 6 percent transferred, on average, across the districts studied.
• The transferring teachers were about five years more experienced than the teachers who would normally have filled their positions.
• The transfers do not appear to have disrupted school culture, as no differences were reported from principals in the receiving schools.
• The transferring teachers were less likely to have a mentor than those in the control group, but they spent more time mentoring their other colleagues.

Check out all the findings here.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.