Education Funding Report Roundup

Study: Many Teachers in the Dark on Merit Pay

By Sarah D. Sparks — October 06, 2015 1 min read

Basing teachers’ pay on merit may lead to a small boost to students’ reading achievement—if teachers understand how the pay structure works.

But in 13 districts using federal Teacher Incentive Fund grants to overhaul their teacher-compensation systems, many teachers didn’t understand how it works, what’s required, or whether they were eligible.

That’s according to the second report in an ongoing federally funded evaluation of the TIF program by Mathematica.

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded some $1.8 billion to districts to develop new measures of teacher effectiveness; establish bonuses based on them; provide opportunities for teachers to take on new roles and responsibilities for additional pay; and design training to help teachers improve.

The researchers found that, while more teachers in the participating districts understood the evaluation system in the second year, 38 percent of eligible teachers did not know they qualified. And they consistently underestimated how much they could make through the bonuses.

The study also found that teacher bonuses got a bit smaller, and principal bonuses grew, in the first two years. By year two, nearly all the schools in the study were offering performance bonuses to teachers and principals; most were based on both student growth and classroom observations. While top-performing teachers were likely to be rated highly on both measures, nearly 9 in 10 teachers and 8 in 10 principals whose students showed very little growth were still rated above average in classroom observations.

Students’ reading achievement improved by a few percentile points, or about three weeks of progress in a 36-week term. Math showed no significant gain.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the October 08, 2015 edition of Education Week as Study: Many Teachers in the Dark on Merit Pay


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to Advance Educational Equity
Schools are welcoming students back into buildings for full-time in-person instruction in a few short weeks and now is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and systems to build
Content provided by PowerMyLearning
Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding The Fight Over Charter School Funding in Washington, Explained
Tensions between some Democrats in Congress and charter school backers have reached a new level over proposed restrictions on federal aid.
6 min read
Image of the Capitol.
Education Funding What the House Education Spending Bill Would Do for Schools, in One Chart
House lawmakers have advanced a funding bill for next year with big increases for several education programs, but it's far from a done deal.
3 min read
Collage of Capitol dome and school
Education Funding House Democrats Pitch 'Massive Funding Increase' in Latest Education Spending Bill
The proposal would more than double aid to Title I programs for low-income students and aims to help schools address fallout from COVID-19.
4 min read
Drawing of money dropping into a jar.
Education Funding Feds Set Limits on Which Private Schools Can Get COVID-19 Relief
The Education Department's rules deal with $2.75 billion in American Rescue Plan aid set aside for private schools.
3 min read
Image of money.