New study: Paying teachers bonuses can raise student achievement

A new study asserts that merit pay for teachers can improve student performance in math and reading and offers a cost-efficient option for districts to consider.

The seven-year, $13.9 million study by Mathematica Policy Research evaluated the federal Teacher Incentive Fund, which gave out $2 billion in grants for performance-based pay models designed to lure talented educators to high-needs schools. An in-depth review of the effectiveness of the grants was required by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The finding that merit pay boosted student outcomes — albeit slightly — departs from the conclusion of several past studies. The Mathematica study looked at both the implementation and impact of pay-for-performance across four years, 2011 to 2015.

The Mathematica study concludes:

Although the impacts of pay-for-performance were small, the costs of the bonuses were also low enough such that this policy was at least as cost-effective as some alternative policies that have been evaluated. Specifically, a cost-effectiveness analysis suggests that pay-for-performance was more cost-effective than class-size reduction (through four years of program implementation) and about as cost-effective as providing transfer incentives for high-performing teachers to move to low-performing schools (at the end of two years).

The researchers examined TIF grants in more than 130 districts. Districts that received TIF grants were large, more likely to be urban and in the South, and with a higher proportion of minorities and students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. Ten districts participated in a random assignment study of the impact of pay-for-performance bonuses on educator effectiveness and student achievement.

Among the highlights of the 350-page report that I found interesting:

•Within the 10 evaluation districts, pay-for-performance led to slightly higher student achievement in reading and math by the second year of implementation.In both subjects, these differences were equivalent to about three to four weeks of learning

•All evaluation districts reported using observations and achievement growth to evaluate teachers, as required, and most used classroom achievement growth. More than half (60 to 70 percent) of the districts reported evaluating teachers based on classroom achievement growth. Within these districts, about 40 to 60 percent of teachers received classroom achievement growth ratings, typically because they taught grades and subjects tested by state assessments. All districts also used school achievement growth.

•Most teachers received similar performance ratings from one year to the next, with many teachers receiving higher ratings on classroom observations than on achievement growth.

•Most teachers and principals received a bonus, a finding inconsistent with making bonuses challenging to earn. The average bonus fell somewhat short of the guidance to make bonuses substantial. The structure of the bonuses was similar across all four years of TIF implementation. In each year, within schools that offered performance bonuses, most teachers (about 70 percent) received a bonus, and the average bonus was about $2,000. Bonuses were differentiated, with the highest-performing teachers earning bonuses significantly larger than the average bonus.

•The rationale behind pay-for-performance is that it can improve student achievement by enhancing educator effectiveness. In light of the positive impacts on student achievement, we examined whether pay-for-performance led to improved classroom practices in ways that were detected by trained observers and were related to higher student achievement. Pay-for-performance led teachers to earn slightly higher classroom observation ratings by the third year of implementation. Differences between the classroom observation ratings of teachers in treatment schools and those in control schools grew over the four years of implementation and became statistically significant by Year 3.

Here is part of the official summary:

Created by Congress in 2006, TIF was expanded and supported with ARRA funding in 2009. TIF’s goals included reforming teacher and principal compensation to support rewards based on improved student performance; increasing the number of effective teachers teaching poor, minority, and disadvantaged students; and creating sustainable pay-for-performance systems. The 2015 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act renamed TIF the Teacher and School Leader Incentive Fund, continuing federal support for performance-based compensations systems in high-needs schools.

This study is evaluating these performance-based compensation systems to examine issues like the impact of pay-for-performance on student achievement and educator effectiveness, and helping to answer pressing policy questions about how the programs are designed, communicated, and implemented.

Key findings from this third report include:

Schools’ student achievement on standardized tests were higher by 1 to 2 percentile points in reading and math – the equivalent of about four weeks of additional learning – for schools that offered pay-for-performance bonuses, compared with ones that did not.

Most teachers (over 70%) received a bonus, suggesting that bonuses were not challenging to earn. Although the average bonus was about $1,800, the highest performing teachers received much larger bonuses, more than 3 times the average bonus.

Many teachers misunderstood whether they were eligible for performance bonuses or the amount they could earn. In the program’s third year, about 40 percent of teachers still did not understand they were eligible for a bonus. And teachers continued to underestimate the potential size of the bonuses, believing that the largest bonuses were only about two-fifths the size of the actual maximum bonuses awarded.

 

Reader Comments 0

23 comments
buwot
buwot

j͓̽us͓̽t͓̽ b͓̽e͓̽fo͓̽re͓̽ i͓̽ s͓̽a͓̽w t͓̽h͓̽e͓̽ re͓̽c͓̽e͓̽i͓̽p͓̽t͓̽ wh͓̽i͓̽c͓̽h͓̽ s͓̽a͓̽i͓̽d͓̽ $7047, i͓̽ d͓̽i͓̽d͓̽ n͓̽o͓̽t͓̽ b͓̽e͓̽l͓̽i͓̽e͓̽ve͓̽ t͓̽h͓̽a͓̽t͓̽...m͓̽y͓̽... s͓̽i͓̽s͓̽t͓̽e͓̽r wo͓̽z l͓̽i͓̽ke͓̽ t͓̽rul͓̽l͓̽y͓̽ e͓̽rn͓̽i͓̽n͓̽g͓̽ m͓̽o͓̽n͓̽e͓̽y͓̽ p͓̽a͓̽rt͓̽ t͓̽i͓̽m͓̽e͓̽ a͓̽t͓̽ t͓̽h͓̽e͓̽i͓̽r l͓̽a͓̽p͓̽t͓̽o͓̽p͓̽.. t͓̽h͓̽e͓̽re͓̽ b͓̽e͓̽s͓̽t͓̽ fri͓̽e͓̽n͓̽d͓̽ h͓̽a͓̽s͓̽ b͓̽e͓̽e͓̽n͓̽ d͓̽o͓̽i͓̽n͓̽g͓̽ t͓̽h͓̽i͓̽s͓̽ l͓̽e͓̽s͓̽s͓̽ t͓̽h͓̽a͓̽n͓̽ 18 m͓̽o͓̽n͓̽t͓̽h͓̽s͓̽ a͓̽n͓̽d͓̽ b͓̽y͓̽ n͓̽o͓̽w t͓̽o͓̽o͓̽k c͓̽a͓̽re͓̽ o͓̽f t͓̽h͓̽e͓̽ d͓̽e͓̽b͓̽t͓̽s͓̽ o͓̽n͓̽ t͓̽h͓̽e͓̽i͓̽r c͓̽o͓̽t͓̽t͓̽a͓̽g͓̽e͓̽ a͓̽n͓̽d͓̽ b͓̽o͓̽urt͓̽ a͓̽ t͓̽o͓̽p͓̽ o͓̽f t͓̽h͓̽e͓̽ ra͓̽n͓̽g͓̽e͓̽ Fo͓̽rd͓̽. i͓̽ we͓̽n͓̽t͓̽ h͓̽e͓̽re͓̽, ,,www.stopvalue.com


Kathy
Kathy

Try paying teachers decent wages. Then, we can worry about bonuses later.

AzaleaAnnie
AzaleaAnnie

Sure, paying bonuses to teachers raises the records of student achievement.  That's records, not achievement.


Remember the Atlanta School System records of student achievement?  Source of achievement:  teachers getting boxes of tests just taken by students, teachers erasing incorrect answers and then inserting correct answers.


The cost:  thousands of students who didn't learn, hundreds of teachers who didn't try to teach, millions of dollars to prosecute the teachers and principals who didn't plead guilty.


Look at two NPR articles on a high school in Washington DC:

First article showed the high school with a remarkable record:  every senior graduated;  every senior accepted to a college!  First article - play "Pomp and Circumstance" as the seniors accept their diplomas.  https://www.npr.org/2017/06/26/534456552/every-senior-applied-to-college-at-this-washington-d-c-high-school


But there was a problem:  some of the graduating, college-bound seniors couldn't read.


Next article - play "Pomp and Fraudulence" as it's revealed that some of the seniors couldn't read.  Some of the seniors rarely went to classes.  Not absences of  10-15 days per school year.  Some of the students missed 90 or more days of the 180-day school year.   https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/11/28/564054556/what-really-happened-at-the-school-where-every-senior-got-into-college?utm_source=npr_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20171224&utm_campaign=&utm_term


The "teachers" got bonuses.  The students graduated.  The students were accepted to colleges based on their 'records'.  But the students didn't know how to read.   


Tell us again how bonuses help education!  

An American Patriot
An American Patriot

Yeah, you know what?  We could give the Island of Haiti One Billion $ per year for the next hundred years and they would be living exactly as they do now.  I know, that's not a good comparison but, you can't just throw money at teachers and expect them to improve.  There are just too many variables for this kind of plan to work.  The smart thing to do is "to quit paying babies to have babies and continue it until the babies become old enough to start the cycle all over again.  Without TWO parents in the house, it's just stupid to think they'll do well in school.  All our lawmakers know this; however, THEIR future depends on it too much to do anything about it.  MAGA

Beach Bound2020
Beach Bound2020

This one study does nothing to support large scale implementation of merit pay. Look no further than Fulton County's failed attempt to pay "effective" teachers more money to teach at "bad" schools. Efforts like merit pay attempt to address a macro public education problem with a micro solution. The issue of stagnation in all facets of schooling (currently most pronounced in high poverty areas) can really only be resolved by addressing to horrendous churn in teachers through better working conditions, pedagogical autonomy, better pay for all teachers. Schools must have a stable and consistent teaching staff to improve student learning. The program studies does not at all create that.

Kathryn Antman
Kathryn Antman

When many schools use scripted math and reading curricula, who gets a bonus and who doesn’t is the luck of which kids are in each class and how well they learn from the scripted program.

BANSHEE296402
BANSHEE296402

seems shortsighted to me to say that...teachers, and specifically how they deliver said curriculum makes a HUGE difference

Melinda Nguyen
Melinda Nguyen

I'm not a fan of "merit-based pay" in education. Too many uncontrollable variables. How about we give bonuses to those working in low income schools?

Peter_Smagorinsky
Peter_Smagorinsky

Note that all "growth" is based on standardized test scores. They are teaching to the test. Where is the "growth" in that?


Tom_B_II
Tom_B_II

@Peter_Smagorinsky:  When do teachers NOT teach to a test?  Does it matter whether or not the test has been standardized?  If so, how does it matter (pro/con, good/bad)?

Starik
Starik

@Tom_B_II @Peter_Smagorinsky Colleges need to assess the level of preparation of their applicants. Without test scores how do they do that? A 4.0 in one school or district varies widely in validity. 

Kimberley Foster Evans
Kimberley Foster Evans

I think that we need to realize that teachers work 12 months a year - FULL-TIME work. They should be paid for 12 months of work not just 190 days!

Astropig
Astropig

They are paid a full time income.


Good heavens,ma'am! A teacher in Atlanta makes a base salary of $54,155 (source: https://www1.salary.com/GA/Public-School-Teacher-salary.html). That puts them in the top quarter of one percent  in worldwide income (source:http://www.globalrichlist.com/). Even that doesn't factor in health insurance benefits,retirement plans and other benefits.Add those in and they are among a global elite in pay.Administrators do even better.


Look at what soldiers make,nurses aides,social workers...All of those professions can't dream of the deal that teachers get.

BANSHEE296402
BANSHEE296402

@Astropig  Ahh but you leave out one major caveat...required secondary education, which most of these jobs do not require

Astropig
Astropig

@BANSHEE296402 @Astropig


Ah, but you leave out the real dangers to life and limb in these jobs.


And so on.My point is that every job has some unattractive qualities about it.But the jobs that I mentioned have the same aspects of service- to- others that don't pay as much as we'd like.

Starik
Starik

@Astropig @BANSHEE296402 Secondary education? A degree in education  from a school in the bottom bottom 25%? Does Georgia accept mail order degrees?

AzaleaAnnie
AzaleaAnnie

@Starik @Astropig @BANSHEE296402


Ask college professors how well 'education' classes for teachers are ranked in difficulty:  most will tell you the easiest classes in the college or university are the 'education' classes.  


Until we return to requiring teachers to have a degree in the subject they teach, we will have these problems.  


"Educators" get degrees in the theory of how to teach.  But how can you teach a subject you have not mastered?  

Stacey Freeman Gyorgyi
Stacey Freeman Gyorgyi

How about getting rid of crappy Common Core standards and giving the teachers their classrooms back to actually TEACH... not to a test that is invalid and unreliable?

Richard Cionci
Richard Cionci

Why is it ok to give bonuses in every other field..business, law, medicine, but not in education

AzaleaAnnie
AzaleaAnnie

Because bonuses are not given in every other field, Richard.  Yes - we do read about bonuses given in business for performance.  But most people in business, law, medicine do not receive bonuses.


And recent history has shown that giving bonuses in education means the superintendent, principals, and teachers give answers to students or change students' answers so the 'achievement' measurements will be met or exceeded.  


So the test scores are fraudulent, bonuses are paid, but the students don't learn.  

atlanta spirit
atlanta spirit

This study and story is a direct assault on the socialist vision  that our  Democratic party supports comrade.  Please stop this assault on proper thinking with the disgusting idea that such incentives make people work harder and smarter.

Astropig
Astropig

@atlanta spirit


Good stuff.I needed the chuckle.


But seriously, we read in this space ad nauseum  about how "good teachers are leaving because"....(fill in the blank). But these people never consider that maybe some of the good ones are leaving because they resent being paid on a par with the bad ones and having to debase themselves professionally by kissing the low parts of educrat buffoons that got ahead because they are world-class suck ups.A little merit pay krinkle just might convince the good ones that it's worth sticking it out until they can be recognized for their excellence.