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Performance pay progress report released

Posted by on Thursday, June 11, 2009 in Beyond the Mall, Spring 2009.

Paying teachers for their performance was supported by both presidential candidates in the 2008 election and is being tried in school districts across the nation. But the question remains—does it work?

A second-year evaluation of Texas’ statewide performance pay program, the largest in the nation, reveals insights into whether these programs are beneficial and attractive to teachers. 


“We found that most eligible schools—90 percent—participated in the voluntary Texas Educator Excellence Grant program, indicating teachers and schools are very interested in this concept,” said Matthew Springer, lead author of the report and director of the National Center on Performance Incentives at Peabody. “We also found that continuity is important. Turnover in the schools eligible to participate in the program is high from one program cycle to the next, which caused some teachers to feel uncertain about its benefits. We found that the program has been received most favorably in schools where the program was implemented for two consecutive years.”

Not surprisingly, the size of the award was also important, as revealed by teacher turnover rates. “The probability of turnover increased sharply among teachers receiving no bonus award or a relatively small award, while it greatly decreased among teachers receiving large bonus awards,” Springer said. 

In addition to data about the Texas grant program, the report includes background information about the new District Awards for Teacher Excellence (D.A.T.E.) program. Both programs are state-funded and provide grants to schools and districts to design and implement performance pay plans. The Texas grant program distributes almost $100 million annually in one-year grants to about 1,000 schools. The D.A.T.E. program provides $147.5 million annually; about 200 districts are participating in D.A.T.E. These districts comprise about 50 percent of public K-12 students enrolled in Texas.

Springer and his colleagues studied how differences in program design impacted teachers’ attitudes toward performance pay policies, their reported satisfaction with the Texas grant program and their professional practice. 

Springer cautions about placing too much weight on year two results. “We need to remain patient, remembering what looks promising in the short run may not be the case in later years.  More time is needed to determine the full potential of bonus programs like these.

“Future evaluation initiatives will continue to explore how the unique characteristics of these state-funded programs—and the plans designed by their participants—influence the quality of teaching and student learning within Texas public schools,” Springer said.

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