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Incentive Pay Program Shows Improved Student Achievement

Posted by on Thursday, June 16, 2011 in Around the Mall, Summer 2011.

Student achievement improved and teacher turnover declined in schools participating in the Texas state-funded District Awards for Teacher Excellence (D.A.T.E.) program, the National Center on Performance Incentives (NCPI) at Peabody has found.

“Our findings suggest that, more often than not, participants in the D.A.T.E. program had a positive experience and that student achievement gains and teacher turnover moved in a generally desirable direction,” said Matthew Springer, director of NCPI and lead author of the report.

D.A.T.E. is a state-funded program that provides grants to school districts in Texas to implement locally designed incentive pay plans. About half of the teachers at eligible campuses received a D.A.T.E. incentive award of at least $1,000.

The findings come at a relevant time for Texas and for national teacher pay policy. The Texas state legislature will soon convene to consider the future direction of D.A.T.E., while at the same time Texas and various districts within the state have recently received federal Teacher Incentive Fund grants.

Overall, D.A.T.E.-participating districts saw bigger declines in teacher turnover than other Texas districts during the program’s first year. Additionally, the probability of turnover surged among teachers who did not receive a D.A.T.E. award, while it fell sharply among teachers who did receive one.

“Teachers who received a D.A.T.E. award were much less likely to turn over than those who did not, and the size of the award received by a teacher was less important than the fact that the teacher received any award at all,” said Lori Taylor, associate professor at Texas A&M University and co-author of the report.

There are important limitations to consider about the evaluation’s findings. “Since districts and schools select themselves into the D.A.T.E. program,” Springer said, “we can never fully rule out the possibility that differences in the characteristics of participants and nonparticipants may have affected outcomes for students and teachers independent from participation in D.A.T.E.”

Texas’ D.A.T.E. program and NCPI’s evaluation of the program were implemented in a notably different manner than the Nashville incentive pay program experiment conducted by NCPI, the results of which were released in September. Those results found that rewarding teachers with bonus pay, in the absence of any other support programs, did not raise student test scores.


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