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incentives

  • School Grades For School Grades' Sake

    Written on August 14, 2012

    I have reviewed, albeit superficially, the test-based components of several states’ school rating systems (e.g., OH, FL, NYC, LA, CO), with a particular focus on the degree to which they are actually measuring student performance (how highly students score), rather than school effectiveness per se (whether students are making progress). Both types of measures have a role to play in accountability systems, even if they are often confused or conflated, resulting in widespread misinterpretation of what the final ratings actually mean, and many state systems’ failure to tailor interventions to the indicators being used.

    One aspect of these systems that I rarely discuss is the possibility that the ratings systems are an end in themselves. That is, the idea that public ratings, no matter how they are constructed, provide an incentive for schools to get better. From this perspective, even if the ratings are misinterpreted or imprecise, they might still “work."*

    There’s obviously something to this. After all, the central purpose of any accountability system is less about closing or intervening in a few schools than about giving all schools incentive to up their respective games. And, no matter how you feel about school rating systems, there can be little doubt that people pay attention to them. Educators and school administrators do so, not only because they fear closure or desire monetary rewards; they also take pride in what they do, and they like being recognized for it. In short, my somewhat technocratic viewpoint on school ratings ignores the fact that their purpose is less about rigorous measurement than encouraging improvement.

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  • Beyond Anecdotes: The Evidence About Financial Incentives And Teacher Retention

    Written on January 12, 2012

    ** Also posted here on "Valerie Strauss' Answer Sheet" in the Washington Post

    Our guest author today is Eleanor Fulbeck, who earned her Ph.D. in education policy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2011, and is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania.

    A couple of weeks ago, an article in the New York Times, written by reporter Sam Dillon, took a look at the new incentive program being used by the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). Under this plan (called “Impact Plus”), teachers rated “highly effective” by the district’s new evaluation system are eligible for large cash bonuses and/or permanent salary increases.

    Dillon notes that, “The profession is notorious for losing thousands of its brightest young teachers within a few years, which many experts attribute to low starting salaries and a traditional step-raise structure that rewards years of service and academic degrees rather than success in the classroom." He also profiles several teachers who received the bonuses, most of whom say it played a role in their decision to remain in the classroom.

    Putting aside these anecdotes and characterizations of “experts’” views, the idea that financial incentives – such as bonuses for performance or teaching in hard-to-staff schools – is a key to boosting teacher retention is a complex empirical question, and an open one at that.

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  • Teacher Retention: Estimating The Effects Of Financial Incentives In Denver

    Written on January 3, 2012

    Our guest author today is Eleanor Fulbeck, who earned her Ph.D. in education policy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2011, and is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania.

    There is currently much interest in improving access to high-quality teachers (Clotfelter, Ladd, & Vigdor, 2010; Hanushek, 2007) through improved recruitment and retention. Prior research has shown that it is difficult to retain teachers, particularly in high-poverty schools (Boyd et al., 2011; Ingersoll, 2004). Although there is no one reason for this difficulty, there is some evidence to suggest teachers may leave certain schools or the profession in part because of dissatisfaction with low salaries (Ingersoll, 2001).

    Thus, it is possible that by offering teachers financial incentives, whether in the form of alternative compensation systems or standalone bonuses, they would become more satisfied with their jobs and retention would increase. As of yet, however, support for this approach has not been grounded in empirical research.

    Denver’s Professional Compensation System for Teachers ("ProComp") is one of the most prominent alternative teacher compensation reforms in the nation.* Via a combination of ten financial incentives, ProComp seeks to increase student achievement by motivating teachers to improve their instructional practices and by attracting and retaining high-quality teachers to work in the district.

    My research examines ProComp in terms of: 1) whether it has increased retention rates; 2) the relationship between retention and school quality (defined in terms of student test score growth); and 3) the reasons underlying these effects. I pay special attention to the effects of ProComp on schools that serve high concentrations of poor students – “Hard to Serve” (HTS) schools where teachers are eligible to receive a financial incentive to stay. The quantitative findings are discussed briefly below (I will discuss my other results in a future post).

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  • Performance Pay On (Randomized) Trial

    Written on August 3, 2010

    This is an exciting time for those of us who are strange enough to find research on teacher performance pay exciting. It is also, most likely, an anxious time for those with unyielding faith in its effectiveness. From all the chatter on performance incentives, and all the money we are putting into encouraging them, one might think they are a sure bet to work. But there's actually very little good evidence on their effects in the U.S. As with a lot of education policy in fashion today, investing in performance pay is a leap of faith.

    But now, just in time to be way too late, there are currently four high-quality evaluations of teacher performance pay programs in progress, and they are the first large-scale experimental studies of how these bonuses affect performance in the U.S.
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