Can pay-for-performance boost student achievement and retain talented teachers and educator? Early implementation findings from Mathematica’s rigorous national evaluation of the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF), a grant program designed to support innovative approaches to reforming teacher pay and performance-based teacher and principal compensation systems to help attract top talent in high-needs schools, sheds light on the answer to this question. The study found that after the first year, two key challenges emerged for participating districts: full implementation of the program and communication about TIF and its incentives, including the program’s performance measures and performance-based bonuses.
This study, conducted for the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences, examines the four program components of TIF implementation for all 2010 grantees as well as implementation and impacts for a subset of districts selected through the evaluation competition. For evaluation districts, the study measured the impact of pay-for-performance bonuses as part of a comprehensive reform system within a large, multisite random assignment study design. A study snapshot and the full report are available. Key highlights include:
Fewer than half of the districts receiving TIF grant funds in 2010 reported implementing all four of the required program components for teachers, however a large majority of TIF districts implemented at least three of the four components for teachers.'
In a subset of 10 evaluation districts, educators did not always understand the performance measures and pay-for-performance bonuses used for TIF.
More than half of teachers did not know they were eligible for pay-for-performance bonuses used for TIF and teachers underestimated the size of pay-for-performance bonuses they could earn through TIF.
Most educators overall were satisfied with their professional opportunities, school environments, and the TIF program. However, educators in schools that offered pay-for-performance bonuses in tended to be slightly less satisfied than those in schools that did not offer such bonuses.
“This study offers policymakers and educators a first glimpse of districts’ efforts at implementing TIF. It also gives insight into what’s working, so far, and challenges for districts to achieve full implementation,” said Jill Constantine, study director and vice president; director, NJ Human Services Research, Human Services Research Division at Mathematica.
Forthcoming reports from the five-year evaluation will continue to will help answer pressing policy questions about how the programs are designed, communicated, and implemented.