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August 19, 2010

Performance-Based Compensation:
Design and Implementation at Six Teacher Incentive Fund Sites

Researcher and former teacher Dr. Jonathan Eckert analyzes six sites successfully implementing teacher and principal compensation reforms in Performance-Based Compensation: Design and Implementation at Six Teacher Incentive Fund Sites, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Joyce Foundation. These promising results are especially relevant as states and districts initiate new performance-based compensation reforms as part of efforts to increase teacher and principal quality in high-need schools.

A Teacher Evaluation System That Works

With the enactment of the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) in 2006, the federal government initiated an effort to support innovative approaches that compensate teachers and principals based on effectiveness. Across the country, 33 TIF grantees are implementing performance-based compensation systems. Eckert selected six TIF projects that had promising preliminary data showing increased student achievement, wide stakeholder support, improvements in recruitment and retention, and positive changes in school cultures. Four of the six implement TAP.

Through interviews, focus groups, data analysis and site-based observations, Eckert identified a number of striking similarities in the design and implementation of these projects that are also supported through existing research:

"TAP has brought the faculty together. It has united us. It has made me feel like a stronger teacher. Even with 34 years of experience, I can learn new techniques."
— Teacher, Crockett Elementary School, Bryan, Texas
  1. Performance compensation is most effective when integrated with professional development, collaboration and evaluation as a comprehensive approach to system-wide improvement.
  2. Wide stakeholder involvement is essential to the design, implementation and effectiveness of compensation reform efforts.
  3. Financial incentives reward additional work and success, but are valued as a component of a broader emphasis on improving teaching and learning.
  4. Nearly all of the sites created teacher leader positions with significant additional compensation to provide school-based support, evaluation and oversight for instructional improvement.
  5. Success in implementing these challenging reforms with fidelity is enhanced when states and districts provide staff positions, offer programmatic support and tie local efforts to state policies and funding.
  6. Financial sustainability is enhanced when state and district funds are reallocated to support performance compensation reforms.

In addition to providing states and districts with insight into designing and implementing effective performance-based compensation systems, this report offers powerful evidence of TAP's impressive gains in teacher and student achievement.