NIET Notes Performance-based Compensation Can Have a Positive Impact on Teaching and Learning, Particularly When Part of a Comprehensive Effort
Mathematica Policy Research released a five-year study of the federal Teacher Incentive Fund program demonstrating a positive impact from a range of performance-based compensation reform approaches put in place by multiple grantees. The Mathematica study of the TIF program examined whether one component – performance-based compensation – could be isolated and measured in terms of its impact on student learning. The study looked at selected grantees whose five-year grants were awarded in 2010 and found that performance-based compensation had a positive impact on student learning, resulting in approximately four weeks of additional learning growth per year.
NIET has worked with districts across multiple states to use TIF grants to implement the TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement. TAP supports districts to use performance-based measures and align their approaches to professional development, observation and feedback, teacher leadership and career advancement, and compensation.
As an organization that has worked with district partners to use TIF grants to build more effective systems and processes for supporting teacher and school leader growth and improvement, we are encouraged by the Mathematica report’s finding that performance-based compensation has been found to be one positive piece of the puzzle. In our experience, however, performance-based compensation has the greatest impact when connected to other elements including clear and detailed teaching standards illustrating what strong performance looks like in the classroom, an accurate and fair observation system that uses trained and certified evaluators, and support that actually enables educators to improve measurably.
In our own work with districts using TIF funds, we have seen larger impacts on student learning growth when the full TIF-supported reform is measured, combining performance-based compensation with support for teachers to improve their practice through professional development, opportunities for career advancement, and clear, detailed evaluations and feedback. More importantly, these improvements increase over time. Specifically, we see TIF-supported TAP schools outperform control schools in the first year, but their improved performance accelerates over time, as educators improve their teaching practice and student achievement increases.
Student Achievement Growth in New and Continuing TAP Schools
NIET and our district partners have also found that teacher retention is significantly improved in districts that have used TIF grants and the TAP System to restructure their human capital management systems around improvement. Retention in TAP schools is significantly higher than in comparable high-need schools, and higher than the national average retention rate.
Increased Retention in TAP Schools Relative to National Average and High-need Schools
We are encouraged by the Mathematica report’s finding that using performance-based compensation was found to have a positive impact on student achievement; however, as we have learned from our decades of work to improve educator effectiveness, we know that to support larger student achievement and educator effectiveness gains, performance-based compensation should be used by districts as one element of a comprehensive approach.