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Teacher Incentive Program in Chicago
Final Report Shows Teacher Retention Boost, No Overall Impact on Student Achievement

Contact: Amy Berridge, (609) 945-3378

WASHINGTON, DC—March 7, 2012—A final report from Mathematica Policy Research on the Chicago Teacher Advancement Program (Chicago TAP) found that the program increased teacher retention in some schools. For example, teachers in Chicago TAP schools at the start of the program in fall 2007 were about 20 percent more likely than teachers in comparison schools to be in those same schools three years later (67 percent retention rate versus 56 percent). However, the program did not have an impact on student achievement overall within the four-year rollout period in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

Chicago TAP aimed to improve schools by raising teacher quality. It provided teachers with opportunities for professional growth, promotion to school leadership roles, structured feedback, mentoring, and performance-based pay, program aspects that may have contributed to higher teacher retention rates. More than 200 schools around the country have implemented the national TAP model on which Chicago TAP was originally based. Funded primarily by a federal Teacher Incentive Fund grant, CPS implemented Chicago TAP as a pilot program intended for 40 high need schools. The program began in 2007 in 10 schools with a rollout plan to add 10 new Chicago TAP schools each year of the grant’s four-year period.

Although Chicago TAP increased the amount of mentoring, promotion opportunities, and compensation in participating schools relative to non-TAP schools, the program did not implement its performance-based pay component as initially intended. Average teacher performance awards were smaller than the originally stated targets, never exceeding $1,500 in the first year of a school’s implementation or $2,700 in subsequent years. The maximum payout never exceeded $2,700 in the first year of implementation or $6,400 in subsequent years of implementation. In addition, the teacher value-added component was not implemented because the data needed to reliably link students and teachers were not available. Payouts each year were tied to value added calculated at the school or school-grade level, not at the classroom level as originally planned.

“This report offers policy makers insight on the successes and limitations of a particular district’s experience implementing a popular national school reform model,” said Allison Seifullah, an author of the study and a senior researcher at Mathematica. “Overall, Chicago TAP helped retain teachers, but it fell short of its goal of improving student achievement.”

The study, funded by a grant from the Joyce Foundation, evaluated Chicago TAP using rigorous methods and data gathered from student test score files, teacher surveys, and administrative records on CPS teachers and Chicago TAP participants. Mathematica randomly assigned 34 elementary (K–8) schools to their initial Chicago TAP implementation year. To complement the experimental analysis, the research team created a comparison sample from a pool of nearly 400 additional schools by matching them to the Chicago TAP schools according to prior student achievement, prior teacher retention, school size, and student demographics.

About Mathematica: Mathematica Policy Research, a nonpartisan research firm, provides a full range of research and data collection services, including program evaluation and policy research, survey design and data collection, research assessment and interpretation, and  program performance/data management, to improve public well-being. Its clients include federal and state governments, foundations, and private-sector and international organizations. The employee-owned company, with offices in Princeton, N.J.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Cambridge, Mass.; Chicago, Ill.; Oakland, Calif.; and Washington, D.C.; has conducted some of the most important studies of education, disability, health care, family support, employment, nutrition, and early childhood policies and programs.