Research Shows Performance Bonuses for Teachers Can Improve Student Achievement

Dec 19, 2017

Teacher Incentive Fund Report Highlights

Research has revealed that effective teachers are critical to improving student achievement. Little evidence exists, however, about the best ways to help teachers be more effective, or about how schools that serve the students in most need can attract and retain the most effective teachers. Traditional salary schedules may not reward effective teaching—or give the most effective teachers incentives to work in high-need schools.

In 2006, Congress established the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF), which provides grants to support performance-based compensation systems for teachers and principals in high-need schools. Under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, Mathematica recently completed a study featuring an in-depth analysis of TIF’s implementation and the impacts of performance bonuses on educator effectiveness and student achievement.

Key findings include:

  • By the second year of implementation, performance bonuses improved reading and math achievement by 1 to 2 percentile points—the equivalent of about four weeks of additional learning.
  • Many teachers had only a limited understanding of the bonus program. For example, about 40 percent of teachers who were eligible to receive a bonus knew they could, and teachers typically thought the maximum bonus they could earn was about 40 percent of the actual maximum bonus.
  • Districts typically implemented most components of the performance-based compensation system throughout all four years of their programs. However, fewer than half the districts planned to keep offering performance bonuses once the grant was over.

A final report on the study, now released, highlights lessons these findings can offer for policies on performance-based compensation. The study also considered possible explanations for why performance bonuses in the TIF program had positive impacts on student achievementand why those impacts were not larger.

Click here to learn more about the study.

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