Evaluation of the Teacher Incentive Fund: Implementation and Impacts of Pay-for-Performance After Two Years

Publisher: Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance
Sep 24, 2015
Hanley Chiang, Alison Wellington, Kristin Hallgren, Cecilia Speroni, Mariesa Herrmann, Steven Glazerman, and Jill Constantine

Key Findings:

  • Most teachers (over 60%) received a bonus, suggesting that bonuses were not challenging to earn. Although the average bonus was about $1,800, the highest performing teachers received much larger bonuses, more than 3 times the average bonus.
  • Educators’ understanding of the program improved, but challenges remain. In the program’s second year, more teachers understood their eligibility for bonuses and how they were being evaluated than in the first year. Yet more than one-third of teachers still did not understand they were eligible for a bonus. And teachers continued to underestimate the potential size of the bonuses, believing that the largest bonuses were only about two-fifths the size of the actual maximum bonuses awarded.

After two years of implementation in 10 TIF districts, offering pay-for-performance bonuses increased student reading achievement by 1 percentile point–a small gain of about three additional weeks of learning. The impact on math achievement was similar in magnitude but not statistically significant.

Some aspects of TIF implementation improved between the first and second years while other aspects continued to be challenging. The average bonus awarded to teachers was about 4% of average salary, less than the 5% recommended by TIF grant guidance for substantial bonuses. In the second year, substantially higher percentages of educators understood that they were eligible for a bonus, but many teachers in the evaluation districts (38%) were still not aware that they could earn a bonus. Teachers also continued to underestimate the size of the bonus they could earn.