The June issue of the RAND Corporation’s Congressional Education Newsletter informs members of the US Congress that pay for performance for teachers in US schools is not working.
The newsletter reports on three trial pay for performance schemes that have been evaluated by RAND researchers. The three experiments took different approaches, focusing on individual teacher, team-level, and whole school performance. It states:
What RAND has learned is that paying teachers to improve student performance did not lead to increases in student achievement and did not change what teachers did in their classrooms relative to the control groups in any of the three experiments.
The trials were the Schoolwide Performance Bonus Program in New York City; the Project on Incentives in Teaching in the Metropolitan Nashville School System; and the Round Rock Pilot Project on Team Incentives in the Round Rock Independent School District in Texas.
The latest of these studies is the Round Rock trial. It is the first to look at the effects of bonus pay for teams of teachers on student achievement and teacher practices and attitudes. The idea behind the trial was that it is more appropriate to reward teams of teachers rather than individual teachers because usually several teachers share responsibility for a group of students and it is impossible to distinguish individual teacher effects.
A team from RAND and Vanderbilt University working through the National Center for Performance Incentives conducted an experimental evaluation of such a scheme in the Round Rock Independent School District, a suburban district near Austin, Texas, with above-average levels of student achievement for the state. In Round Rock middle schools, multi-disciplinary teams of teachers each worked with a distinct group of students. Starting in August 2008, the project implemented two one-year randomized controlled trials to examine the effect of a team-level teacher pay-for-performance intervention on middle school student achievement.
Over the two years, the study included 159 teams of teachers instructing students in grades 6 to 8 in nine middle schools. The incentive program offered teachers on selected teams the opportunity to earn a bonus based on their students’ growth in achievement in the four core subjects of mathematics, English language arts, science, and social studies, as measured by standardized tests. The teacher bonus offers ranged from $3,800 to $5,500.
Analysis of student achievement outcomes found that the intervention had no effect on student test scores in any of the subject areas across the two years of the experiment. Students instructed by teacher teams who were offered incentives scored slightly better on some standardized tests, but the differences were extremely small and not statistically significant.
Similarly, surveys revealed that bonuses had no significant effect on teachers’ reported practices and attitudes. Measured across five different categories — collaboration with other teachers, professional development, parent engagement, instructional practice, and perceptions of the intervention — the behaviour and attitudes of teachers who were eligible to win a bonus were similar to those of teachers who were not eligible to win.
This article draws on a research brief on the Round Rock trial published by RAND:
David M. Adamson, No Evidence That Incentive Pay for Teacher Teams Improves Student Outcomes.
A full report of the trial is available in a forthcoming article in the academic journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis:
Matthew G. Springer; John F. Pane; Vi-Nhuan Le; Daniel F. McCaffrey; Susan Freeman Burns; Laura S. Hamilton and Brian Stecher, Team Pay for Performance: Experimental Evidence From the Round Rock Pilot Project on Team Incentives.