Thursday, December 17, 2015

Retention bonuses work best for teachers of tested subjects and grades

This study reports findings from a quasi-experimental evaluation of the recently implemented $5,000 retention bonus program for effective teachers in Tennessee’s Priority Schools.

The study concludes that there is little overall effect of the bonus. However, for teachers of tested subjects and grades, the program has a consistently positive effect that is both statistically and substantively significant.

The authors hypothesize that the null finding for the overall effect is driven by teachers of untested subjects and grades given the amount of weight Tennessee’s teacher evaluation system attributes to school-level performance. This creates a strong incentive to exit the Priority Schools that are by definition low performing.

Implementation concerns, including the timing of application process and observed noncompliance in bonus distribution, present obstacles for both the program’s effectiveness and its evaluation.

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