Flawed and Misleading Findings Mar Report on Pay-for-Performance Incentives

BOULDER, CO (February 27, 2018) – Evaluation of the Teacher Incentive Fund: Final Report on Implementation and Impact of Pay-for-Performance Across Four Years, published by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), evaluates four years of implementation of the Teacher Incentive Fund grant recipients in 2010, to determine whether pay-for-performance (PFP) bonuses to teachers and principals improve student achievement.

The IES report notes that the goal of PFP is to motivate improved educator performance and to attract and retain more effective teachers, thereby increasing student achievement. One of the report’s findings is that PFP marginally increased student test scores in reading and math by year two and that it was associated with slightly higher classroom observation ratings. Yet it also includes a finding that classroom observation ratings were not associated with student test scores and that PFP had no effect on filling teacher vacancies.

Professor Francesca López of the University of Arizona reviewed the report and these potentially interesting findings. She points to several problematic issues in the report’s analyses. The research, she explains, uses non-comparable sites and incorporates a “polyglot of outcome measures of questionable validity,” resulting in a lack of usefulness for policymakers.

Although several thorough analyses are presented, López expresses concern the data simply do not support the report’s “numerous implicit recommendations [suggesting that] PFP holds promise to address achievement disparities in high-need schools.” “To the contrary,” she writes, “the evidence is negligible.” Similarly, López explains that the report lacks support for its suggestion that PFP is more cost-effective than reducing class size.

Find the review, by Francesca A. López, at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-teacher-incentive

Find Evaluation of the Teacher Incentive Fund: Final Report on Implementation and Impact of Pay-for-Performance Across Four Years, written by Hanley Chiang, Cecilia Speroni, Mariesa Herrmann, Kristin Hallgren, Paul Burkander, & Alison Wellington of Mathematica Policy Research, and Elizabeth Warner of the Institute of Education Sciences, and published by the Institute of Education Sciences, at:
https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20184004/pdf/20184004.pdf

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: https://nepc.colorado.edu