NEPC Review: Transfer Incentives for High-Performing Teachers: Final Results from a Multisite Randomized Experiment
The Teacher Transfer Incentive project was designed to establish whether excellent teachers in large districts would transfer to low-performing schools for an additional stipend, whether they would remain at those schools, and whether they would have a positive impact. Results of this extensive and well-executed study are not encouraging. Of 1,500 teachers actively encouraged to transfer, 5% actually did. While 90% of transfer teachers stayed the full two years required to collect their full stipend, only 60% planned to stay for a third year, the same rate as for teachers not receiving the incentive. Elementary school students seem to have benefitted modestly from these teachers, but middle school students appear not to have benefitted. The results suggest that a financial incentive would have to remain in place longer to continue high teacher retention rates, making the program much more expensive. The study was too short to draw conclusions about long-term impact, and the use of only test scores as an outcome measure further limits policy usefulness. Finally, a transfer policy that implies winners and losers raises ethical questions beyond the reach of this particular study.