Promoting Educator Effectiveness: The Effect of Two Key Strategies

Alison Wellington and Hanley Chiang, Mathematica Policy Research

Image of smiling African American teacher with studentHaving a more effective teacher or principal can substantially improve students’ academic outcomes. The Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) program provided competitive grants to help states and districts implement a multi-strategy approach to enhancing educator effectiveness. TIF grantees were required to measure educator performance and use this information to make decisions about the support and compensation they provide for educators. The Teacher and School Leaders (TSL) Incentive Grants program, which replaced TIF, provides grants to eligible entities to develop, implement, improve, or expand performance-based compensation systems and human capital management systems in schools.

This brief brings together the findings of two studies from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) that examined specific strategies supported by TIF. One study, The Impact of Providing Performance Feedback to Teachers and Principalsexamined the effects of using research-based performance measures to evaluate educators and provide them with feedback. The second study evaluated the effects of offering bonuses to educators based on their performance ratings.

Although no single large-scale study has evaluated the effects of a full, comprehensive program, these studies can provide insight on the potential effects of two strategies that are prominent in such programs. In addition, evidence from both studies suggests areas of potential improvement for programs that support or expand human capital initiatives in schools and highlights potential avenues for future research.

Key Findings

  • Providing educators with performance feedback and offering pay-for-performance bonuses can improve student achievement. Across years of implementation, each tested strategy sometimes had a positive cumulative impact on students’ math or reading achievement.
  • Features of the measures or programs and on-the-ground implementation may limit the effectiveness of the program strategies. Both studies provided evidence that the policy as implemented differed in some ways from the approach envisioned. For example, in the pay-for-performance study, about 40 percent of the teachers were unaware they were eligible to receive a performance bonus.
  • Educators can be receptive to some of the evaluation and compensation strategies supported by TIF and TSL. Sixty-five to 84 percent of the educators reported being satisfied with the feedback they received on their practices. In addition, pay-for-performance ultimately led to improvements in teachers’ satisfaction with some aspects of their jobs.