Bonuses for High Performing Teachers in the Worst Schools?

vandyVanderbilt University has recently put out a new study on teacher retention, which examined a Tennessee program that offered high-performing teachers in the state’s worst schools a $5,000 bonus to stay on another year. The program was fairly small and implementation was uneven, but researchers still found preliminary evidence of a positive effect.

Middle schools were slightly less likely to participate in the program than high schools, and schools with mostly lower socio-economic status were more likely to participate than were schools with more diversity of socio-economic status.

The bonus seemed to make the most difference to educators who taught a grade or subject covered by Tennessee’s standardized tests. Top teachers in that group were 24 percent more likely to remain in their struggling school than colleagues who received strong performance ratings but just missed qualifying for the bonus.

Given the impact the best teachers can have on student performance, the researchers concluded that the program was cost-effective. According to the report, “Teachers who accepted bonuses had overall teacher effectiveness ratings more than a full standard deviation above the state average, and the average teacher hired by Priority Schools was rated roughly two-thirds of a standard deviation below the state average.”

For the full working paper with the results, please click here: