Is the Teacher Incentive Fund a Good Investment?

edThe Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF), created in 2006 as a $600 million plan to “support efforts to develop and implement performance-based teacher and principal compensation systems in high-need schools” and bolstered in 2009 under the Obama Administration, has now been functioning long enough to evaluate some of its results.

Five districts are nearing the end of their initial grant periods: Algiers, Louisiana, Amphitheater Unified School District #10, Arizona, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, North Carolina, Guilford County Schools, North Carolina, and South Carolina TAP. Jonathan Eckert, former employee at the U.S. Department of Education, praises TIF as a “good investment.”

The following is from a related press release:

Approaches spurred by the federal Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) to change the ways that educators are trained, supported, evaluated and compensated are “good investments” to strengthen teaching and learning.

Based on Eckert’s expertise with the TIF program from his work at the U.S. Department of Education, “Increasing Educator Effectiveness: Lessons Learned from Teacher Incentive Fund Sites” examines the federal program’s impact on teachers, students and policy-at-large in nine different locations.  Five are nearing the end of their grants: Algiers, Louisiana (TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement), Amphitheater Unified School District #10, Arizona (Project EXCELL!), Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, North Carolina (Leadership for Educators’ Advanced Performance  [LEAP]), Guilford County Schools, North Carolina (Mission Possible), and South Carolina TAP.  Four are newer grantees, having received TIF funding in 2010: Henrico County, Virginia (Learning Leaders), Indiana Department of Education (TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement), Knox County TAP, Tennessee, and Louisiana TAP.

This is a follow-up to Eckert’s 2010 report, “Performance-Based Compensation: Design and Implementation at Six Teacher Incentive Fund Sites”, funded by the Joyce and Gates Foundations.  The new report monitors many of the same sites as they completed their five-year grants.

“With a growing body of research illustrating the importance of effective teachers and principals in driving increased student learning, TIF is an important federal commitment to more fully understanding how to use compensation systems and other supports to increase effective teaching in high-need schools,” said Eckert in the report.

“At the first five sites we have found states, districts, schools, and teachers who are adding significant value through increased collegiality, improved teaching practice, better professional development, and most importantly, increased student learning,” he continues.  “The four additional sites appear positioned to demonstrate similar results.  These are good investments that should be sustained.”

Common themes have emerged among all sites that have helped high-need schools improve instruction and develop a framework, through TIF, to support sustained increases in student academic performance.

1.      Rigorous and accurate evaluation must take place in order to provide educators with realistic and meaningful feedback on their performance and a clear path toward improvement.  Algiers educators attribute their growth to transparent analysis of formative and summative assessment through weekly job-embedded professional development aligned with extensive support.  Indiana is implementing a similar program.  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools credits much of its success to implementing TIF through the district’s curriculum and instruction instead of human resources.  This emphasis on teaching and learning facilitated significant improvement on the design and implementation of student learning objectives.

2.      Compensation is a key factor, but must be aligned with other aspects of human capital management to support improvements in instruction.  Amphitheater Unified School District Project EXCELL! schools have seen significant improvement in reading and math due to feedback through test scores, multiple evaluations, and weekly group meetings where teachers examine student work to identify areas for instructional improvement. Teachers and principals at Guilford County, North Carolina’s, Mission Possible schools are using data to improve practice with support at the school and district levels. As a result, they have demonstrated increased composite scores on state assessments and increased retention rates.  Amphitheater, Guilford County and Henrico are identifying areas for growth to provide instructional coaching.

3.      Supporting teachers as individuals as well as teams creates a collaborative environment that emphasizes learning and improvement.  All nine sites have created systems in which collaboration is prioritized, supported, and incentivized.  Teams of teachers meet at all of these sites, sometimes led by master or mentor teachers, to examine evidence and focus on student learning.

4.      Leadership positions with substantial autonomy and additional compensation attract effective educators to high-need schools.  Knox TAP, Tennessee, is using teacher leaders to drive impressive outcomes for students in high-need schools.  This is done through combining NIET’s resources with job-embedded professional development, career advancement, strategic compensation, and rigorous evaluation focused on growth to recognize and spread teaching expertise.

5.      The experiences of schools and districts implementing reforms can have a significant impact on policy at the state and local level.  South Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana and Louisiana have taken lessons learned over the past six years at their local TAP sites to inform state policies around evaluation and compensation.

Download the full report on the NIET site at

The 2010 report is located at–J6WooDNZwXcP1owRZAiNwvQzTFlgzGmDeLxYI4IWBiwHR75JkHoUUGAaeBl0s2C548vsAQAAS_r1PJ9W-bsvj2XQJ3cAF2tdl40lMZ74qDg==