Thomas S. Dee, of Stanford University, and James Wyckoff, of the University of Virginia, have sparked the debate on teacher evaluations with a new working paper which suggests that DCPS’ IMPACT teacher evaluations have proven effective to increase teacher performance and student test scores.
IMPACT is the most radical of various teacher incentive plans tied to multiple-measure teacher evaluations. Teachers are evaluated based on student test scores as well as observations and have the chance to gain bonuses as high as $25,000. Teachers who were judged as “highly effective,” which translated into being in roughly the top 16 percent, in two consecutive years did even better: they received raises that lifted their base pay by almost 30 percent over the next 15 years.
Dee and Wyckoff conclude that “high-powered incentives linked to multiple indicators of teacher performance can substantially improve the measured performance of the teaching work force.” Evaluation programs, they add, can bring “substantive and long-term educational and economic benefits” both by “avoiding the career-long retention of the lowest-performing teachers and through broad increases in teacher performance.”
This new study, although not peer-reviewed as of yet, offers the strongest support yet of incentive-based pay for teachers and represents a victory for those in favor of more corporate-style reforms to American schools. Because the results are preliminary and there is still a paucity of scholarly research on IMPACT, it is likely that opponents of corporate-based reform will continue their vociferous disagreement. Because of the continued relevance of Race to the Top and other federal grant programs, as well as flexibility waivers, methods of teacher evaluation and models of teacher incentive programs will continue to be hot-button issues.
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Following is a link to the working paper: