From the Field

Can Bonuses for Teachers Influence Student Success?

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Research tells us that high-quality teachers are crucial to student achievement. Research shows us that disadvantaged students–children of color and those from low-income families–have less exposure to high-quality teachers than other students do. And the best teachers often leave these schools. A recent study by Walker A. Swain, Luis A.Rodriguez and Matthew G. Springer examines what happened to student achievement when a school district in Tennessee gave selective retention bonuses to highly effective teachers.

They found evidence that participation in the bonus program drove improvements in student achievement, particularly in reading test scores, which improved significantly more in schools participating in bonus program than in otherwise similar schools in the years following implementation. These effects also appear to persist at least one year after the teacher retention incentives are removed. Impacts on math scores were smaller.

The authors concluded that the results, while modest, demonstrate that targeted incentive could be an effective tool for reducing teacher turnover and improving student learning.