A new study from the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER) has found that performance-based pay incentives in one of the nation’s largest school districts helped schools attract and retain effective teachers and significantly boost student achievement.
CALDER researchers Andrew Morgan, Minh Nguyen, Eric Hanushek, Ben Ost, and Steven Rivkin examined the impact of the Dallas Independent School District’s Accelerating Campus Excellence (ACE) program implemented in the district’s lowest performing schools in two waves starting in 2016.
Eighty percent of teachers and principals were replaced at the schools under the program. To be selected as replacement staff, educators had to undergo a rigorous screening progress. But successful candidates received $2,000 signing bonuses plus annual stipends based on their role and evaluation scores, additional compensation that could reach $10,000 a year.
The researchers found the program led to large, immediate improvements in student achievement at ACE elementary schools, bringing student performance up to the district average in just a few years.
The authors also found that the stipends were key for educator retention. When stipends were removed from ACE schools, teacher turnover increased and test scores fell substantially.
The study points to the value of performance-based pay in strengthening teaching in hard-to-staff schools—no small task given states’ current teacher recruitment and retention challenges.