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Performance Pay and Teachers' Effort, Productivity and Grading Ethics

  • Victor Lavy

Performance-related incentive pay for teachers is being introduced in many countries, but there is little evidence of its effects. This paper evaluates a rank-order tournament among teachers of English, Hebrew, and mathematics in Israel. Teachers were rewarded with cash bonuses for improving their students' performance on high-school matriculation exams. Two identification strategies were used to estimate the program effects, a regression discontinuity design and propensity score matching. The regression discontinuity method exploits both a natural experiment stemming from measurement error in the assignment variable and a sharp discontinuity in the assignment-to-treatment variable. The results suggest that performance incentives have a significant effect on directly affected students with some minor spillover effects on untreated subjects. The improvements appear to derive from changes in teaching methods, after-school teaching, and increased responsiveness to students' needs. No evidence found for teachers' manipulation of test scores. The program appears to have been more cost-effective than school-group cash bonuses or extra instruction time and is as effective as cash bonuses for students.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10622.

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Date of creation: Jul 2004
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Publication status: published as Lavy, Victor. "Performance Pay and Teachers' Effort, Productivity, and Grading Ethics." American Economic Review 99, 5 (2009): 1979-2011.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10622
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  1. Brian A. Jacob & Steven D. Levitt, 2003. "Rotten Apples: An Investigation of the Prevalence and Predictors of Teacher Cheating," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 843-877.
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  3. Jensen, M.C. & Murphy, K.J., 1988. "Performance Pay And Top Management Incentives," Papers 88-04, Rochester, Business - Managerial Economics Research Center.
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  5. Joshua D. Angrist & Victor Lavy, 1999. "Using Maimonides' Rule to Estimate the Effect of Class Size on Scholastic Achievement," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(2), pages 533-575.
  6. Derek Neal & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, 2007. "Left Behind By Design: Proficiency Counts and Test-Based Accountability," NBER Working Papers 13293, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Brian A. Jacob & Steven D. Levitt, 2003. "Rotten Apples: An Investigation of the Prevalence and Predictors of Teacher Cheating," NBER Working Papers 9413, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  10. Lavy, Victor & Schlosser, Analia, 2004. "Targeted Remedial Education for Underperforming Teenagers: Costs and Benefits," CEPR Discussion Papers 4381, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  11. Atkinson, Adele & Burgess, Simon & Croxson, Bronwyn & Gregg, Paul & Propper, Carol & Slater, Helen & Wilson, Deborah, 2009. "Evaluating the impact of performance-related pay for teachers in England," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 251-261, June.
  12. James J. Heckman & Hidehiko Ichimura & Petra Todd, 1998. "Matching As An Econometric Evaluation Estimator," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 65(2), pages 261-294.
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  24. Robert Gibbons, 1998. "Incentives in Organizations," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(4), pages 115-132, Fall.
  25. Angrist, Joshua & Lavy, Victor, 2004. "The Effect of High Stakes High School Achievement Awards: Evidence from a School-Centered Randomized Trial," IZA Discussion Papers 1146, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  26. Victor Lavy, 2002. "Evaluating the Effect of Teachers' Group Performance Incentives on Pupil Achievement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(6), pages 1286-1317, December.
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