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Incentives, Selection, and Teacher Performance: Evidence from IMPACT

  • Thomas Dee
  • James Wyckoff

Teachers in the United States are compensated largely on the basis of fixed schedules that reward experience and credentials. However, there is a growing interest in whether performance-based incentives based on rigorous teacher evaluations can improve teacher retention and performance. The evidence available to date has been mixed at best. This study presents novel evidence on this topic based on IMPACT, the controversial teacher-evaluation system introduced in the District of Columbia Public Schools by then-Chancellor Michelle Rhee. IMPACT implemented uniquely high-powered incentives linked to multiple measures of teacher performance (i.e., several structured observational measures as well as test performance). We present regression-discontinuity (RD) estimates that compare the retention and performance outcomes among low-performing teachers whose ratings placed them near the threshold that implied a strong dismissal threat. We also compare outcomes among high-performing teachers whose rating placed them near a threshold that implied an unusually large financial incentive. Our RD results indicate that dismissal threats increased the voluntary attrition of low-performing teachers by 11 percentage points (i.e., more than 50 percent) and improved the performance of teachers who remained by 0.27 of a teacher-level standard deviation. We also find evidence that financial incentives further improved the performance of high-performing teachers (effect size = 0.24).

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19529.

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Date of creation: Oct 2013
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Publication status: published as Thomas S. Dee & James Wyckoff, 2015. "Incentives, Selection, and Teacher Performance: Evidence from IMPACT," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 34(2), pages 267-297, 03.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19529
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  1. Jonah E. Rockoff, 2004. "The Impact of Individual Teachers on Student Achievement: Evidence from Panel Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 247-252, May.
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  8. Steven Glazerman & Daniel Mayer & Paul Decker, 2006. "Alternative routes to teaching: The impacts of Teach for America on student achievement and other outcomes," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 25(1), pages 75-96.
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  12. Rothstein, Jesse, 2012. "Teacher Quality Policy When Supply Matters," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt81q0f4bc, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
  13. Roland G. Fryer, Jr & Steven D. Levitt & John List & Sally Sadoff, 2012. "Enhancing the Efficacy of Teacher Incentives through Loss Aversion: A Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 18237, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. McCrary, Justin, 2008. "Manipulation of the running variable in the regression discontinuity design: A density test," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 698-714, February.
  15. Eric S. Taylor & John H. Tyler, 2012. "The Effect of Evaluation on Teacher Performance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(7), pages 3628-51, December.
  16. Daniel Aaronson & Lisa Barrow & William Sander, 2002. "Teachers and student achievement in the Chicago public high schools," Working Paper Series WP-02-28, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  17. Allison Atteberry & Susanna Loeb & James Wyckoff, 2013. "Do First Impressions Matter? Improvement in Early Career Teacher Effectiveness," NBER Working Papers 19096, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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