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National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance

Evaluation Studies of the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance

Impact Evaluation of the Teacher Incentive Fund

Contractor: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.; Vanderbilt University

Background/Research Questions:

The Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) is authorized by Title V, Part D of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and annual appropriations acts. The purpose of the TIF program is to develop and implement performance-based compensation systems (PBCSs) for teachers, principals, and other personnel in high-need schools.

Research indicates that high quality teachers are critical to raising student achievement in low-performing schools, but schools most in need often have difficulty in attracting and retaining high-quality teachers. Performance pay is a policy promoted by the TIF program to improve the quality of educators in high-need schools. This evaluation studies performance pay that provides substantial and differentiated bonus pay to high-performing educators in low-performing schools with high-need students. The study will address the following:

  • What are the characteristics of all 2010 TIF districts and their performance-based compensation systems? What implementation experiences and challenges did TIF districts encounter?
  • How do teachers and principals in schools that did or did not offer pay-for-performance bonuses compare on key dimensions, including their understanding of TIF program features, exposure to TIF activities, allocation of time, and attitudes toward teaching and the TIF program?
  • What is the impact of pay-for-performance bonuses on students' achievement on state assessments of math and reading?
  • How do pay-for-performance bonuses affect educator mobility, including whether mobility differs by educator effectiveness?


The evaluation effort includes two separate teams: the implementation team to support fidelity of implementation to each grantee's proposed PBCS consistent with the evaluation study, and the evaluation team to rigorously study the PBCS policy. Study schools were randomly assigned within a grant to either implement all components of the performance based compensation system (PBCS) or the PBCS with a 1% across-the board bonus instead of the differentiated effectiveness incentive component of the PBCS. Data collection includes a district survey of all 2010 TIF grantees and the following data collection for schools participating in the random assignment study: teacher and principal surveys, teacher and principal school assignment records, student Record Information (such as student demographics and student test scores), and grantee interviews. Annual data collection will be used to document implementation information as well as to conduct impact analyses.

Cost/Duration: $13,700,000 over 6 1/2 years (December 2009–May 2017)

Current Status: Data analyses are underway for the third year of program implementation for a report to be released in fall 2016. The first report was released on September 16, 2014. ( The second report was released on September 24, 2015. ( Additional reports will be announced on

Key Findings: The second report provides ongoing implementation information and initial impacts on student achievement and teacher retention.

The main findings among all TIF districts with 2010 awards are:

  • Ninety percent of all TIF districts in 2012–2013 reported implementing at least 3 of the 4 required components for teachers, and only about one-half (52 percent) reported implementing all four. This was a slight improvement from the first year of implementation.
  • Near the end of the second year of implementation, 65 percent of TIF districts reported that sustainability of the program was a major challenge. In contrast, no more than one-third of districts reported that other activities related to their program were a major challenge.

For the subset of 10 districts that agreed to participate in a random assignment study, key findings on the effect of pay-for-performance on educators include the following:

  • Few evaluation districts structured pay-for-performance bonuses to align well with TIF guidance in the grant competition notice.
  • Educators' understanding of key program components improved from the first to the second year, but many teachers still did not understand that they were eligible for a bonus. They also continued to underestimate how much they could earn from performance bonuses.
  • Offering educators pay-for-performance had small, positive impacts on their students' reading achievement; impacts on students' math achievement were not statistically significant but similar in magnitude.