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Offering teachers a retention bonus to stay at low-performing schools may increase test score gains among students in both reading and mathematics, according to a new study.
Walker Swain, an assistant professor at the University of Georgia, along with researchers at New York University and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, examined the effects of offering a one-time, $5,000 selective retention bonus to teachers at high-poverty schools in Tennessee.
Evidence - Teachers - Bonuses - Math - Teachers
"We initially found compelling evidence that top-rated teachers who received bonuses, especially reading and math teachers, were more likely to come back than near-top-rated teachers who just barely missed being eligible," said Swain, who teaches in the College of Education's department of lifelong education, administration and policy. "That sort of sharp eligibility cutoff is great for evaluation, but it also is an important reminder that differentiated pay can be pretty arbitrary."
In 2012, the Tennessee Department of Education designated $2.1 million from the federal Race to the Top Competition to a one-year pilot program, which offered the highest-rated teachers at "priority schools"—or schools that had the lowest test scores in the state—a retention bonus to decrease turnover rates and elevate student performance.
Teachers - Retention - Bonuses - Scores - Tennessee
High-performing teachers who were offered retention bonuses received top scores on Tennessee's evaluation model, which includes principal observations in class, student perception surveys, reviews of prior evaluations, as well as student test score growth.
Those who received the bonuses were required to stay at their schools the following year. After the first year of the program, Swain and his colleagues evaluated the impact of the pilot program on both teacher turnover rates and later student learning growth in high-poverty schools. Of the 473 teachers who were eligible for the bonus, 321 were retained and paid the $5,000 bonus.
Math - Side - Increase - Retention
"What we saw on the math side was this increase in teacher retention initially, and then...
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