Do Teacher Retention Bonuses Keep High Quality Teachers in High Poverty Schools?

August 25, 2021

Effective teacher retention bonuses: Evidence from Tennessee. The data are clear that students in high poverty schools perform worse on most measures of educational attainment; however, the discrepancy between high poverty schools and more affluent schools is reduced when there are quality teachers in the high poverty schools.  The challenge is that teachers leave these schools at a higher rate.  This turnover contributes to the poor outcomes for students in high poverty schools. Recruiting and training replacement teachers is an expensive proposition for districts.  One approach to increasing retention in high poverty schools is to offer retention bonuses to teachers in these schools.  There are two questions with respect to the use of retention bonuses: 1) are they effective over the long term, and 2) does having a more stable teachering corps increase student outcomes?  A recent report examined the impact of teacher retention bonuses in Tennessee (Springer, Swain, & Rodriguez, 2016).  The main findings are that teachers that participated in the retention bonus program were significantly more likely to stay in their school than teachers who did not participate.  Importantly, the students in the classrooms of participating teachers had significantly higher academic gains than students of non-participating teachers.  Looking at these data through the Active Implementation Frameworks lens, the retention bonus represents a usable innovation.  The teacher retention bonuses are also an element of the Competency driver, specifically Selection.  Finally, this innovation links to the Organizational driver since to effectively implement it, the innovation has to be considered a system level intervention.

Citation: Springer, M. G., Swain, W. A., & Rodriguez, L. A. (2016). Effective teacher retention bonuses: Evidence from Tennessee. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis38(2), 199-221.