The Search Continues for Improving Educator Effectiveness

March 22, 2018

Promoting Educator Effectiveness: The Effects of Two Key Strategies

The National Center for Education Evaluation, a division of the Institute of Education Sciences has released a new research brief that evaluated two strategies for improving educator effectiveness as measured by improvements in student outcomes.  The two strategies evaluated were performance feedback to educators about several dimensions of their performance for a period of two years and a pay-for-performance system that was in place for four years.  In the performance feedback project teachers were given feedback four times per year on their classroom practices and principals received feedback two times per year.  The impact on student outcomes were small.  After the first year, there was a statistically significant difference between students in math but not in reading in the feedback schools compared to the schools that served as the control group as measured by end of year scores.  At the end of the second year there were no statistically significant effects for either reading or math.  The net gain in math achievement for the students in the feedback schools was about 4 weeks compared to the control group.

The pay-for-performance study teachers were eligible for performance bonuses based on their ratings across multiple dimensions of their performance.  The students in the pay-for-performance schools outperformed the students in the control group schools in both math and reading.  Statistically significant scores were obtained in reading beginning the first year and each subsequent year through the third year.  Students math scores in the pay-for-performance schools achieved statistically significant scores only at the end of the third year.  There was no additional benefit in reading or math for pay-for-performance in the fourth year.  The overall benefit of the gains by the students in the pay-for-performance schools was estimated to be 3-4 weeks.  Again, this is a relatively small impact. It was noted that the quality of implementation may have reduced the impact of the two projects.  Across both studies, there were discrepancies between how the programs were intended to be implemented and how they were actually implemented.   Further limitations of the studies are that the performance feedback for teachers was only four times per year.  This is generally considered to be far too infrequent to have meaningful impact.  In the pay-for-performance study, 40% of the teachers reported that they were not aware they were eligible for bonuses, limiting the motivational properties of the bonus system.  Given these results it is clear that we must continue searching for effective approaches to improving educator performance and ways to assure high quality implementation.

Citation: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences (March 2018).  Promoting Educator Effectiveness: The Effects of Two Key Strategies.