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Progress report on nation’s largest state-funded teacher performance pay program released

Paying teachers for their performance was supported by both presidential candidates in the 2008 election and is being tried in school districts across the nation. But the question remains—does it work? A second-year evaluation of Texas’ statewide performance pay program, the largest in the nation, released Dec. 1 reveals insights into whether these programs are beneficial and attractive to teachers.

"We found that most eligible schools – 90 percent – participated in the voluntary Texas Educator Excellence Grant program, indicating teachers and schools are very interested in this concept," Matthew Springer, lead author of the new report and director of the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, said. "We also found that continuity is important. Turnover in which schools are eligible to participate in the TEEG program is high from one program cycle to the next, which caused some teachers to feel uncertain about its benefits. We found that the TEEG program has been received most favorably in schools where the program was implemented for two consecutive years."

Not surprisingly, the size of the award was also important, as revealed by teacher turnover rates. "The probability of turnover increased sharply among teachers receiving no bonus award or a relatively small award, while it greatly decreased among teachers receiving large bonus awards," Springer said.

In addition to data about TEEG, the report includes background information about the District Awards for Teacher Excellence, or D.A.T.E., program. Both programs are state funded and provide grants to schools and districts to design and implement performance pay plans. TEEG is now in its third year; D.A.T.E. is in its first. The TEEG program distributes almost $100 million annually in one-year grants to approximately 1,000 schools. The D.A.T.E. program provides $147.5 million annually. Just over 200 districts are currently participating in D.A.T.E. These districts comprise about 50 percent of public k-12 students enrolled in Texas.

School and district officials are given flexibility on how to structure and implement the performance pay programs in their individual schools. Springer and his colleagues studied how differences in program design impacted teachers’ attitudes toward performance pay policies, their reported satisfaction with the TEEG program and their professional practice.

"Some of the most significant areas we have found so far associated with program success are how schools determine teachers’ eligibility for awards, how those awards are structured and how schools are selected to participate in the programs," Springer said. At the same time, he cautions about placing too much weight on year two results. "We need to remain patient, remembering what looks promising in the short-run may not be the case in later years. More time is needed to determine the full potential of bonus programs such as TEEG."

The report presents findings of the first two years of a planned five-year study being conducted by NCPI under a contract with the Texas Education Agency. Scholars from Texas A&M University, University of Missouri – Columbia, and Corporation for Public School Education K-16 were key collaborators on the report. Data about the impact of the TEEG program on student performance is still being collected and analyzed.

"Future evaluation initiatives will continue to explore how the unique characteristics of these state-funded programs – and the plans designed by their participants – influence the quality of teaching and student learning within Texas public schools," Springer said.

A report detailing NCPI’s evaluation findings of the Governor’s Educator Excellence Grant program – a state-funded performance pay program that operated in 99 Texas public schools from 2005-06 to 2007-08 school years – will be released in spring 2009. The report focuses on outcomes related to teacher attitudes and behavior, institutional and organizational dynamics, teacher turnover and student achievement gains.

The National Center on Performance Incentives was created in 2006 with a five-year, $10 million grant from the United States Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. It is led by Executive Director James Guthrie and Director Matthew Springer. For more information on the National Center on Performance Incentives and to view a full copy of the report, visit

For more information about Peabody College, visit

A full copy of the report also is posted at

Media Contact: Melanie Moran, (615) 322-NEWS