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New book offers latest research on performance pay for teachers

Performance pay for teachers continues to gain momentum nationally despite the absence of a clear understanding of its impact on students, teachers and schools. A new book from the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University brings together the latest research on the topic to offer guidance for researchers, policymakers and practitioners seeking deeper understanding of the complexities surrounding this issue.

The book, Performance Incentives: Their Growing Impact on American K-12 Education, is edited by Matthew Springer, director of the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University, and was published this month by Brookings Institution Press.

“Teacher compensation reform has resurfaced as a strategy to enhance academic outcomes in the K-12 public school system. Yet, a sturdy and influential base of individuals and organizations remains fundamentally opposed to modifying the single-salary schedule,” Springer said. “This volume seeks to bridge the gap between these two camps by offering a vehicle for understanding the nuances of the debate while also informing policy and program development.”

“Teacher compensation needs reforming, including linking part of pay to teacher effectiveness in the classroom. Yet knowledge about how best to do so is still emerging,” Janet S. Hansen, vice president and director of education studies at the Committee for Economic Development, said. “This volume makes a major contribution to the discussion of how to link teacher pay and performance in a responsible and effective way.”

The book is divided into three sections: examinations of teacher compensation reform from multiple perspectives, including economic, legal, political, psychological and social; the development and design of pay-for-performance programs and policies; and case studies of performance pay and teacher retention programs in several states and abroad.

“Collectively, the chapters that comprise this volume provide the foundation for understanding many of the historical and current issues associated with teacher pay reform,” Springer wrote.

Specific topics addressed include the political positions of the two primary teachers associations, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, on compensation reform; legal issues; what policymakers are missing regarding performance incentive systems; how to design a program that rewards teachers based on student achievement; challenges for public schools; studies of programs in Texas, North Carolina, Arkansas and Florida; a comprehensive review of teacher incentive policies in developing countries, and more.

The book’s contributors include researchers from Duke University, Economic Policy Institute, Harvard University, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, National Bureau for Economic Research, RAND Corporation, SAS Institute, Texas A&M University, University of Arkansas, University of Chicago, University of Minnesota, University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University.

Springer is a research assistant professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development.

For more information about the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University and additional research on performance incentives, visit For more information about Peabody College, visit

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