Individual Teacher Incentives And Student Performance
by David N. Figlio, Lawrence KennyÂ
This paper is the first to systematically document the relationship between individual teacher performance incentives and student achievement using United States data.Â We combine data from the National Education Longitudinal Survey on schools, students, and their families with our own survey conducted in 2000 regarding the use of teacher incentives.Â This survey on teacher incentives has unique data on frequency and magnitude of merit raises and bonuses, teacher evaluation, and teacher termination.Â We find that test scores are higher in schools that offer individual financial incentives for good performance.Â Moreover, the estimated relationship between the presence of merit pay in teacher compensation and student test scores is strongest in schools that may have the least parental oversight.Â The association between teacher incentives and student performance could be due to better schools adopting teacher incentives or to teacher incentives eliciting more effort from teachers; it is impossible to rule out the former explanation with our cross sectional data.
In other words, schools with merit pay have better outcomes, but we can’t be sure there’s a causal effect. Another approach would be to find a natural experiment, in which some schools switch from uniform salary schedules to merit pay. Does anyone know of a good natural experiment?