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Abstract

The Project on Incentives in Teaching (POINT) was a three-year study conducted in the Metropolitan Nashville School System from 2006–2007 through 2008–2009, in which middle school mathematics teachers voluntarily participated in a controlled experiment to assess the effect of financial rewards for teachers whose students showed unusually large gains on standardized tests. The experiment was intended to test the notion that rewarding teachers for improved scores would cause scores to rise. It was up to participating teachers to decide what, if anything, they needed to do to raise student performance — e.g., participate in more professional development, seek coaching, collaborate with other teachers, or simply reflect on their practices. Thus, POINT was focused on the notion that the absence of appropriate incentives is a significant problem in American education and that correcting the incentive structure would, in and of itself, constitute an effective intervention that improved student outcomes.

This document describes the design and implementation of POINT and details the study's main finding: By and large, students of teachers randomly assigned to the treatment group (eligible for bonuses) did not outperform students whose teachers were assigned to the control group (not eligible for bonuses). The authors discuss the validity of their findings and conclude with a discussion of their implications for education policy.

Posted here with permission from the National Center on Performance Incentives led by Vanderbilt University. Copyright 2010 Vanderbilt University.

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Originally published as: Teacher Pay for Performance: Experimental Evidence from the Project on Incentives in Teaching, September 21, 2010, Vanderbilt University.

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