Do Financial Incentives Help Low-Performing Schools Attract and Keep Academically Talented Teachers?

Evidence from California

Published in: Journal of policy analysis and management, v. 29, no. 3, Summer 2010, p. 451-478

Posted on RAND.org on June 30, 2010

by Jennifer L. Steele, Richard J. Murnane, John B. Willett

This study capitalizes on a natural experiment that occurred in California between 2000 and 2002. In those years, the state offered a competitively allocated $20,000 incentive called the Governor's Teaching Fellowship (GTF) aimed at attracting academically talented, novice teachers to low-performing schools and retaining them in those schools for at least four years. Taking advantage of data on the career histories of 27,106 individuals who pursued California teaching licenses between 1998 and 2003, we use an instrumental variable strategy to estimate the unbiased impact of the GTF on the decisions of recipients to begin working in low-performing schools within 2 years after licensure program enrollment. We estimate that GTF recipients would have been less likely to teach in low-performing schools than observably similar counterparts had the GTF not existed, but that acquiring a GTF increased their probability of doing so by 28 percentage points. Examining retention patterns, we find that 75 percent of both GTF recipients and nonrecipients who began working in low-performing schools remained in such schools for at least four years.

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