Incentives, Selection, and Teacher Performance 2015


Incentives, Selection, and Teacher Performance: Evidence from IMPACT

Article first published online: January 28, 2015

Thomas S. Dee, Ph.D., Professor, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education & Jim Wyckoff, Curry Memorial Professor of Education and Policy, and Director of Ed Policy Works, University of Virginia

What was the genesis of the idea for your research/paper?

My co-author, James Wyckoff, and I first began conceiving this project when we observed the controversial and high-profile roll-out of IMPACT under the Chancellor of DC Public Schools, Michelle Rhee. She resigned soon after IMPACT began (and before our engagement with DCPS began). However, what allowed our initial ideas to proceed is that Jim and I were able to form an effective partnership with the leadership at DC Public Schools with whom we have a shared interest in using rigorous research to inform our an understanding assessment of this uniquely seminal system for teacher performance assessment.

What is the main conclusion that becomes evident from your research? (Or, what is your main takeaway?)

The main conclusion of our study is that carefully designed and implemented performance assessments of teachers can drive meaningful improvements in the quality of the teacher workforce when linked to high-powered incentives.

What are some of the more interesting or surprising findings/conclusions did you find in the process of bringing this together?

What most surprised me was what I learned about IMPACT from our careful study of its particular features. This program is arguably the first of its kind yet its design was surprisingly prescient of what we are beginning to learn about the validity and reliability of different measures of teacher performance. In particular, I think that privileging structured observations of instructional practices (e.g., relative to value-added test scores) has been a compelling design feature. It gives teachers a clear way to respond to the performance feedback they receive as well as their incentives because it focuses on what they control most directly: the quality of their instructional practice. Despite the focus of much of the popular press on forced dismissals of teachers in Washington, our research shows the design of the system has led to substantial improvements in teachers’ skills.

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Authors' Bios

Thomas S. Dee, Ph.D., is a Professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education and a research associate with the programs on education, children, and health at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). He is a former co-editor at the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management (JPAM) and currently serves on the editorial boards for JPAM, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, and Educational Researcher. His research focuses on the use of quasi-experimental and experimental methods to inform policy debates in education. His current research focuses on school-turnaround initiatives, new systems of teacher performance assessment, the Common Core State Standards and online education.

Twitter: @Thomas_S_Dee


Jim Wyckoff is the Curry Memorial Professor of Education and Policy, and Director of Ed Policy Works at the University of Virginia and is a member of CALDER, the IES sponsored research center on teachers. His research explores the effects of education policy on the recruitment, retention and improvement of teachers whose students are disproportionately poor. He has served on four National Research Council panels examining a variety of educational issues and was a president of the Association for Education Finance and Policy.

Twitter: @jhwyckoff


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