We wanted to let you know about a new report Public Impact prepared for the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices – now available on NGA’s website. The paper recommends a guiding principle for taking action on teacher compensation—pay for contribution. Pay for contribution means investing more in teachers and teaching roles that contribute measurably more to student learning. Pay for contribution is particularly attractive to higher contributors. For this reason, it can help shape not only the performance of current teachers, but also the quality of the future teaching workforce by shifting who enters and stays in the profession.
Nearly all of the prior writing about teacher pay has been stuck in a swirl of hypothesis (at best), opinion, and – most typically – political posturing. While limited research in education has begun, the field continues to ignore the large body of high-quality research from other sectors about how to use pay to get results. We actually know quite a lot, from rigorous quantitative research across sectors, about how to use pay to get better performance. By not tapping that knowledge, we are missing out on proven opportunities to boost kids’ learning.
This new paper isn’t just another opinion piece – we’re drawing on research to help governors and others craft pay plans that actually work. For each kind of pay for contribution, we examine what is known from cross-sector studies about how to use pay to get results. For example, there’s quite a bit of cross-sector research on one kind of pay for contribution – pay for performance. This research makes very clear that pay for performance has a significant positive effect on organizational results – it’s next to impossible to find credible counter-evidence. The positive effects come not just from improved results by current staff: performance pay also disproportionately attracts higher performers to enter jobs.
So the debate now really shouldn’t be about whether to move toward pay for performance in education, but how. This paper crisply summarizes the body of knowledge about “how.” For example, substantial research indicates that performance pay plans that get the best results provide substantial payoffs (i.e., not the token amounts many education plans include now), and reward high-average (not just stellar) performers. Bonuses work better than performance-based salary increases. And so on.
There’s more in the paper – not just on pay for performance, but on other kinds of “pay for contribution” as well, like getting results from paying more in hard to staff schools. Governors and others can use these lessons to design new pay plans with the best chance of getting results for students by improving the quality of teaching.
As always, we’re eager for your feedback on our work.
by Emily Ayscue Hassel and Bryan C. Hassel, Public Impact for National Governors Association Center for Best Practices