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The Impact of School-based Financial Incentives on Teachers’ Strategic Moves: A Descriptive Analysis

by Eleanor S. Fulbeck & Meredith P. Richards - 2015

Background: Prior research has found that teacher dissatisfaction with low salaries is one reason for teacher turnover. Accordingly, policy makers have championed financial incentives as a way of increasing teachers’ job satisfaction and making the teaching profession and specific schools more attractive to current and potential teachers. Despite the enthusiasm for such incentive policies, empirical evidence of their effects on teacher mobility is mixed.

Purpose: In this study, we contribute to the extant literature on teacher financial incentives by shifting focus from the probability of teacher turnover to investigate how incentives, particularly school-based incentives, structure teachers’ patterns of mobility within districts. We explore the effects of financial incentives on teacher mobility patterns in the context of Denver’s Professional Compensation System for Teachers (“ProComp”), one of the most prominent alternative teacher compensation reforms in the nation.

Setting: Denver Public Schools, Denver, Colorado.

Population: Denver Public Schools classroom teachers employed in the district any time during 2006–2010, who were eligible to participate in the financial incentive program (regardless of whether they did), and who made at least one voluntary within-district move during the study period (n = 989).

Program: Since 2006, Denver’s ProComp program has offered teachers a variety of school-based and individual financial incentives. Specifically, in addition to incentives offered to teachers for their individual accomplishments, ProComp provides incentives of over $2,400 each for teachers that teach in top performing schools, high growth schools, and hard-to-serve schools. Because ProComp offers substantial incentives to teachers on the basis of school characteristics, it holds the potential to incentivize “strategic moves” to schools with more school-based incentives.

Research Design: The study employs a descriptive statistical research design.

Data Collection and Analysis: We use Denver Public Schools administrative data from 2005–2006 to 2009–2010 to estimate a series of conditional logit models predicting teachers’ moves as a function of their ProComp participation and the value of school-based incentives at the schools they leave and the schools they could potentially transfer to.

Findings: Our findings suggest ProComp participants tend to make more strategic moves to high value schools than their non-ProComp peers. However, these moves tend to be to schools that have high performance and growth in achievement, rather than to schools that receive incentives for serving low-income populations.

Conclusions: Results suggest that school-based ProComp incentives do influence strategic moves, albeit in ways not necessarily consistent with the program’s intent, calling into question the ability of ProComp to attract teachers to low-income schools under its current structure.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 117 Number 9, 2015, p. 1-40
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 18073, Date Accessed: 4/19/2021 5:53:40 PM

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About the Author
  • Eleanor Fulbeck
    American Institutes for Research
    E-mail Author
    ELEANOR S. FULBECK is a senior researcher in Education at American Institutes for Research (AIR). Her research focuses on exploring the effects of educational policies on educator human capital and the equitable distribution of teachers and students. She has recently published a companion study, "Teacher Mobility and Financial Incentives: A Descriptive Analysis of Denver’s ProComp," in the Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis journal.
  • Meredith Richards
    Southern Methodist University
    E-mail Author
    MEREDITH P. RICHARDS is an assistant professor of Education Policy and Leadership at Southern Methodist University. Her research focuses on exploring the effects of educational policies on equity and stratification in schools and situating policies in their metropolitan and geographic contexts. Her recent publications include The Fragmentation of Metropolitan Public School Districts and the Segregation of American Schools: A Longitudinal Analysis and An Accident of Geography? Assessing the Gerrymandering of Public School Attendance Zones, both in Teachers College Record.
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