Study: Bonuses boost retention, scores

More teachers stayed on the job and students’ scores improved modestly at Texas schools that offered performance pay, reports a study by researchers at Vanderbilt University, the University of Missouri and Rand Corp. Bigger bonuses — $3,000 and up — produced better results, “although a majority of districts chose to spread the money around to more teachers and give smaller payments,” notes the Dallas News.

The study cautioned, though, that achievement gains shown by merit pay schools were small and could have resulted in part from other initiatives at those schools. Student test scores are a primary factor in determining bonuses, a criterion that many teachers oppose.

The merit-pay plan strongly affected teacher retention:  “The probability of turnover surged among teachers who did not receive a DATE award, while it fell sharply among teachers who did receive such an award,” the researchers said.

Study: Teacher mentoring raises scores

Two years of mentoring for new teachers raises student scores in reading and math, according to an Institute of Education Sciences study (pdf) conducted by Mathematica.  However, the extra support “didn’t  make teachers more likely to stay in their schools, districts, or the profession — nor were they any more likely to report feeling prepared,” notes Education Week.

Comprehensive programs take a more-structured approach to new-teacher support and include a careful selection of teacher mentors, formative assessments to gauge teacher progress, and release time for mentors to observe their charges and provide feedback on their instruction.

This was the third year of the study, which included teachers in 13 states in medium and large urban districts. In the first two years, no effects were found. There were no gains for teachers who received only one year of mentoring.

Results appeared a year after teachers had stopped receiving mentoring and were equivalent to four percentile points in reading and eight in math.

“There is both good news and bad news in this study for policymakers,” said Steven Glazerman, senior researcher and lead author of the report. “Comprehensive induction, which can be quite expensive, did not help districts retain teachers or make them feel more satisfied or better prepared to teach compared to usual levels of new teacher support. However, the two-year intervention raised test scores, and that is often the bottom line for policymakers.”

The New Teacher Center, which provided induction support for some of the teachers, said results would have been stronger if not for delays in selecting and assigning mentors.