Thomas Dee and James Wycoff ask whether teachers respond to the incentives built into Washington, D.C.’s IMPACT teacher evaluation program. Their answer is yes–big time.
As a reminder, DC put in place a program in which all teachers receive serious, multifaceted evaluations. (For some teachers value-added plays a significant role in the evaluation, but for most it does not.) Teachers rated ineffective lose their job. Teachers rated minimally effective lose their job if they don’t earn a rating of effective or better the following year. Teachers rated highly effective earned a permanent salary boost if they kept that highly effective rating a second year. And the salary boost could be as large as $27,000 a year.
Dee and Wycoff looked at teachers rated minimally effective, but close to the minimally effective/effective boundary, to see what they did to avoid being fired for failing to improve. Then they looked at teachers rated highly effective, but close to the effective/highly effective border, to see what they did to try for that big salary boost from a second highly effective rating.
The authors found two effects for the teachers at risk of losing their jobs. First, there was an 11 percentage point increase in voluntary quits. That’s an increase of 50 percent over the number of quits that would otherwise have been expected. Second, those teachers who stayed improved their IMPACT ratings by about a quarter of a standard deviation.
What about teachers with a shot at a second highly effective rating and the accompanying raise? They also improved their IMPACT ratings by about a quarter of a standard deviation.
What makes IMPACT different from many earlier incentive programs is that the carrots and sticks are both large. And the idea that the program will be around for a while is credible. Dee and Wyckoff provide the first evidence that teachers respond strongly to such large incentives.