Most school districts continue the long-standing practice of determining teacher pay based on years of service and education level. However, some districts, schools, and states have begun experimenting with systems that tie bonuses or salary increases to measures of student achievement as a way to align incentives with goals for improving student learning.

Advocates of these types of pay-for-performance systems argue that the status quo provides little incentive for educators to focus on improving student achievement. Opponents claim that performance-based compensation leads to less collaborative school environments.

In 2007, the New York City Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers began a three-year pilot of the Schoolwide Performance Bonus Program.

These are their key findings:

  • As designed, the pay-for-performance program did not produce its intended effects: It did not improve student achievement at any grade level.
  • It did not affect teachers' reported attitudes, perceptions, or behaviors.
  • Key conditions that would enable the program to be successful—such as buy-in for bonus criteria, understanding of the program, perceived value of bonus, and perceived fairness—were not present in all schools.

Read the full article on pay-for-performance at RAND