In “Incentives, Selection, and Teacher Performance: Evidence from IMPACT,” Thomas Dee of Stanford University and James Wyckoff of UVA evaluated Washington, D.C.’s IMPACT program. IMPACT was one of Michelle Rhee’s signature initiatives.
It included four components:
1. High-powered incentives for both high- and low-performing teachers
2. Multi-faceted measures of student performance
3. Teacher supports
4. High visibility
The authors concluded that IMPACT had a positive impact.
Overall, this evidence suggests that IMPACT improved the effectiveness of the DCPS teacher workforce, both through the differential attrition of low-performing teachers and performance gains among those teachers who remained. In particular, the RD [Regression Discontinuity] estimates provide evidence that the types of incentives that IMPACT created influenced both teacher retention and performance.
The authors note that merit/performance/incentive pay programs will continue to be controversial because of the difficult trade-offs and substantial costs involved in properly implementing them. They suggest, however, that the educational and economic benefits of raising the quality of the teacher workforce through programs like IMPACT outweigh the costs.