COLLEGE PARK, MD (July, 2017) – UMD College of Education professors Betty Malen and Jennifer King Rice — who was recently named dean of the College of Education —are the co-authors of “Performance-Based Pay for Educators,” a new book that studies a teacher performance-based pay program in Prince George’s County Public Schools and discusses lessons and recommendations from their analysis.
Drs. Rice and Malen led a three-year longitudinal study of a performance-based pay program in Prince George’s County, Md., that was piloted in 12 schools during the 2008-09 school year. The district implemented the program with a federal Teacher Incentive Fund grant and expanded it to 42 schools over the duration of the program, which ended in 2012 — a year after the conclusion of the University of Maryland study. The study was conducted as part of Rice and Malen’s graduate research apprenticeship course.
Performance-based pay models have been implemented in various forms throughout the country, often with controversy. By using a multifaceted strategy, Prince George’s County’s incentive program showed more promise than similar efforts in other places, Drs. Rice and Malen found.
In addition to getting bonuses for improved student performance, educators were rewarded for pursuing opportunities such as professional development and leadership projects that encouraged their own growth. In all, teachers were able to earn as much as $10,000 in incentives on top of their salaries, and principals could earn as much as $12,000 more.
“Rather than relying solely on student test scores, the Prince George’s County program used a hybrid model that brought together multiple measures of what might make one an effective teacher,” Dean Rice said.
Even though there was widespread support for the performance-based pay incentive program among various players in the district — from the teachers who were eager to try a new evaluation system, to school administrators and the local teachers’ union — Drs. Rice and Malen discovered it had mixed results on teacher recruitment, retention and performance. While the study did not find an effect on recruitment at low-performing schools, participating teachers felt that the program, and especially the classroom evaluation component, promoted more reflective teaching practices, for example.
“To have so many setbacks with a promising case tells us what we need to learn and under what conditions we need to improve the reform,” Dr. Malen said.
Drs. Rice and Malen’s book includes a list of policy and research recommendations for future performance-based pay programs, including using such programs to supplement, rather than supplant, the traditional salary scale, securing and nurturing stakeholder support, and recognizing that a mix of measures is key to a successful program.
“When we have the opportunity to work collaboratively with districts — Prince George’s asked for unvarnished critiques — that’s a really powerful model for research in applied fields (like education),” Dr. Malen said. “If we work together and are receptive to how reforms are playing out, we develop a research relationship that benefits research and the school district.”