Frequently Asked Questions
What does this national center do?
NCPI is a federally-chartered (2006) and federally-funded ($10 million) independent research center at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. NCPI’s mission is to conduct independent and scientific research regarding the impact of pay-for-performance on student achievement, teacher behavior, schools, school organizations, and broader education policy.
NCPI is also committed to informing education policy and practice, serving as an information distribution hub to which interested parties can refer for resources and materials related to educator pay-for-performance.
Do NCPI researchers support performance pay for educators?
NCPI does not hold an opinion on the merits of performance pay. However, NCPI researchers support the conduct of scientific research on pay-for-performance. Our researchers are pledged to objectivity and impartiality. We do not know if paying bonuses to teachers for elevating their students’ academic performance is a good idea or a bad idea. We do recognize that the issue of pay-for-performance is of increasing interest to policymakers and practitioners in education. NCPI intends to inform policy and practice through independent and comprehensive scientific examination, as there are many unanswered questions on the issue. Rigorous evidence does not yet speak to the settings or conditions under which pay-for-performance might work; the appropriate size, shape, and frequency of bonuses; nor the best measure of student achievement with which to determine educator bonuses.
NCPI approaches these questions of pay-for-performance with a genuine commitment to the search for scientifically-valid answers.
What is a “national center”?
“National” in this setting refers to the obligation, as contained in the federally issued cooperative agreement for NCPI from the United States Department of Education, to serve the interests of the nation, and not those of any particular geographic, political, ideological, or economic group. “National” also conveys a sense of widespread participation. NCPI is centered at and administered from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. However, its researchers and education experts are drawn from across the nation.
“Center” refers to NCPI’s responsibility to gather some of the nation’s most highly regarded social and behavioral scientists, policy analysts, professional educators, and professional organizations in a unified and collaborative format to align interventions with school system realities and to take advantage of economies of scale in disseminating information and amassing institutional capacity.
Why is this topic and this center important?
Pay-for-performance for educators is becoming more common in the United States. Multiple states (e.g., Florida, Idaho, Iowa, and Texas) and some school districts (e.g., Denver) have enacted pay-for-performance plans.
As presently conceptualized, performance incentives in education serve three primary purposes: (1) reward teacher performance; (2) reward principal performance; and (3) recruit and retain quality educators in hard-to-staff schools and subjects. These plans, however, lack grounding in rigorous, scientific research.
NCPI is committed to the search for an objective understanding of the impact of pay-for-performance on teaching and learning in our nation’s schools.
Through our independent and scientific research initiatives, we will provide the scholarly and practical knowledge necessary to best inform policy and practice in the education system.
What is pay-for-performance in education, and how does it differ from other compensation plans?
The vast majority of teachers in the nation’s public education system are presently paid on a uniform salary schedule with salary increments based on years of employment and post-bachelor degree college course credits.
Pay-for-performance diverges from this traditional compensation system by rewarding educators for performance. Students’ standardized test scores are the most common measure of teacher performance employed in pay-for-performance plans, however, alternative performance measures such as supervisor reports and classroom observation are not uncommon.
Pay-for-performance is not to be confused with other alternative educator compensation plans, namely pay for knowledge and/or skills and pay for filling hard-to-staff schools and/or subject areas. The former plan rewards teachers for acquiring skills and knowledge that are thought to be associated with or to promote high quality instruction. The latter is primarily used as a recruitment and/or retention tool by rewarding qualified teachers who fill areas of need in hard-to-staff schools or in subject area shortages. Neither compensation strategy relies on measures of teachers’ actual effectiveness in improving student learning, as is done in pay-for-performance compensation plans.
Is the center studying only student achievement?
While NCPI is committed to evaluating the impact of pay-for-performance programs on student achievement, this is not the sole focus of our research. The center recognizes that while student learning is a fundamental objective of the public education system, it is an objective that is mediated by other forces, such as teacher behavior, organizational dynamics, and resource allocation. Therefore, NCPI’s research examines not only the effects of pay-for-performance on student achievement, but also on teacher behavior, organizational dynamics, and cost-effectiveness.
Frequently Asked Questions