U.S. Department of Education Proposes Overhaul in 2010 Teacher Incentive Fund Guidelines

As the U.S. Department of Education prepares to release the application for the 2010 Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grant competition, significant modifications have been proposed for the program’s guidelines. As with the first round of grantees awarded in 2006, applicants will be required to use student achievement gains and classroom evaluations conducted multiple times throughout a school year to determine incentive pay for educators. TIF plans would also be required to provide incentives for educators to take on additional responsibilities and leadership roles. The modified guidelines proposed for 2010 define tighter parameters for other incentive pay design features – such as the use of individual versus group performance to determine incentive pay eligibility and the amount of bonus awards paid to educators – all in an effort to ensure differentiated levels of compensation based on educators’ effectiveness.

Unlike previous TIF competitions, TIF 2010 places rigorous evaluation as a central feature of the program. If implemented, these new guidelines would create a randomized experiment to study the impact of incentive pay on the recruitment and retention of teachers and principals. The TIF Evaluation competition involves tighter parameters on design features, such as the amount of bonus awards for educators, and would operate separately from the Main TIF competition.

Originally launched in 2006, TIF grants are awarded to schools and districts to develop and implement incentive pay programs for teachers and principals. The primary objective of TIF is to improve student achievement, develop more efficient ways to compensate educators, and increase the supply of effective teachers in hard-to-staff schools and subject areas. Since its inception, the TIF program has delivered one round of grants – rolled out as two cohorts of grantees – with 33 recipient sites currently operating incentive plans. In 2010, the TIF program will encounter its first significant expansion, with total funding more than quadrupling to total $600 million. Of these funds, $400 million comes from fiscal 2010 appropriations and another $200 million is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The U.S. Department of Education’s proposed modifications for TIF 2010 are open for public comment until March 29th. Comments can be submitted at http://www.regulations.gov/.