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Donald Gratz, (617) 333-2130,
Dan Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

Review of Transfer Incentives for High-Performing Teachers
Policymakers should look elsewhere for methods to improve student achievement

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Jan. 28, 2014) – Access to quality teaching has been a concern for low-income schools, which have a larger percentage of lower-performing or less qualified teachers than schools in middle-class areas. Many believe that incentives are needed to encourage high-performing teachers to work in hard-to-staff schools. An academic review out today considers the evidence of a teacher transfer incentive, which promised to pay high-performing teachers more to work in lower-performing schools.

Mathematica Policy Research (MPR) produced the Teacher Transfer Initiative (TTI), funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The study tested whether high-performing teachers could be enticed by a $20,000 stipend over two years to transfer to and remain at a lower performing school, and measured the impact of the transfer on students' standardized test scores.  The assumption was that better teachers would get better results on standardized tests wherever they teach.

The results of this extensive study are not encouraging, writes reviewer Donald Gratz, who found several flaws that limit the report's usefulness for policy consideration. Gratz, Director of Graduate Programs in Education and Chair of the Education Department at Curry College, produced the review for the Think Twice think tank review project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

In his review, Gratz identifies several flaws. Among these: (1) the study does not consider the potential impact of other relevant school factors that affect teacher success, such as school leadership; and (2) while it considers the overall cost of the program, it only compares that cost to class size reduction, a generally expensive program. 

Results of the study indicate that of the 1,500 teachers actively encouraged to transfer, only 5% actually did.  In terms of retention, the review finds that 90% of the transfer teachers stayed the full two years required to receive their full stipend, however, only 60% planned to stay for a third year – the same rate as teachers not receiving the incentive.

The review notes that elementary school students benefited modestly from these teachers, but middle-school students appear not to have benefited.  The study is further limited because it uses only test scores as a measure of outcomes.

The most significant problem, Gratz says, is that this two-year study was too short to draw conclusions either about teacher retention or student achievement, limiting its impact and usefulness. 

Finally, the review raises ethical concerns about a policy that moves good teachers from some students to others, a process that creates winners and losers.

Find Donald Gratz's review on the Great Lakes Center website:

Find Transfer Incentives for High-Performing Teachers: Final Results from a Multisite Randomized Experiment, written by Steven Glazerman, Ali Protik, Bing-ru Teh, Julie Bruch, and Jeffrey Max, on the web at:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:

Don Gratz
is currently Director of Graduate Programs in Education and Chair of the Education Department at Curry College. He has more than 35 years experience in both K-12 and college education.

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