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An Analysis of the Virginia Performance Pay Incentives Initiative Open Access

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An equal educational opportunity for all children is the intent of the United States public education system. In 1965, the federal government sponsored Title I funds to public schools to help children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds achieve academically (Cohen & Moffitt, 2009). In 2001, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), an accountability effort connecting student performance, teacher outcomes, and student standardized test scores subsumed Title I. Federal authorization through Race to the Top (2010) deepened the student academic growth and teacher evaluation association. The latest reauthorization of NCLB, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), provides funds to help local districts develop differential compensation and performance pay systems aimed at attracting and retaining teachers and school leaders to low income schools and districts (Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015). The evolving education policy of monetary incentives for positive student achievement outcomes is the focus of this dissertation. Typical teacher compensation plans are a step/ lane system, based on years of experience with supplements for work toward advanced education and degrees (Figlio & Kenny, 2007; Loeb, Miller & Strunk, 2009; Stronge, Gareis, & Little, 2006). The system shifts with monetary incentives for teachers. Studies show that attempts to incentivize teacher compensation with the expectation of positively impacting student achievement were met with mixed results (Belfield & Heywood, 2008; Fryer, 2013; Kolbe & Strunk, 2012; Martin, 2010; Rice et al., 2012). In the 2010-2011 school year, the Commonwealth of Virginia piloted a teacher incentive program, the Virginia Performance Pay Incentives Initiative (VPPI). Conclusions in the final evaluation omitted information about the incentive’s impact on student pass rates for the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) test, the state standardized assessment. The data evaluation process was a quantitative analysis of gain scores in grades 5, 8, and high school, as measured by the SOL. This ex-post facto study used parameters to examine if a difference existed between SOL scores for the population invited to participate in the VPPI, the years before and of the initiative. The results of the study are inconclusive; however, the lessons learned from this analysis are applicable to future evaluation of teacher pay for performance policies.

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