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Transfer Incentives Help Bring Highest-Performing Teachers
to Low-Achieving Schools in Seven Cities

Contact: Jennifer de Vallance, (202) 484-4692

WASHINGTON, DC—April 3, 2012—By offering $20,000 per teacher, seven school districts piloting a transfer-incentive strategy, known as the Talent Transfer Initiative (TTI), filled 90 percent of their targeted vacancies in hard-to-staff schools with some of the districts’ highest-performing teachers. A new study from Mathematica Policy Research highlights the implementation experience and intermediate impacts of TTI, which is intended to expand disadvantaged students’ access to the most effective teachers. Previous research conducted by Mathematica shows that, on average, low-income middle school students are significantly less likely to have access to the highest-performing teachers. The full report and executive summary are now available.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, the new study focused on early impacts of TTI on teacher hiring and support as well as on student-assignment practices in the participating schools. The schools came from seven large and diverse districts in Alabama (Mobile County Schools), Arizona (Tucson Unified School District), North Carolina (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Guilford County Schools and Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools), Tennessee (Knox County Schools) and Texas (Houston Independent School District). The study revealed that:

  • A large pool of candidates (16 per slot in this study) is needed to yield an adequate number of successful transfers.
  • In addition to their high value-added scores, TTI teachers had an average of five years’ more teaching experience and were significantly more likely to have a post-graduate degree than were teachers who would normally have been selected to fill vacancies at the low-achieving schools.
  • On average, TTI teachers moved to classrooms with a lower percentage of white students (12 versus 30 percent in their original schools), a higher percentage of Hispanic students (42 versus 31 percent) and a higher percentage of low-income students (89 versus 64 percent).
  • There was no evidence that TTI changed the way students were assigned to teachers within schools.
  • Principals in receiving schools did not report significant impacts, positive or negative, on teacher collaboration, trust and sharing of ideas.
  • TTI teachers used less mentoring and spent more time mentoring their colleagues (25 minutes per week, on average, compared to less than one minute per week for non-TTI teachers), even though there were no specific requirements for TTI transfers to serve as mentors.

Steven Glazerman, senior fellow at Mathematica and lead author of the report, said, “Many states and districts are considering transfer incentives as a way to expand struggling students’ access to the most effective teachers. Right now, we know very little about how they work and who might respond to an incentive offer like this. This first report starts to answer questions about who transfers and where they come from, as well as what schools do once they get a transfer teacher through this program.”

In a future report, expected to be released in 2013, Mathematica will estimate the impacts of TTI on student test scores and retention of high-performing teachers. This report will include results from all seven districts participating in this phase of the study as well as from three other districts that were added in 2010 but were not included in the current report (Los Angeles Unified School District, Sacramento City Unified School District and Miami-Dade County Schools).

About Mathematica: Mathematica Policy Research seeks to improve public well-being by conducting studies and assisting clients with program evaluation and policy research, survey design and data collection, research assessment and interpretation, and program performance/data management. Its clients include foundations, federal and state governments, and private-sector and international organizations. The employee-owned company, with offices in Princeton, NJ; Ann Arbor, MI; Cambridge, MA; Chicago, IL; Oakland, CA; and Washington, DC, has conducted some of the most important studies of education, health care, international, disability, family support, employment, nutrition, and early childhood policies and programs.