learning opportunities created by the experiment. Is increased emphasis on teachers' collective responsibility for student success and opportunities for their collective learning sufficient to motivate and sustain teachers' professional commitment and learning? How do individual incentives and systems, such as certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards fit into the strategy for building local capacity? The ultimate purpose of the evaluation is to determine the impact of the project and its component parts on the learning outcomes of students. To isolate those outcomes, careful attention will have to be paid to the identification of appropriate comparison districts.


There is also room for a great deal more systematic experimentation with incentives to motivate higher performance by teachers and schools. Economic theory based on free market principles suggests that incentives are an underutilized tool in education, but currently little is known about how best to apply these principles to schools, teachers, and students. Because people in organizations respond to rewards and sanctions, it is especially important that care be taken in designing such systems; establishing an incorrect or overly simple goal could result in distorted behavior or performance that proves to be counterproductive. Nevertheless, more attention needs to be paid than in the past to performance incentives in America's current education system.

This situation is beginning to change. Noneconomic incentives such as new and more rigorous graduation requirements are being implemented around the country. Financial rewards and sanctions for schools are also becoming more widespread (see Chapter 6). More systematic research is needed on these naturally occurring incentives.

Of particular interest would be a major investigation of various forms of pay systems that reward teachers for their knowledge and skills rather than simply for years of experience and graduate courses. Such an approach has significant conceptual appeal as a way to make money matter more for student achievement, but a large number of questions remain to be answered. Before such pay systems are introduced on a large scale, it would be desirable to learn more about their effectiveness in encouraging teachers to obtain the skills they need to increase student learning. Moreover, to the extent that the results of such research are positive, they could play an important role in making such an approach to teacher pay more palatable to teachers' unions than such changes might otherwise be.

Similarly, systematic research regarding the effects of performance accountability and the pressures of standards-based education reform on teacher recruitment, retention, and turnover would be beneficial. Anecdotal information suggests that such programs are increasing turnover and may be making schools that are identified as low performing less attractive to teachers. Thus, it would be

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement