Is There Really a Shortage? Investigating How to Mobilize the Reserve Army of Teachers

Title: Is There Really a Shortage? Investigating How to Mobilize the Reserve Army of Teachers
Principal Investigator: John Shoven
Dates: May 1, 2010 - April 30, 2010
Sponsor: The Spencer Foundation

Though clear evidence exists about the sizeable impacts teachers can have on student achievement, relatively little is known about the ability of incentive mechanisms to attract, retain and reward good teachers. Teacher incentive programs exist in many forms, from loan forgiveness programs offering full repayment of the loans of teachers who remain in low-income schools for several years to pay-for-performance programs where teachers (mostly those in low-income schools) are offered bonuses based on their students' performance on academic achievement tests. For example, over forty states have programs in place offering scholarships or forgiving the student loans of teachers either unconditionally or contingent upon teaching in certain subjects or at certain schools. In another example of the prominent role such programs are being given in the education sector, as part of the No Child Left Behind Act, school districts can apply for federal funds to develop programs using monetary incentives to attract and retain high-quality teachers. Each of these programs is being promoted for its potential to improve the quality of the education that children, particularly disadvantaged children, receive, but the ways in which the program designs and incentivized outcomes differ across programs likely will cause them to have different impacts. Understanding the effects of incentive programs is crucial because inducing the most effective teachers to enter and remain in low-performing schools has potential to close the achievement gap. This research project will employ rich administrative data from two states, North Carolina and Illinois, to investigate how the federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program (TLFP) changes the pool of entering teachers, how teachers sort among schools and the academic achievement of students.