A study recently published in Economics of Education Review examined how a teacher incentive program improved the math performance of students in rural China. The authors suggested that since teachers in rural China are evaluated by students’ high school entrance exam scores and the rate of matriculation into academic high schools, they might tend to focus on mid- and high-performing students and neglect the low-achieving students.
With a view to overcoming this, the study examined the effectiveness of a modified pay-for-percentile incentive program that granted teachers 60% more pay incentives for improvements in the outcomes of low-achieving students. The study conducted a clustered randomized control trial using 1,825 fifth-grade students from 52 schools which implemented the program, and another 1,964 fifth-grade students from 51 control schools which did not implement the program. Students’ math performances were accessed by standardized tests before and after the one-year program. The results were as follows:
- After controlling for the teachers’ experience, base salary and students’ background, the program increased students’ achievement overall by 0.10 SD.
- The effects on low-achieving students were the largest with 0.15 SDs increase in Math scores, while the increase for middle- and high performing students were 0.03SDs and 0.10SDs, respectively.
- Students reported that teachers in the schools with the program covered more easy-level and hard-level curriculum contents, had lower teacher absence rates and gave more math homework.
The authors concluded that teacher incentive schemes motivated teachers to put more time and effort into promoting students’ outcomes. Moreover, such a scheme could be modified to address the achievement gaps in primary schools in China.
Source: Chang, F., Wang, H., Qu, Y., Zheng, Q., Loyalka, P., Sylvia, S., … & Rozelle, S. (2020). The impact of pay-for-percentile incentive on low-achieving students in rural China. Economics of Education Review, 101954. doi: 10.1016/j.econedurev.2020.101954