Building on a strong foundation of research and experience with educational reform across the nation, in the 1990s educational policymakers undertook sophisticated comprehensive educational reform efforts. The centerpiece of these reforms was the creation of state educational standards, assessments, and goals, and the realignment of state and local resources to support the achievement of these goals. A number of states and districts have embraced the idea of performance-based accountability (Fuhrman, 1999), in which rewards and sometimes sanctions are used as incentives for measurable improvement in student achievement. Some jurisdictions have modified their teacher compensation systems in order to provide incentives that support improving student achievement. Learning from the relative failure of prior efforts to realign teacher compensation via individual performance pay systems (Murnane and Cohen, 1986), states and districts undertaking compensation reform in the 1990s have tended to focus on innovations such as school-based performance awards (SBPAs) and pay based on knowledge and skills, which are thought to be better ways of supporting collaborative cultures in schools (Odden and Kelley, 1997).
This report provides an overview of the findings of a series of studies of SBPA programs conducted by the Consortium for policy Research in Education between 1995 and 1998. The research reported here focuses on two such programs, in Kentucky and Charlotte-Mecklenburg (North Carolina), that pay teachers bonuses, and on one program, in Maryland, that provides the award to schools to use for activities and improvements.