Press Release

Guilford Mission Possible program shows positive signs

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RALEIGH — Guilford County public schools have seen “promising results” during the first two years of Mission Possible, an incentive-pay program for teachers and administrators. That’s the assessment of a new John Locke Foundation Policy Report, funded by The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

Click here to view and here to listen to Terry Stoops discussing this Policy Report.

“Teacher and administrator turnover has decreased, the percentage of schools that met No Child Left Behind performance standards increased, and the percentage of students who met North Carolina testing standards increased,” said report author Terry Stoops, JLF Education Policy Analyst. “Graduation rates are on the rise, and the school climate has improved considerably.”

Guilford County Schools, the state’s third-largest public school system, initiated Mission Possible at 22 schools in 2006. Eight more schools joined the program in 2007. Mission Possible offers recruitment and performance incentives for teachers and administrators who work in the county’s low-performing and low-income schools.

“One-time recruitment incentives can be as large as $10,000, and performance incentives range from $2,500 to $5,000,” Stoops said. “In its first year of existence, the average Mission Possible performance award was $3,400 per teacher.”

Guilford’s pay-for-performance initiative could prove to be more effective than the statewide teacher bonuses tied to North Carolina’s ABCs of Public Education program, Stoops said. “ABC bonuses have turned into an entitlement program tied to a weak accountability system,” he said. “Guilford’s approach promises to work better in addressing the need for high-quality teachers in low-income and low-performing schools.”

An initial evaluation from researchers at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro “suggests that the recruitment and performance incentives are working,” Stoops said. The UNCG evaluation noted positive gains on a number of school performance measures after just one year of implementation, he said.

The 2008 N.C. Teacher Working Conditions Survey also shows positive signs for Mission Possible schools, Stoops said. “Teachers reported improvement in four of five topics covered in the survey: time for planning and collaboration; facilities and resources available for the teachers’ use; school leadership; and professional development opportunities.”

“The largest percentage increases in positive survey responses involved the resources and time dedicated to professional development,” Stoops added. “There were also notable increases in teachers’ positive views of school leadership. Meanwhile, teachers at Mission Possible schools found that access to office equipment and supplies had improved.”

While teachers at Mission Possible schools reported declines in the other survey topic, decision making, they were not alone, Stoops said. “Both Mission Possible and non-Mission Possible schools reported declines in the role teachers play in decision making involving teaching, classrooms, and school issues,” Stoops said. “This issue should be addressed, but it’s not an issue unique to the Mission Possible program.”

Generally positive results on the teacher survey prove an important point, Stoops said. “It is clear that the Mission Possible program did not have the negative impact on teacher working conditions that opponents of performance pay claimed it would.”

Student performance outcomes yielded mixed results, Stoops said. “Approximately half of the Mission Possible schools increased their scores on state standardized tests,” he said. “On the whole, Mission Possible schools had lower performance composite percentages and lower pass rates on state tests, and they met fewer No Child Left Behind goals than non-Mission Possible schools in Guilford County. However, half of the Mission Possible schools had larger test score increases from 2005-06 to 2006-07 compared to non-Mission Possible schools.”

Stoops’ study suggests pay-for-performance plans “should include policy elements aimed at improving teacher working conditions,” he said. “These policy elements should focus on improving the school decision-making process, maintaining a supportive teaching environment, and empowering teachers. It is also essential that researchers continue to evaluate the relationship between performance pay, working conditions, and student achievement.”

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation (www.broadfoundation.org) is a national venture philanthropy established by entrepreneur and philanthropist Eli Broad to advance entrepreneurship for the public good in education, science, and the arts. The Broad Foundation’s education work focuses on dramatically improving urban K-12 public education through better governance, management, labor relations, and competition.

Terry Stoops’ Policy Report, “Performance Pay for Teachers: Increasing Student Achievement in Schools with Critical Needs,” is available at the JLF Web site. For more information, please contact Stoops at (919) 828-3876 or [email protected]. To arrange an interview, contact Mitch Kokai at (919) 306-8736 or [email protected].

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We are North Carolina’s Most Trusted and Influential Source of Common Sense. The John Locke Foundation was created in 1990 as an independent, nonprofit think tank that would work “for truth, for freedom, and for the future of North Carolina.” The Foundation is named for John Locke (1632-1704), an English philosopher whose writings inspired Thomas Jefferson and the other Founders.

The John Locke Foundation is a 501(c)(3) research institute and is funded solely from voluntary contributions from individuals, corporations, and charitable foundations.