Center for American Progress

Maintain Current Funding for the Teacher Incentive Fund
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Maintain Current Funding for the Teacher Incentive Fund

Congress should maintain the $400 dollar funding for the Teacher Incentive Fund, a federal program that supports compensation reforms for educators in high-need schools.

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As congressional appropriators consider fiscal year 2011 funding levels for federal education programs we strongly urge them to maintain the current funding level of $400 million for the Teacher Incentive Fund, or TIF, a federal program that supports compensation reforms for educators in high-need schools.

The program is advancing the kinds of reforms human capital systems in our schools need. Its latest iteration does more than the prior iteration of the program to leverage changes to policies besides teacher and principal compensation systems. For instance, it requires participating states and districts to develop comprehensive and aligned approaches to attracting, evaluating, and developing educators. This alignment—combined with other reform efforts—is key to ensuring that TIF promotes systemic changes in participating states, districts, and schools. The most recent group of programs funded by TIF grants demonstrate this new emphasis.

Until recently the program solely focused on differentiated compensation though many of the programs it supported included other components such as professional development. New administrative guidance from the Department of Education, however, requires TIF programs to upgrade the quality of their teacher and principal evaluation systems to ensure they are “rigorous, transparent, and fair,” differentiate among teachers and principals’ performance, and incorporate student growth and classroom observations.

The new TIF requirement to improve the quality of evaluation systems is integral to improving state and district human capital systems overall. Teacher evaluation systems are the foundation for all other human capital reforms such as reforms to tenure, compensation, and professional development systems. Districts can’t make good judgments about teachers’ employment without high-quality information about how well teachers perform in the classroom. High-quality evaluation systems also help educators identify their strengths and weaknesses and help districts better target professional development to educators’ areas of need.

These projects and others need federal support so they can continue to innovate and experiment with promising approaches that produce results for students. States and districts are often forced to spend all their dollars maintaining existing programs in difficult economic times, and they’re unable to free new dollars to invest in innovations that will yield dividends in the future. Fortunately, that’s a perfect role for the federal government.

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