“The State Board of Education should authorize the (Education) Director…to expend department funds for any salary-related bonus or merit raise-appropriately certified and capped as to percentage amounts-to any district…” (Murphy Commission, Policy Foundation project, 1998 recommendation)


(February 2012) Performance pay has advanced from Murphy Commission recommendation to experiment in Arkansas’ largest school district to current policy in three Arkansas school districts (Cross County, Lincoln, and Helena-West Helena) and at two charter schools (e-STEM, and Academics Plus).

Little Rock School District


Little Rock, Arkansas’ largest school district collaborated with the local Public Education Foundation to create a pilot performance pay program for teachers: the Achievement Challenge Pilot Project (ACPP). Under the program, teachers received direct bonuses based on the average academic growth of students in their class as measured by gains on the complete battery of a nationally normed standardized test, the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT), and the number of students in the class.  A 2007 paper1 by Univ. of Arkansas researchers found that “providing teachers with bonuses based on test score improvement increased student math proficiency by between 3.6 and 4.6 Normal Curve Equivalency ranks in a year.”  A 2008 paper2 by Univ. of Arkansas researchers found an improvement in student achievement in “multiple subject areas.”  The authors wrote, “In math, students whose teachers were eligible for bonuses outperformed students in schools whose teachers were not eligible by 3.52 normal curve equivalent (NCE) points.”  The paper also noted teachers “have mixed feelings about the program,” according to surveys from more than 300 Little Rock elementary school teachers. The experiment later ended.3


Teacher & Student Advancement (TAP)


TAP is an acronym for The System for Teacher and Student Advancement.4  The program was created by Lowell Milken in 1999 to “attract, develop, motivate and retain the highly effective educators that all students deserve.”  Milken, in 2005, founded the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) to “manage and support” TAP.


The Cross County School District uses TAP as an “intervention” strategy.5 TAP includes “multiple career paths, on-going applied professional growth, instructionally focused accountability, and performance based compensation.” Actions include:


“Master teachers will provide professional development on the TAP instructional rubric so that all teachers will understand the evaluation process.”


“PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Master and mentor teachers received extensive training and certification in the TAP evaluation process.”


“EVALUATION: Teachers will be awarded performance pay based on student performance and individual teacher evaluations.”


The Lincoln School District’s annual report6 notes NIET has provided a five-year, $8.9 million grant for both districts.7


Differential Pay for Performance


The Helena-West Helena School District is also using performance pay as an intervention strategy.  The Delta district has teamed with the Office of Educational Policy at the Univ. of Arkansas on a Differential Pay for Performance program.8


Charter Schools


Teacher pay for performance is a component of the e-STEM charter schools9 in Little Rock, which examined Murphy Commission education recommendations prior to their establishment in 2007.  The schools serve students at the elementary, middle and high school levels.


Teachers and staff at e-STEM schools (elementary, middle, and high school) received performance pay totaling $446,724 in the 2009-10 school year.  Bonuses are based on student performance, and provided by grants from private foundations.


Academics Plus Charter School in Maumelle also uses performance pay.  The charter’s budget (2011-12) includes about $84,000 slated for performance pay increases for teachers, based upon student achievement.10




The Murphy Commission, in 1998, recommended performance pay for Arkansas K-12 public school administrators, and the head of the state Department of Education.  Teacher performance pay was also advanced as a policy option.


Performance pay has been advanced in a variety of school districts, ranging from Little Rock (24,380), the state’s largest, to smaller ones like Cross County (596) and Lincoln (1,326).11  The policy is used in traditional public schools and charter schools.  Private foundations have been a driving force behind the innovation.  Another factor has been the willingness of some K-12 administrators and school boards to enact performance pay in their districts.


–Greg Kaza



1 Winters, Marcus A., Gary W. Ritter, Joshua H. Barnett, and Jay P. Greene, “An Evaluation of Teacher Performance Pay in Arkansas.” http://www.uark.edu/ua/der/Research/performance_pay_ar.html


2  Ritter, Gary W. Marc J. Holley, Nathan C. Jensen, Brent E. Riffel, Marcus A. Winters, Joshua H. Barnett, and Jay P. Greene “Year Two Evaluation of the Achievement Challenge Pilot Project in the Little Rock Public School District.” http://uark.edu/ua/der/Research/merit_pay/year_two/Full_Report_with_Appendices.pdf


3 http://www.fortheschools.org/initiatives/teacher-advancement-program/


4 http://tapsystem.org/


5 “School Plan,” Cross County School District and Cross County Elementary School (2011-12). www.crosscountyschools.com


6 Lincoln Consolidated School District Annual Report, September 20, 2010 (http://wolfpride.nwsc.k12.ar.us/)


7 Cross County is also using phonics as an intervention strategy, and relying on a standardized national test top measure student performance.  Both are Policy Foundation recommendations dating to the Murphy Commission.


8 Helena-West Helena School District, “LEA Application for School Improvement Grant Funds”



9 https://www.estemlr.net/about/history


10  “Academics Plus trustees set budget for 635 students,” Maumelle Monitor.  August 12, 2011


11 Total enrollment data from 2010 school performance reports, The National Office for Research on Measurement and Evaluation Systems (NORMES).  http://normes.uark.edu/