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Black teacher in classroom

WASHINGTON – The Education Department is giving school districts and nonprofit organizations from across the country $442 million to create merit pay programs for teachers and principals.

The Teacher Incentive Fund is aimed at attracting and rewarding quality educators and encouraging them to work in the country’s highest need schools. The programs will create performance pay systems based on evaluations of educators, among other incentives.

Winners include school districts such as Wake County, N.C., and the New York City Department of Education. State education departments in Indiana, Tennessee, Ohio and Louisiana also won grants, as did private companies such as Uplift Education, which has five charter schools in Texas.

This is the first phase of the larger teacher incentive program, which has $1.2 billion in funding over the next five years.

But the effectiveness of merit pay has come into question after a study from Vanderbilt University’s National Center on Performance Incentives showed that offering bonuses to teachers didn’t improve test scores. The study, released earlier this week, is billed as the nation’s first ever scientific look at merit pay for educators.

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