Principal Incentives



This experiment aims to measure the effectiveness of offering principals financial incentives to implement specific school management practices and to compare that to the effectiveness of offering principals financial incentives based on student outcomes. We hypothesize that for those principals who, like the students in the schools they lead, do not necessarily know the education production function, providing incentives for research-based inputs will translate to increases in student achievement. For principals who do know the production function, incentivizing certain inputs can act as a focusing device. On the other hand, if principals already know best how to most effectively improve student performance in their schools, then the flexibility offered by output incentives should lead to more significant gains in student achievement. This experiment has the potential to revolutionize the principal pay structure in a way that increases the effectiveness of these leaders and improves educational outcomes for students.


In partnership with eight school districts across North Carolina, we are working on a statewide field experiment to measure the impact of providing school principals with significant incentives for their impact on inputs and/or outputs. We randomly selected schools to participate in one of three groups: control (in which principals will maintain the status quo), an input incentives treatment, and an output incentives treatment.
Principals in the input incentives treatment group will receive financial incentives for implementing high-leverage management practices in their schools, including system planning and monitoring, providing feedback on instructional plans, observing classroom instruction, and holding feedback meetings with teachers. To develop a basis of comparison, principals took a pre-treatment survey to measure their baseline management techniques.

Principals in the output incentives treatment group will receive financial incentives at the conclusion of the school year based on their schools’ performance on state tests.


The project is ongoing and the analyses will be forthcoming.