Evaluating the Chicago Teacher Advancement Program (Chicago TAP)

Prepared for
Joyce Foundation
male teacher with student


Teacher quality is a critical component in student achievement, but how do schools attract, support, and retain well-qualified teachers? To complement traditional approaches, policymakers have increasingly turned to programs that use compensation reform and career ladders. One such program is the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP), a whole-school intervention led by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching.

TAP’s goal is to bring more talented people to teaching—and keep them there—by making it more attractive and rewarding to be a teacher. TAP provides teachers with opportunities for professional growth, promotion to school leadership roles without leaving the classroom, structured feedback, and performance-based compensation. Teacher bonuses are based on value added to student achievement, observed classroom performance, and whole-school performance. TAP ties teacher performance measurement to professional development and mentoring to support teachers’ continuous improvement.

Mathematica conducted a five-year impact evaluation of TAP as implemented in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The Chicago pilot program, dubbed Chicago TAP, was funded by a $27 million Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Mathematica’s study is the first evaluation of a TAP-based program to use random assignment to study the program’s effects on student achievement. It is also the first evaluation of a TIF-funded intervention that uses random assignment.

Funded by the Joyce Foundation, the study randomly assigned schools that had volunteered and been selected to adopt Chicago TAP to either a treatment group that implemented the program right away or a control group that delayed implementation. The study also relied on a matched comparison group selected from the more than 300 CPS elementary schools that were not implementing Chicago TAP. The data included teacher surveys, principal interviews, and student test score, teacher personnel, and program participant data provided by the district. The final impact report found that the program did not raise student math or reading scores, but it increased teacher retention in some schools.