Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education (PhD)

Degree Level



Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders


Daniel Kissinger

Committee Member

Kristin Higgins

Second Committee Member

Patrick Wolf

Third Committee Member

Gary Ritter


Education, Arkansas, Cobra Pride Incentive Program, Education, Fountain Lake School District, Merit pay, Performance pay, Teacher effectiveness, Teacher evaluation


Starting in the 2010-11, administrators at the Fountain Lake School District implemented the Cobra Pride Incentive Program (CPIP), a merit pay program designed to financially reward all school employees with year-end bonuses primarily for significant improvements in student achievement. At the conclusion of the 2010-11 school year, over $800,000 in bonuses were distributed to school personnel. Because of the substantial investment in this program, it was important to determine how the CPIP impacted the school counselors, teachers, and students of Fountain Lake, to see if any of the potential benefits of a merit pay program were realized.

The results from this evaluation provided little evidence that this program had a positive impact at Fountain Lake. Based on interview responses, school counselors noted that they now had less time with students because of the CPIP, and were mixed in their opinions about whether or not this program was beneficial for students. Teachers responded to surveys at two different time periods--before and after they received their year-end bonuses and performance ratings--and noted that they did not support the use of merit pay in general or the CPIP specifically. The teachers also did not think the program impacted their approach to teaching, their interactions with their peers, or that the CPIP had a positive impact on students. Further, after they received their bonuses, the attitudes of teachers did not change.

While Fountain Lake students did show significant growth on a national assessment, this growth could not be directly attributed to the adoption of the CPIP. However, on the Arkansas assessments, Fountain Lake students showed growth equal to or less than a demographically and academically matched comparison group. Thus, a reasonable conclusion from this evaluation is that the CPIP did not have a positive impact on student achievement, and it did not appear to have a positive impact on the counselors and teachers at Fountain Lake.