Ph.D. 2007 – Vanderbilt University, Education Finance and Policy
B.A. 1998 – Denison University, Education and Psychology (with honors)
Areas of Expertise
Accountability & Incentives
Professor Springer specializes in education policy with a focus on the role of accountability and incentives in k-16 education. He began his career as a high school administrator and teacher in upstate New York where he taught psychology, sociology, and environmental ethics and developed a service-learning program around environmental education. After earning a Ph.D. in education finance and policy, he joined the faculty in the department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development for more than a decade. Springer led the design, implementation, and evaluation of the nation’s first experiments of teacher merit pay and has remained a key figure in discussions on the next generation of teacher and principal compensation practices. He advocates for research-practice partnerships whereby rigorous academic research is conducted collaboratively with district and state partners.
Springer has extensive experience running large-scale research, evaluation and technical assistance projects, having served as principal investigator or co-principal investigator on more than $34 million in extramural funding. He is widely recognized as one of the pre-eminent scholars studying educator compensation systems: he led the Project on Incentives in Teaching (POINT) experiment in Metro Nashville Public Schools (TN) and the Team Performance Incentives (TPI) experiment in Round Rock (TX) and has evaluated innovative compensation reforms in Colorado, Florida, New York, South Carolina, and Texas.
Springer’s work utilizes large longitudinal databases from school districts, state education agencies, national assessment firms, and federal repositories and supplements these administrative data with novel survey instruments to better understand mechanisms for program and policy impacts. He is best known in this area for his vision and leadership in creating a unique state-level research-practice partnership between the State of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University (the Tennessee Education Research Alliance), for which he received Vanderbilt University’s Faculty Excellence Award for Research and Service to the Field in 2017. By working collaboratively with practitioners, policymakers, and researchers, he aims not only to enhance knowledge in a traditional academic sense, but also to inform educational practice and policy development.
Springer’s research has been funded by the United States Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, National Institute of Child Health and Development, Smith Richardson Foundation, Tennessee Department of Education, Fund for New York City Schools, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, and Texas Education Agency. His research has appeared in top education, economics, and policy journals, including American Educational Research Journal, Economics of Education Review, Education Economics, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Education Finance and Policy, Educational Researcher, Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, and Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. He has authored or edited seven books, including Performance Incentives: Their Growing Impact on American K-12 Education (Brookings) and the Handbook of Research on School Choice (Taylor and Francis). Springer has consulted broadly with government agencies and international organizations, including the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Government Accountability Office, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and testified at the state and federal levels.