Pay Scales

2011 Retaining Effective Teachers Policy

2011 Goals for Pay Scales

The state should give local districts authority over pay scales.

Best practices

Florida and Indiana allow local districts to develop their own salary schedules, while preventing districts from focusing on elements not associated with teacher effectiveness. In Florida, local salary schedules must ensure that the most effective teachers receive salary increases greater than the highest annual salary adjustment available. Indiana requires local salary scales to be based on a combination of factors and limits the years of teacher experience and content-area degrees to account for no more than one-third of this calculation.

Best practice 2

States

Meets goal 1

State

Nearly meets goal 1

State

Meets goal in part 29

States

Meets a small part of goal 3

States

Does not meet goal 15

States

What role do states play in deciding teacher pay rates?

2011
Figure details

State allows districts to set their own salary schedules.: AK, AZ, CO, CT, DC, FL, ID, IN, KS, MD, MI, MN, MT, ND, NE, NH, NV, NY, OR, PA, RI, SD, UT, VA, VT, WI, WY

State sets the minimum salary a teacher must earn but leaves the rest to districts.: CA, IA, IL, MA, ME, MO, NJ, NM

State sets minimum salary schedule: AL, AR, DE, GA, HI, KY, LA, MS, NC, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, WA, WV

How we graded

Compensation reform can be accomplished within the context of local control.

Teacher pay is, and should be, largely a local issue. Districts should not face state-imposed regulatory obstacles that prevent them from paying their teachers as they see fit; different communities have different resources, needs and priorities. States should remove any barriers to districts' autonomy in deciding the terms for teacher compensation packages.

The state can ensure that all teachers are treated fairly by determining a minimum starting salary for all teachers. However, a state-mandated salary schedule that locks in pay increases or requires uniform pay deprives districts of the ability to be flexible and responsive to supply-and-demand problems that may occur.

While leaving districts flexibility to decide their own pay scales, states should discourage districts from basing pay solely on criteria not correlated with teacher effectiveness.  


Across the country, state and district salary schedules are based primarily on just two criteria:  advanced degrees and years of experience, neither of which is correlated with teacher effectiveness.  As discussed in the rationale for Goal 3-E, the impact of advanced degrees on teacher performance has been studied extensively, and research has shown conclusively that such degrees do not make teachers more effective.  Years of experience do have an impact on teacher effectiveness very early in a teacher?s career, but this effect is gone after the first few years of teaching.  Because of their predominance in current salary schedules, states need to take a proactive role in preventing districts from basing teacher pay primarily on these two criteria.

Research rationale

For evidence that degree status does not increase teacher effectiveness and should therefore not be automatically rewarded in teacher salary schedules, see the following:

C. Clotfelter, H. Ladd and J. Vigdor, "How and Why do Teacher Credentials Matter for Student Achievement?" National Bureau of Economic Research. Working Paper No. 12828 (2007); S. Rivkin, E. Hanushek, and J. Kain, "Teachers, Schools, and Academic Achievement." Econometrica (2005); R. Ehrenberg and D. Brewer, "Do School and Teacher Characteristics Matter? Evidence from High School and Beyond," Economics of Education Review, 1994; 14: 1-23. (Ehrenberg and Brewer found that an increase in the percentage of teachers with master's degrees was associated with lower gains among white students but higher gains among black students.); R. Murnane, The Impact of School Resources on the Learning of Inner City Children, (Cambridge, MA: Harper Collins, 1975); H. Kiesling, "Assignment Practices and the Relationship of Instructional Time to the Reading Performance of Elementary School Children," Economics of Education Review, 1984; 3(4): 341-50.B. Rowan, et al., "What Large-scale, Survey Research Tells Us About the Teacher Effects on Student Achievement: Insights from the Prospects Study of Elementary Schools," Teachers College Record (2002); 104(8): 1525-67.R. Ferguson, "Paying for Public Education: New Evidence on How and Why Money Matters," Harvard Journal on Legislation, 1991; 28: 465-98.D. Goldhaber and D. Brewer, "Evaluating the Effect of Teacher Degree Level on Educational Performance," Developments in School Finance, ed. W. Fowler, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1997, 199-210.

For data on the high cost of salary differentials based on advanced degrees, see Marguerite Roza and Raegan Miller, July 2009, "Separation by Degrees," Center for American Progress.http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2009/07/separation_of_degrees.html.

For evidence that experience does not directly correlate with teacher effectiveness, and therefore should not be the sole determinate of the highest steps on a pay scale, see the following:

J. King Rice "The Impact of Teacher Experience: Examining the Evidence and Policy Implications." CALDER: Urban Institute (2010); S. Rivkin, E. Hanushek, and J. Kain, "Teachers, Schools, and Academic Achievement." Econometrica (2005); C. Clotfelter, H. Ladd, and J. Vigdor, "How and Why Do Teacher Credentials Matter for Student Achievement?" National Bureau of Economic Research (2007); Kukla-Acevedo, "Do Teacher Characteristics Matter? New Results on the Effects of Teacher Preparation on Student Achievement." Economics of Education Review (2009); E. Hanushek and S. Rivkin, "How to Improve the Supply of High Quality Teachers." Brookings Institute (2004). 

For information about alternative compensation for teachers, see the following:

Teaching Commission and USC California Policy Institute, "Understanding Alternative Teacher Compensation," USC California Policy Institute, 2005.Jennifer Azordegan, et al., "Diversifying Teacher Compensation: The Teaching Commission and Education Commission of the States," ECS (2005); Minnesota Department of Education, "Quality Compensation for Teacher (Q Comp) Contains Five Basic Components."

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