Pay Scales: Alabama

Retaining Effective Teachers Policy


The state should give local districts authority over pay scales.

Does not meet goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Pay Scales: Alabama results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Alabama's policies

To determine teachers' salaries, Alabama provides local districts with a Minimum Salary Schedule. Because the salary schedule provided by the state is based on teachers' years of experience and earned advanced degrees, the state in effect mandates how districts will pay teachers.


Recommendations for Alabama

Give districts flexibility to determine their own pay structure and scales.
While Alabama may find it appropriate to articulate the starting salary that a teacher should be paid, it should not require districts to adhere to a state-dictated salary schedule.

Discourage districts from tying compensation to advanced degrees.
The inclusion of advanced degrees in the state schedule is particularly problematic, as this sends a clear message to both districts and teachers that attaining such degrees is desirable and should be rewarded; exhaustive research has shown unequivocally that advanced degrees do not have an impact on teacher effectiveness. Further, by establishing a guideline for teacher salaries that includes advanced degrees, the state limits the ability of districts to structure their pay scale in ways that do emphasize teacher effectiveness.

Discourage salary schedules that imply that teachers with the most experience are the most effective.
Similarly, Alabama's salary schedule sends a message to districts that the highest step on the pay scale should be determined solely by seniority.

State response to our analysis

Alabama recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state noted that in 1996 the Alabama legislature decided to pay teachers with valid certifications for the highest degree earned from a regionally accredited college or university, regardless of whether the higher degree leads to an advanced certificate. Thus, the pay increase that used to be based on advanced degrees in the teacher's area of assignment is no longer a factor. The state added that the Minimum Salary Schedule for Teachers is adopted by the Alabama legislature as a component of the annual budget for education.

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.

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."