Differential Pay: California

Retaining Effective Teachers Policy


The state should support differential pay for effective teaching in shortage and high-needs areas.

Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Differential Pay: California results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/CA-Differential-Pay-9

Analysis of California's policies

California supports differential pay by which a teacher can earn additional compensation by teaching certain subjects. The state encourages public school employers to "provide incentives to teachers for accepting teaching assignments in areas of highest need." However, California does not state specifically which subjects one must teach to qualify or the amount of stipend or salary incentive.

California also offers a $20,000 incentive award to teachers who earn certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) and agree to teach at least 50 percent of the time in a high-needs school (Academic Index of 5 or lower) for four consecutive years. The incentive is paid in $5,000 installments over the four years.


Recommendations for California

State response to our analysis

California recognized the accuracy of this analysis. California noted that due to funding issues, no new applicants are being granted incentive funding. If/when state budget allowances change, this program will resume accepting new applicants.

Last word

NCTQ appreciates the state's candor in acknowledging the current budget limitations on differential pay. California is encouraged to support differential pay for effective teaching in high-needs subjects and schools.

Research rationale

Two recent studies emphasize the need for differential pay. In "Teacher Quality and Teacher Mobility", L. Feng and T. Sass find that high performing teachers tend to transfer to schools with a large proportion of other high performing teachers and students, while low performing teachers cluster in bottom quartile schools (CALDER: Urban Institute 2011).  Another study from T. Sass et al found that the least effective teachers in high-poverty schools were considerably less effective than the least effective teachers in low-poverty schools.

Charles Clotfelter, et al., "Would Higher Salaries Keep Teachers in High-Poverty Schools? Evidence from a Policy Intervention in North Carolina," Sanford Institute of Public Policy, Duke University, May 16, 2006 at:

Julie Kowal, et al., "Financial Incentives for Hard to Staff Positions," Center for American Progress, November 2008.

A study by researchers at Rand found that higher pay lowered attrition, and the effect was stronger in high-needs school districts. Every $1,000 increase was estimated to decrease attrition by more than 6 percent. See S.N. Kirby, et al., "Supply and Demand of Minority Teachers in Texas: Problems and Prospects," Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 1999; 21(1): 47-66 at: http://epa.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/21/1/47