Differential Pay: Colorado

Retaining Effective Teachers Policy


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

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

Analysis of Colorado's policies

Colorado does not support differential pay by which a teacher can earn additional compensation by teaching certain subjects. However, the state has no regulatory language preventing local districts from providing such differential pay in this area.

A teacher can earn additional pay by working in schools classified as high needs, namely those that receive Title I funds or that are in rural geographic regions. The amount of annual incentive pay is up to $4,000 for each of the first two years and up to $1,000 for each of the next two years. A loan-forgiveness grant is available for first-year teachers as well. Also, teachers who are National Board Certified are eligible to receive an annual stipend of $1,600 for the first three years; the stipend is increased by $3,200 for teachers in low-performing schools.


Recommendations for Colorado

Support differential pay initiatives for effective teachers in subject shortage areas.
Colorado should encourage districts to link compensation to district needs. Such policies can help districts achieve a more equitable distribution of teachers.

State response to our analysis

Colorado noted that according to its State Constitution, Colorado is a local control state and therefore such decisions are up to the individual school districts.

Last word

NCTQ appreciates the constraints set upon the state by its constitution. However, Colorado is encouraged to examine ways within its constitutional regulations that will allow it to support differential pay.

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