Differential Pay: Kentucky

Retaining Effective Teachers Policy


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

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

Analysis of Kentucky's policies

Kentucky supports differential pay by which a teacher can earn additional compensation by teaching certain subjects. Those teaching in "critical shortage" areas are eligible, and the subjects identified as critical teacher shortage areas during the 2011-2012 school year include: biology (secondary), chemistry (secondary), engineering technology, English (middle school and secondary), English as a second language, exceptional children, earth science, information technology, mathematics (middle school and secondary), science (middle school), social studies (secondary), physics and world language. The state does not currently address the amount of stipend or higher annual salary.

Kentucky also encourages each school district to develop differential pay programs to recruit and retain highly skilled teachers to serve in high-needs schools or "hard-to-fill" positions.The state treasury has established a professional compensation fund to provide grants to districts using such programs. 

In addition, teachers who are National Board Certified are eligible to receive a $2,000 annual salary supplement. However, this differential pay is not tied to high-needs schools or subject-area shortages.


Recommendations for Kentucky

Consider tying National Board supplements to teaching in high-needs schools.
This differential pay could be an incentive to attract some of the state's most effective teachers to its low-performing schools.

State response to our analysis

Kentucky recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

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