Performance: Maine

Teacher Compensation Policy


While giving local districts authority over pay scales, the state should ensure that effectiveness is a factor in teachers' compensation. The bar for this goal was raised in 2017.

Meets goal in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2017). Performance: Maine results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Maine's policies

Salary Requirements: Maine gives local districts the authority to set pay scales, eliminating barriers such as state salary schedules that control how districts pay teachers. The state mandates a minimum salary but allows districts to determine the remainder of the schedule. Maine set its minimum salary beginning in school year 2007-2008, and has not adjusted it since. 

Performance Pay Policies: Maine does not currently support performance pay statewide. However, the state received a five-year Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grant in 2010 for 23 schools to develop "a new educator evaluation system aimed at helping teachers and leaders improve their practice, and (receive) performance bonuses that reward them for student success." In the fall of 2012, Maine received another five-year TIF grant to expand its work to include an additional 19 schools. Maine's second TIF grant allows participating schools and districts to focus more broadly on a comprehensive human capital management system that includes the following components: educator preparation, selection and inductions, evaluation and professional growth, recognition and reward, and school environment.


Recommendations for Maine

Discourage districts from tying compensation to advanced degrees or experience.
While still leaving districts the flexibility to establish their own pay scale, Maine should articulate policies that definitively discourage districts from tying compensation to advanced degrees, in light of the extensive research showing that such degrees generally do not have an impact on teacher effectiveness. Similarly, Maine should articulate policies that discourage districts from determining the highest steps on the pay scale solely by seniority. Further, although the state may find it appropriate to articulate the minimum starting salary that a teacher may be paid, Maine should adjust its base pay requirements according to changes in the state's cost of living at least every three years.

Support a performance pay plan that recognizes teachers for their effectiveness.
Whether it implements the plan at the state or local level, Maine should ensure that performance pay structures thoughtfully measure classroom performance and connect student growth to teacher effectiveness. Districts should be given the flexibility to define the criteria for performance pay provided that such criteria connect to objective evidence of student growth. The plan must be developed with careful consideration of available data and subsequent issues of fairness and it should allow for the participation of all teachers, not only those in tested grades and subjects.

State response to our analysis

Maine recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. 

Updated: December 2017

How we graded

8A: Performance 

  • Evidence of Effectiveness: The state should:
    • Not require districts to adhere to a state-dictated salary schedule that defines steps and lanes and sets the minimum pay at each level, although the state may find it appropriate to articulate teachers' starting salaries.
    • Eliminate state salary schedules that establish higher minimum salaries or other requirements to pay more to teachers with advanced degrees. Accordingly, the state should also discourage districts from tying additional compensation to advanced degrees.
    • Support performance pay efforts that reward teachers for demonstrated classroom effectiveness and allow districts flexibility to define the criteria for performance pay, provided that such criteria reflect student growth.
    • Adjust its base pay requirements according to changes in the state's cost of living at least every three years.
Evidence of Effectiveness
The total goal score is earned based on the following:

  • Full credit: The state will earn full credit if it supports performance pay efforts that reward teachers for effectiveness and if it allows districts the flexibility to define the criteria for performance pay, provided that such criteria require teachers to contribute to student growth to earn performance pay awards.
  • Three-quarters credit: The state will earn three-quarters of a point if it does not dictate salary schedules, and if it offers some performance incentives to teachers. 
  • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if it does not dictate salary schedules, and if it allows districts to determine how to pay teachers.
  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if there is no regulatory language preventing performance pay, or if its mandated salary schedule has been updated within the past three years.

Research rationale

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. 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 promote compensation tied to teacher effectiveness and 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. The impact of advanced degrees on teacher performance has been studied extensively, and research has shown that such degrees generally do not make teachers more effective.[1] Years of experience do have an impact on teacher effectiveness very early in a teacher's career, but this effect appears to fade out after the first few years of teaching.[2] 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.

Performance pay is an important recruitment and retention strategy. Performance pay provides an opportunity to reward those teachers who consistently achieve positive results from their students. The traditional salary schedule used by most districts pays all teachers with the same inputs (i.e., experience and degree status) the same amount regardless of outcomes. Not only is following a mandated schedule inconsistent with most other professions, it may also deter talented individuals from considering a teaching career, as well as high-achieving teachers from staying in the field, because it offers no opportunity for financial reward for success.[3]

States should set guidelines for districts to ensure that plans are fair and sound. Performance pay plans are not easy to implement well. There are numerous examples of both state and district initiatives that have been undone by poor planning and administration.[4] As the use of value-added models now allow for the development of a more meaningful understanding of teacher effectiveness, districts should ensure that performance pay systems consider both qualitative and quantitative measures in order to fairly assess and compensate teachers for their performance.

States can play an important role in supporting performance pay by setting guidelines (whether for a state-level program or for districts' own initiatives) that recognize the challenges in implementing a program well.[5] A few states now require that districts build performance into salary schedules, moving away from bonus structures that teachers know may be subject to budget constraints and competing priorities.

[1] For evidence that degree status does not increase teacher effectiveness and should therefore not be automatically rewarded in teacher salary schedules, see the following: Boyd, D., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., Rockoff, J., & Wyckoff, J. (2008). The narrowing gap in New York City teacher qualifications and its implications for student achievement in high-poverty schools. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 27(4), 793-818.; Henry, G. T., Bastian, K. C., and Fortner, C. K. (2011). Stayers and leavers: Early-career teacher effectiveness and attrition. Educational Researcher, 40(6), 271-280; Papay, J. P., & Kraft, M. A. (2015). Productivity returns to experience in the teacher labor market: Methodological challenges and new evidence on long-term career improvement. Journal of Public Economics, 130, 105-119. Ladd, H. F., Clotfelter, C. T., & Vigdor, J. L. (2007). How and why do teacher credentials matter for student achievement (NBER Working Paper 142786). Retrieved from; Rivkin, S. G., Hanushek, E. A., & Kain, J. F. (2005). Teachers, schools, and academic achievement. Econometrica, 73(2), 417-458. Retrieved from; For research showing that increases in the percentage of teachers with master's degrees is associated with lower gains among white students but higher gains among black students, see: Ehrenberg, R. G., & Brewer, D. J. (1994). Do school and teacher characteristics matter? Evidence from high school and beyond. Economics of Education Review, 13(1), 1-17.; Murnane, R. J. (1975). The impact of school resources on the learning of inner city children. Retrieved from; Kiesling, H. J. (1984). Assignment practices and the relationship of instructional time to the reading performance of elementary school children. Economics of Education Review, 3(4), 341-350.; Rowan, B., Correnti, R., & Miller, R. J. (2002). What large-scale, survey research tells us about teacher effects on student achievement: Insights from the Prospects study of elementary schools. Teachers College Record, 104(8).; Ferguson, R. F. (1991). Paying for public education: New evidence on how and why money matters. Harvard Journal on Legislation, 28, 465.; Goldhaber, D. D., & Brewer, D. J. (1996). Evaluating the effect of teacher degree level on educational performance. Developments in School Finance, 199-210. Retrieved from; For data on the high cost of salary differentials based on advanced degrees, see: Roza, M., & Miller, R. (2009). Separation of degrees: State-by-state analysis of teacher compensation for master's degrees. Center on Reinventing Public Education. Retrieved from
[2] 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: Rice, J. K. (2010). The impact of teacher experience: Examining the evidence and policy implications (Brief No. 11). National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research. Retrieved from; Rivkin, S. G., Hanushek, E. A., & Kain, J. F. (2005). Teachers, schools, and academic achievement. Econometrica,73(2), 417-458. Retrieved from; Ladd, H. F., Clotfelter, C. T., & Vigdor, J. L. (2007). How and why do teacher credentials matter for student achievement (NBER Working Paper 142786). Retrieved from; Kukla-Acevedo, S. (2009). Do teacher characteristics matter? New results on the effects of teacher preparation on student achievement. Economics of Education Review, 28(1), 49-57. Retrieved from; Hanushek, E. A., Rivkin, S. G., Rothstein, R., & Podgursky, M. (2004). How to improve the supply of high-quality teachers. Brookings Papers on Education Policy, (7), 7-44. Retrieved from
[3] Research on merit pay in 28 industrialized countries from Harvard's Program on Education Policy and Governance found that students in countries with merit pay policies in place were performing at a level approximately one quarter standard deviation higher on international math and science tests than students in countries without such policies. See: Woessmann, L. (2011). Cross-country evidence on teacher performance pay. Economics of Education Review, 30(3), 404-418. Retrieved from
[4] Walsh, K., Lubell, S., & Ross, E. (2017, August). Backing the wrong horse: The story of one state's ambitious but disheartening foray into performance pay. National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from
[5] For information about alternative compensation for teachers, see: University of Southern California. (2005). Understanding alternative teacher compensation: Expert insights from USC California Policy Institute's California K-12 School Finance Policy Symposium. Sacramento, CA: USC California Policy Institute.; Azordegan, J., Byrnett, P., Campbell, K., Greenman, J., & Coulter, T. (2005). Diversifying teacher compensation (Issue Paper). Washington, DC: Education Commission of the States and the Teaching Commission. Retrieved from; Minnesota Department of Education. (2009). Q Comp: Quality compensation for teachers. Retrieved from