Differential Pay: Virginia

Retaining Effective Teachers Policy


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

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

Analysis of Virginia's policies

Virginia supports incentives earned by teaching certain subjects. As part of its Middle School Teachers Corps, the state provides incentives for experienced middle-school math teachers to teach in schools designated as "at-risk in mathematics." In addition, each year the state releases the top ten "critical shortage teaching areas." It uses this list to determine candidate eligibility for its scholarship loan program, which offers loan repayment for teachers in subject shortage areas.

Virginia supports differential pay for those teaching in high-needs schools. The state encourages local school boards to offer teachers in hard-to-staff, low-income schools incentives such as "increased compensation, improved retirement benefits,...increased deferred compensation,...relocation expenses, bonuses and other incentives as may be determined by the board."

Teachers who are National Board Certified are eligible to receive an initial award of $5,000, with subsequent awards of $2,500. However, this type of differential pay is not tied to high-needs schools or subject-area shortages.


Recommendations for Virginia

Expand differential pay for teachers in subject shortage areas.
Virginia should consider expanding its differential pay initiative to support other shortage areas beyond middle school mathematics. In addition, although the state's loan forgiveness program is a desirable recruitment and retention tool for teachers early in their careers, Virginia should expand its program to include those already part of the teaching pool. A salary differential is an attractive incentive for every teacher, not just those with education debt.

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

Virginia pointed out that the state is piloting performance pay in hard-to-staff schools and schools for improvement.

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