Differential Pay: Washington

Retaining Effective Teachers Policy


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

Nearly meets goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Differential Pay: Washington results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/WA-Differential-Pay-23

Analysis of Washington's policies

Washington offers incentives to teach certain subjects. The state offers scholarships or loan repayments and gives priority to candidates seeking certification in math, science, technology or special education. The Washington Educator Retooling program was reestablished in 2012-2013, funding about 95 scholarships of up to $3,000 a year for two years for existing teachers as an incentive for teaching in subject-shortage areas.

Washington also supports differential pay for those teaching in high-need schools. Teachers who are National Board Certified are eligible for an additional $5,000 annual bonus if they teach at a high-poverty school with students participating in the free or reduced lunch program at 70 percent for elementary schools, 60 percent for middle schools and 50 percent for high schools.  


Recommendations for Washington

Expand differential pay initiatives for teachers in subject-shortage areas.

Although the state's loan forgiveness program is a desirable recruitment and retention tool for teachers early in their careers, Washington should expand its program to include those who are already part of the teaching pool, as it previously had with the Educator Retooling program. A salary differential is an attractive incentive for every teacher, not just those with education debt.  

State response to our analysis

Washington had no comment on this goal.

Research rationale

States should help address chronic shortages and needs.

As discussed in Goal 4-C, states should ensure that state-level policies (such as a uniform salary schedule) do not interfere with districts' flexibility in compensating teachers in ways that best meet their individual needs and resources. However, when it comes to addressing chronic shortages, states should do more than simply get out of the way. They should provide direct support for differential pay for effective teaching in shortage subject areas and high-need schools. Attracting effective and qualified teachers to high-need schools or filling vacancies in hard-to-staff subjects are problems that are frequently beyond a district's ability to solve. States that provide direct support for differential pay in these areas are taking an important step in promoting the equitable distribution of quality teachers. Short of providing direct support, states can also use policy levers to indicate to districts that differential pay is not only permissible but necessary.

Differential Pay: Supporting Research

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 Institute, Working Paper 57, January 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 http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/1001469-calder-working-paper-52.pdf..

C. Clotfelter, E. Glennie, H. Ladd, and J. Vigdor, "Would Higher Salaries Keep Teachers in High-Poverty Schools? Evidence from a Policy Intervention in North Carolina," NBER Working Paper 12285, June 2006.

J. Kowal, B. Hassel, and E. Hassel, "Financial Incentives for Hard-To-Staff Positions: Cross-Sector Lessons for Public Education," 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. Kirby, M. Berends, and S. Naftel, "Supply and Demand of Minority Teachers in Texas: Problems and Prospects," Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Volume 21, No. 1, March 20, 1999, pp. 47-66 at: http://epa.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/21/1/47.