Differential Pay: Washington

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: Washington results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/WA-Differential-Pay-9

Analysis of Washington's policies

Washington supports incentives earned by teaching certain subjects. The state offers scholarships or loan repayments and gives priority to candidates seeking certification in math, science, technology or special education. In the past, the Washington Educator Retooling program also provided up to $3,000 a year for two years for existing teachers as an incentive for teaching in subject shortage areas. However, funding for this program is not currently available. 

Washington also supports differential pay for those teaching in high-needs schools. Teachers who are National Board Certified are eligible for an additional $5,000 annual bonus if they teach at a low-income school, defined as having at least 70 percent of students qualifying for the free or reduced-price lunch program.


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 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 noted that each year the state budget has provided lower free and reduced-lunch percentage (FRLP) criteria for middle and high schools than provided in statute. In addition, this year the legislature provided only $3,000 for the first year of a teachers National Board bonus on the assumption that teachers are actually certified for only 60 percent of the year in which they receive certification.

The additional bonus for NBCTs is set at 50 percent or greater FRLP in high schools, 60 percent or greater FRLP for middle schools and 70 percent or greater FRLP for elementary schools.

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