Performance Pay: Washington

2011 Retaining Effective Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should support performance pay but in a manner that recognizes its appropriate uses and limitations.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Performance Pay: Washington results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/WA-Performance-Pay-9

Analysis of Washington's policies

Washington does not support performance pay. The state does not have any policies in place that offer teachers additional compensation based on evidence of effectiveness. 

Recommendations for Washington

Support a performance pay plan that recognizes teachers for their effectiveness.
Whether it implements the plan at the state or local level, Washington should ensure that performance pay structures thoughtfully measure classroom performance and connect student achievement to teacher effectiveness. The plan must be developed with careful consideration of available data and subsequent issues of fairness.

Consider piloting performance pay in a select number of school districts.
This would provide an opportunity to discover and correct any limitations in available data or methodology before implementing the plan on a wider scale.

State response to our analysis

Washington recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

How we graded

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 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.

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. The methodology that allows for the measurement of teachers' contributions to student achievement is still developing, and evaluation systems based on teacher performance are new in many states. Performance pay programs must recognize these limitations. There are also inherent issues of fairness that should be considered when different types of data must be used to assess the performance of different kinds of teachers.

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. Because this is an area in which there is still much to learn about best practice, states should consider piloting local initiatives as a way to expand the use of and knowledge base around performance pay.

Research rationale

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 year's worth of schooling higher on international math and science tests than students in countries without such policies (2011). 

Erik Hanushek found that a teacher one standard deviation above the mean effectiveness annually generates $400,000 in student future earnings for a class size of 20. See Hanushek, Erik A. "The Economic Value of Higher Teacher Quality," National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 16606 (December 2010).

In addition, numerous conference papers published by the National Center on Performance Incentives reinforce the need to recognize the limitations and appropriate uses of performance pay. See: http://www.performanceincentives.org/.