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Performance pay primer - teacher salary schedules

Since the 1920’s, the single salary schedule format has been used to pay all teachers the same in terms of educational attainment and experience in every grade, subject, and school. Most districts increase pay for experience (i.e., seniority) more than they do for education.

In Oregon, most school schedules are based strictly on seniority (years of experience) and educational attainment. This standardized approach grants little flexibility to match a district’s resources to the unique needs of each school and its students. Current research shows that teacher contracts must be flexible. Seniority, by itself, is not a strong factor in student learning.

For example, the first five years of a teacher’s experience has a strong impact on increased student learning, but beyond that, the effect of experience levels off. Inexperienced teachers with less than three years experience are less effective than those teachers with more experience. However, the benefits of experience don’t appear to be noticeable after approximately five years, especially in non-college work settings. The keys to countering this effect appear to be continual professional development and learning for experienced teachers and well prepared beginning teachers (Darling-Hammond, Teacher Quality and Student Achievement: A review of State Policy Evidence, (275k This file is in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. Click here to download.), [Center for the Study of Teaching & Policy, University of Washington, 1999]).

The variables that measure teacher knowledge and skills are stronger influences on student achievement than variables like teacher experience, class size or pupil-teacher ratios (Darling-Hammond, Teacher Quality and Student Achievement: A Review of State Policy Evidence, [Center for the Study of Teaching & Policy, University of Washington, 1999]). There does not appear to be a direct relationship between a teacher’s attainment of additional graduate credit and higher student achievement.

Teachers with full certification and a major in the field they are teaching are a more powerful prediction of student achievement than teacher’s education level - such as a master’s degree (Darling-Hammond, Teacher Quality and Student Achievement: A Review of State Policy Evidence, [Center for the Study of Teaching & Policy, University of Washington, 1999 ]).

The current salary schedule structure seems to create incentives for teachers to find the easiest means, if not the cheapest, to obtain additional graduate credits. There does not appear to be an incentive to invest in training and learning - which is most likely to improve teaching - but rather the push is to obtain the least challenging and least expensive educational experiences (North Central Regional Education Laboratory, Critical Issue: Rethinking the use of Educational Resources to Support Higher Student Performance, 2000).

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