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Report to the Professional Educator Standards Board: Differential Pay for Teachers in High-Demand Subject Areas

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Irene Ngugi - December 2008

In 2008, the Washington State Legislature passed ESHB 2687 which directed the Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) to conduct “a comprehensive analysis of math and science teacher supply and demand…” In collaboration with the Institute, the PESB was to “provide information from a study of differential pay for teachers in high-demand subject areas such as mathematics and science, including the design, successes, and limitations of differential pay programs in other states.”

We reviewed the national research literature on whether differential pay for teachers in math, science, or other high-demand teaching fields affects whether new teachers are attracted to the profession, or whether the attrition rate of existing teachers is reduced. Existing research on this specific topic is too thin to draw conclusions because there have been very few attempts to offer differential pay and, as a result, evaluation evidence is sparse. We therefore examined the broader question of how salary increases—for all teachers—affect the degree to which teachers leave the profession. We found higher teacher salaries do reduce attrition rates; the magnitude of the effect can be summarized as: a 10 percent increase in teacher salaries leads to a two-to-three percent decrease in teacher attrition rates.

Report ID: 08-12-2201
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