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Teacher Workforce

April 2019


What does the research say about statewide teacher salary schedules?


Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest protocol, we conducted a search for research reports, policy analyses and descriptive studies on statewide teacher salary schedules. For details on the databases and sources, keywords, and selection criteria used to create this response, please see the Methods section at the end of this memo.

Below, we share a sampling of the publicly accessible resources on this topic. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The search conducted is not comprehensive; other relevant references and resources may exist. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

Biasi, B. (2019). The labor market for teachers under different pay schemes (NBER Working Paper No. 24813). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Compensation of most US public school teachers is rigid and solely based on seniority. This paper studies the labor market effects of a reform that gave school districts in Wisconsin full autonomy to redesign teacher pay schemes. Following the reform, some districts switched to flexible compensation and started paying high-quality teachers more. Teacher quality increased in these districts relative to those with seniority pay due to a change in workforce composition and an increase in effort. I estimate a structural model of this labor market to investigate the effects of counterfactual pay schemes on the composition of the teaching workforce.”

Griffith, M. (2016). State teacher salary schedules. Denver, CO: Education Commission of the States. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “In the United States most teacher compensation issues are decided at the school district level. However, a group of states have chosen to play a role in teacher pay decisions by instituting statewide teacher salary schedules. Education Commission of the States has found that 17 states currently make use of teacher salary schedules. This education policy analysis provides information on each of the 17 states’ salary schedules and addresses the following policy questions: (1) How do salary schedules work? (2) Why do states institute salary schedules? (3) What policy issues exist with salary schedules? (4) What are the alternatives to salary schedules?”

Hansen, M., & Quintero, D. (2017). Scrutinizing equal pay for equal work among teachers. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution. Retrieved from

From the introduction: “This paper examines inequalities in public school teacher compensation and explores its relationships to inequalities in both school funding and teacher pensions. We discuss prior research on the topic and present empirical evidence of salary inequalities based on nationally representative data from the American Community Survey. We then combine these measures with state-level data on school funding and teacher pensions from other published sources.”

National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Pay scales, national results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set]. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from

From the introduction: “2013 Goals for Pay Scales: The state should give local districts authority over pay scales. Best Practices: Florida and Indiana allow local districts to develop their own salary schedules while preventing districts from prioritizing elements not associated with teacher effectiveness. In Florida, local salary schedules must ensure that the most effective teachers receive salary increases greater than the highest salary adjustment available. Indiana requires local salary scales to be based on a combination of factors and limits the years of teacher experience and content-area degrees to account for no more than one-third of this calculation.”

Nittler, K., & Gerber, N. (2018). States, strikes, and teacher salaries. Washington, DC: National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from,-Strikes,-and-Teacher-Salaries

From the abstract: “Teachers’ demands in strikes across the country have varied, but there’s no question that low salaries are one of the chief complaints. To provide some additional insight into what’s motivating these strikes, we look at the salary data for 10 states that make salary information available for all of their districts. Clearly, teachers need to be paid more in some states and districts, but when it comes to thinking about how we improve teacher salaries moving forward, a more in-depth understanding of teacher pay issues is essential.”

Ross, E., & Worth, C. (2018). Strategic teacher compensation databurst. Washington, DC: National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “NCTQ’s Strategic Teacher Compensation Databurst is a study of states’ strategic teacher compensation policies which includes a snapshot of all 50 states’ and the District of Columbia’s teacher compensation policies as they relate to providing additional compensation for effective teacher performance, teaching in high-need schools and subjects, and relevant, prior non-teaching work experience.”

Additional Organizations to Consult

National Council on Teacher Quality –

From the website: “Teacher compensation is in dire need of a massive overhaul. Teachers should not make less than other college-educated professionals. Pay shouldn’t be a great equalizer, but a flexible tool used to solve fundamental problems schools face. The good news? Districts like Washington, D.C., and Dallas are proving that it is doable.”


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • “Pay scales” “state policy”

  • “Salary schedule”

  • “Salary schedule” “state policy”

Databases and Search Engines

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched IES and Google Scholar.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published over the last 15 years, from 2004 to present, were included in the search and review.

  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations.

  • Methodology: We used the following methodological priorities/considerations in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-;experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order, (b) target population, samples (e.g., representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected), study duration, and so forth, and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Midwest Region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Midwest) at American Institutes for Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Midwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0007, administered by American Institutes for Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.