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Improving Student Learning through Strategic Compensation

Based on the experience of accomplished teachers, this study offers new solutions for Improving Student Learning through Strategic Compensation. Published by theCenter for Teaching Quality (CTQ), the report’s recommendations are designed to acknowledge and reward professional work of teachers and meet the needs of the students, families and communities they serve.

Accomplished teachers from across the state of Kansas worked together to develop a series of recommendations for considering a new strategic compensation system. This approach is designed to recruit, retain and reward high-quality teachers in classrooms across the state.

A central tenet of the approach is that a viable performance-pay framework must be flexible enough to allow districts and states to tailor incentives that advance their specific student-learning goals and that teachers will be partners in the design. 

The report identifies four pillars to strategic teacher compensation:

  • Knowledge and skills: Teacher training that provides new knowledge and develops skills should be part of the compensation package. The report finds fault with “one-size-fits-all” professional development and encourages a skill-building approach that takes into account teachers’ professional experience. The professional development program should be defined through teacher input, the report says.
  • Student learning: Any strategic compensation plan that includes rewards for student learning must focus on student growth, not just proficiency. Multiple measures for evaluating student learning, including classroom-based assessments, should be used to determine rewards for student learning in a strategic compensation plan.
  • Teacher leadership: Administrators must accept teachers as true partners in school improvement and help them lead, the report says. Creating incentives and job descriptions for teacher leadership provides a career path for teachers, beyond administration or other out-of-the-classroom positions. These pathways can be critical for keeping experienced educators engaged directly with students who will benefit from their expertise.
  • Market incentives: Teachers should be paid more for teaching in high-needs schools, subjects and assignments. These market incentives should be determined at the local level. Districts should examine their unique market needs when considering incentives for hard-to-fill positions (such as math, science, special education, etc.) or high-needs schools. Market incentives should include a variety of financial incentives, including student loan forgiveness, housing allowances, etc.

About The Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ):

CTQ seeks to improve student learning through developing teacher leadership, conducting practical research, and rais­ing public awareness about what must be done to ensure that every student in America has a qualified, well-supported, and effective teacher. The Center has worked on a large range of research studies and policy development initiatives designed with the goals of cultivating leadership, spreading expertise and elevating the voices of accomplished teachers so that their knowledge of students and schools can inform the next generation of teaching policies and practices. More information about CTQ is available at