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Principles for a Professional Growth Salary Schedule

The principles outlined below have been established to provide a framework for the development of professional growth salary schedules. Where implemented well, these schedules aid in the recruitment of talented college graduates to the teaching profession and our nation’s public schools, and they help keep them there. To advance these goals, the principles:

NEA's Principles

Base Salary: A professional growth salary schedule must start with a professional-level salary of at least $40,000 for all beginning teachers entering the classroom. Teachers should be able to reach their "maximum" salary on the schedule within ten years.

Association Involvement: The schedule must be co-created or designed with teachers through collective bargaining or, where there is no collective bargaining, agreed to by the organization representing teachers, and it must allow for the strictly voluntary participation of current teachers.

Salary Levels (Tiers): A professional growth salary schedule must contain several levels through which teachers progress that are based on prescribed skills, knowledge, licenses, certifications, degrees, responsibilities, and/or accomplishments. Each level should build on previous ones and contain salary increases for specified time periods within each level.

Advancement through the Levels: Generally, early levels on the schedule should be linked to the probationary period of employment, and advancement through the levels should be required. Movement through later levels may be voluntary.

Linked to Quality Professional Development: A professional growth salary schedule must be linked to a professional development system that has been locally developed with teachers and tied to quality professional development standards such as those of the National Staff Development Council (NSDC). The schedule should clearly define what will be measured and how those measurements will be conducted.

Knowledge and Skills: The professional growth salary schedule should be tied to locally developed, research-based, professional learning opportunities (knowledge and skills) targeted to the needs of the students.

Funding: A professional growth salary schedule must have adequate and sustainable sources of funding, both initially and on an ongoing basis. Grants should be viewed only as temporary resources that are not capable of sustaining a career salary program.

Accessibility: Any professional growth salary schedule should be accessible to everyone who is eligible, without quotas.

Flexibility: There is no single model for professional growth salary schedules. Schedules should be locally bargained or, where there is no collective bargaining, agreed to with the organization representing the teachers. Proposed schedules must be flexible and structured for the contexts in which they will be implemented.

Transparency: The schedule must be understandable to teachers and the public.

Program Assessment: There must be an annual assessment of the schedule to determine its effectiveness in improving teacher salaries, teaching quality, and the recruitment/retention of quality staff. The schedule’s administrative efficiency and cost-effectiveness also should be examined each year. The association must be involved in all stages of these assessments, including identifying criteria that will be assessed.

Definition of Those in the System: When implementing a professional growth salary schedule, all parties must agree on, and clarify, who is eligible to participate.

Other Considerations

Teacher Assessment: A professional growth salary schedule must be accompanied by a quality teacher assessment system (e.g., Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching) to ensure the quality of teaching for all those participating.

Linkage to Licensure: Those who develop the professional growth salary schedule will need to determine if it will be linked to the state licensure system or operate irrespective of state licensing structures, requirements, etc. Examples of both approaches exist.

Longer School Year/Day: One other item to consider is the length of the teachers’ work year or work day. School districts and teacher representatives may decide to provide voluntary options to extend a teacher’s year or day (for extra pay) under some pay levels in the professional growth salary schedule, or it could be determined that, in order to provide the necessary professional development to improve teaching and learning, an extended work year/day is necessary to effectively implement a professional growth salary schedule.

Student Progress: Improved teaching practice leading to improved student learning and evidence of changes in student outcomes can be factors in the professional growth salary schedule. This evidence can be drawn from classroom assessments and other forms of documentation, including pre- and post-test measures of student learning in specific areas and evidence of student accomplishments in relation to specific teaching activities.

Student Tests: While student test scores are not reliable measures for making high-stakes decisions (e.g., for teacher pay or job status), test scores do provide valuable information to teachers and schools that can be used to inform curriculum and instructional decisions.

Specifics of a Professional Growth Salary Schedule: The NEA has developed an example of a professional growth salary schedule. It may provide guidance to those seeking to develop a professional growth schedule but should not be considered an "ideal model." We have included a significant number of suggestions and accompanying documents with our example to demonstrate the importance of investing sufficient time in the planning and preparation of any salary schedule. Please contact NEA CB/MA for a copy of the sample schedule.

NEA welcomes other examples, which can be provided to Dale Templeton