Differentiated Pay

In June 2013, the State Board of Education passed a revised set of guidelines pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. §49-3-306(h), which requires districts to create and implement differentiated pay plans.  The intent of the differentiated pay plans is to give local control to districts in regard to salary schedule, and to create another lever for districts to attract and retain teachers based on a flexible set of potential criteria.  A complete copy of the policy can be found here.

2015-16 Differentiated Pay Submission Process

Each district should submit a copy of their 2015-16 salary schedule and differentiated pay plan even it if it is the same or similar to last year's plan. Please see this template for additional information.

Please submit your differentiated pay plans for 2015-16 school year will by June 30, 2015.  If you have additional questions, email Compensation.Questions@tn.gov.

Submission Process FAQ

We are not making any changes to our differentiated pay plan. Do we still have to fill out the template?

Yes.  We would still like you to submit the template, implementation update and salary schedule.  Ideally, districts are using data from the existing plans to refine them over time.  We encourage districts to revisit their plans each year. 

Do we need to submit any supporting documents (i.e., job descriptions for additional roles or bonus eligibility requirements?

Supporting documents are not required but feel free to include additional information about the district’s differentiated pay plan as needed.  This reduces the chance that we will have to contact your district and request additional information which slows the approval process.

What is an alternative salary schedule?

An alternative salary schedule utilizes other components, often performance criteria, in addition to or in place of education and experience to determine base pay increases. 

We want to make changes to our plan, but are not sure where to start.  What next steps can we take?

The website contains a plethora of resources, including existing districts plans from across the state. Please contact the Educator Talent team at Compensation.Questions@tn.gov so that we can assist your district team in developing the plan.    

My district currently has an alternative salary schedule.  Do we need to submit additional documentation or get the schedule reapproved?

All districts must complete the differentiated pay plan template and implementation update as well as submitting a copy of your alternative salary schedule for 2015-16.  If the district is making changes, please contact the Educator Talent team at Compensation.Questions@tn.gov so that we can determine if the change will require approval from the State Board of Education.

We would like more information about an alternative salary schedule.  Where can we get this information?

The website contains a plethora of resources, including existing districts plans from across the state. Please contact the Educator Talent team at Compensation.Questions@tn.gov so that we can assist your district team in developing the plan.

Where do we submit our plan?

Please submit your plan to Compensation.Questions@tn.gov.  Please include the name of your district in the subject line. 

When can we expect to hear back about our plan’s approval?

Our goal is to notify you within three weeks of submission of your plan.  However, if we have to reach out for additional or clarifying information, this may delay official approval.

Supplemental Documents

2014-15 District Plans

District Planning Resources

Differentiated Pay Resource Guide

Webinar Recordings

Accelerated Planning Cohort Session Materials

Session #1: Compensation Design as Part of an Overall Human Capital Strategy

Whole Group Session: September 5, 2013

Session 1 Resources

Session #2: Human Capital System Costs, Impacts, and Trade-offs

Regional Sessions: October 16-18, 2013

Session 2 Resources

Session #3: Overcoming Fiscal considerations Problems of Practice

Regional Sessions: November 20-22, 2013

Session 3 Resources

TN Teacher Compensation Tool

The Tennessee Online Compensation Design Tool is an optional resource to assist districts in designing their differentiated pay plans. Each district has a unique access code which can be requested by emailing Compensation.Questions@tn.gov.

TCRS Letter

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the differentiated pay plan policy a new policy?

State law [T.C.A § 49-3-306(h)], adopted by the General Assembly in 2007, already requires school districts to adopt and implement differentiated pay plans to aid in staffing hard to staff subject areas and schools and attracting and retaining highly qualified teachers. However, this law has never been enforced. Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, the department will begin to enforce this law, and the increased flexibility provided by the new salary schedule will assist districts in meeting this requirement.

Does the differentiated pay plan policy mandate pay for performance?

The differentiated pay plan policy does not mandate pay for performance. However, the revised differentiated pay plan policy prevents districts from basing across-the-board pay increases solely on years of experience or advanced degrees. Districts must differentiate teacher compensation based on at least one additional criterion. Differentiated pay criteria can include any of the following: additional roles or responsibilities, hard-to-staff schools or subject areas, and performance based on State Board approved teacher evaluation criteria.

Do base pay changes and bonuses awarded through a district’s differentiated compensation plan count toward retirement benefits through TCRS?

The department reached out to the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System (TCRS) to get further guidance on this issue. TCRS stated that TCA § 8-34-101(14)(B)(i)(b) dealing with “Earnable Compensation” governs this issue. If the bonus is available to all teachers (even though it may be up to the teacher to qualify for the actual funds) or if the bonus is offered to a broad class of employees (such as math teachers), then the bonus should be reported to TCRS and employee/employer contributions withheld. The bonus will be included in the calculation of retirement benefits if within the average final compensation (AFC).

Who approves differentiated pay plans?

According to T.C.A § 49-3-306(h), the Tennessee Department of Education has approval authority of the differentiated pay plans.

What guidelines are used to approve differentiated pay plans?

The department approves differentiated pay plans based on the criteria listed in the State Board policy.

State Minimum Salary Schedules

Last Update: March 13, 2015