public school teacher pay

Understanding Public School Teacher Pay and Evaluation

If the terms “tenured” and “educator effectiveness system” seem confusing—just wait. How public school teachers are evaluated and paid in Pennsylvania is a bit complicated. But doing your best to understand the basics will be helpful in your efforts to advocate for the quality education your community deserves.

For starters,’s 2022 study on best-paying states for teachers found Pennsylvania as the number one state when it comes to teacher salaries. Public school teachers here earn “28.5 percent more than the average salary.” Just keep this in mind when politicians and activists blame underfunding for the shortcomings in our education system—as they so often do.

Pennsylvania has a statewide system to evaluate teachers. And in 2020, our former governor, Tom Wolf signed legislation that modified this system of evaluating educator effectiveness. According to the commonwealth’s largest teacher union, the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), one of the most notable changes to this evaluation process is the reduction in the role of student achievement in evaluating teacher performance. These changes also “recognize the impact poverty” has on student achievement.

Major components of the rating system include evaluating teachers’ planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities—these measures account for 70 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. Student outcomes remain part of evaluations and account for 30 percent. Teachers “considered satisfactory” receive evaluations “no more than once annually,” while “unsatisfactory” teachers must be rated at least annually. New teachers receive evaluations twice a year.

Notably, state law also grants local education agencies (LEAs) the authority to create their own tool for rating teachers that “meets or exceeds the measures of effectiveness” set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE).” These alternative rating tools must receive PDE approval. To find out more about the rating tool used by your local school district, contact your local school board.

Collective bargaining agreements forged between the local teacher union and the local school district largely determine teacher salaries and other contract provisions. In many cases, teachers have little say over what appears in these contracts and less recourse, other than to accept the agreements. For more information about the teacher union contract covering your school district, visit the Americans For Fair Treatment’s Collective Bargaining Database.

Last but not least, teachers can be tenured. Unlike most other professions, where at-will employment agreements allow an employer to release an employee at any time, but especially if they are a poor performer, teachers can earn tenure, which makes their dismissal more difficult. Teachers, in Pennsylvania, earn tenure by working in the same school district for three consecutive probationary years along with receiving “a satisfactory rating during the last four months of the final year.” Moreover, the status is transferrable.

To learn more about teacher evaluations or to ask questions about how your school district is complying with teacher effectiveness requirements, consider attending a local school board meeting.