Arizona Career Ladder

ADE’s Program Mission  To provide leadership and assistance to school districts to meet requirements of continued incentive funding for retention of teachers.Career Ladder Goals

  • Impact Student Achievement
  • Motivate Educators to Improve Skills
  • Attract, Retain, and Reward Exemplary Educators
  • Promote Collegiality


The Arizona Career Ladder Program is a performance-based compensation plan that provides incentives to teachers in 28 districts around the state who choose to make career advancements without leaving the classroom or the profession.

The participating districts are required to comply with requirements established in ARS §15-918. While the state requires that a number of basic elements be included in the local plan, each district may develop specific details that meet its unique needs.

Through ongoing evaluation, districts continue to evaluate and refine the required elements to suit their circumstances. In order to ensure compliance in all areas, the State Career Ladder Advisory Committee annually reviews each district plan. The State Board of Education provides final program approval. ADE staff provides technical assistance to district personnel in the administration of their programs.

Program Description

Career Ladder plans are intended to increase student academic achievement by attracting and retaining talented teachers. Teachers are recognized and compensated for their excellence and are motivated to perform at increasingly higher skill levels.

Career Ladder programs promote and support the professional development of teachers. The Career Ladder design requires a completely different way of evaluating and compensating teachers. Rather than advancing on a salary schedule as a result of seniority and educational credits, teachers are paid according to their level of skill attainment and demonstrated student academic progress.

Legislation requires that all new teachers in Career Ladder districts be evaluated for placement on the Career Ladder. Once evaluated, new teachers may choose not to participate for the following year. Teachers not choosing to participate in the Career Ladder Program remain on the district’s traditional salary schedule.

The program supports and encourages collaboration and teamwork, and provides opportunities for leadership and professional growth, with Career Ladder teachers participating in higher-level instructional responsibilities within their districts. The program also allows districts to apply to implement an additional incentive program for other personnel at the school district level and provides awards based upon group, team, school or district.

Program Impact

Twenty-eight (28) districts representing diversity in size, location and student populations participate in the program. The first fourteen were phased-in over three years beginning FY 1985-86. Seven districts received approval to budget for a program beginning in FY 1992-93 and seven districts began participation in FY 1993-94. There has been no new funding appropriation for additional district participation since FY 93-94.

28 of the state’s 200-plus districts participate in the Career Ladder Program

Approximately 31% of the state’s 865,000 students attend schools in Career Ladder districts

Approximately 40% of the state’s 43,000 teachers are employed in Career Ladder districts

Approximately 70% of eligible teachers participate in the Career Ladder Program
Career Ladder Links

Contact Information

Highly Effective Teachers and Leaders Division
Arizona Department of Education
1535 West Jefferson Street, Bin 45
Phoenix, Arizona 85007

Beth Driscoll, NBCT, M.Ed.
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 602-364-2191
Fax: 602-542-5010