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Mile High Early Learning Evaluation

A multi-ethnic group of six boys and girls sitting on the floor of a library, reading with a therapy dog, a goldendoodle. The dog handler is a mature woman in her 50s who is smiling holding a book and reading aloud. The girl 3rd from the left has down syndrome.
Assessing whether pay raises increase retention and decrease burnout for early care teachers
  • Client
    Mile High Early Learning
  • Dates
    2018 - 2020


An early education program wanted to recruit and retain high-quality teachers.  

Early care and education programs (ECE) are critical services that support the development of young children and can significantly improve children’s school readiness skills. High-quality ECE programs, like those provided by Mile High Early Learning (MHEL) in Denver, are designed to foster positive social, emotional, language, physical, and cognitive development in children. The goal is for children to enter kindergarten with the knowledge, approaches to learning, and skills needed to thrive in elementary school and beyond. MHEL recognized that early childhood teachers are the most critical factor in providing high-quality early care and education. So MHEL wanted strategies to recruit and retain well-qualified teachers.


NORC examined the impact of higher salaries on retention and burnout. 

In partnership with MHEL and the University of Colorado, Denver, NORC at the University of Chicago evaluated the Mile High Early Learning Teacher Well-Being Initiatives, a series of strategies to reduce teacher stress and burnout. One of these initiatives involves the implementation of a new salary scale to adjust all teachers’ salaries upward, with raises based on a combination of education level, job role, and experience. MHEL also wanted to test other strategies to improve working conditions, workplace culture, teacher well-being, and retention. The goal was to examine dimensions of teachers’ work lives that have demonstrated relationships to teacher burnout, depression, and turnover.


We found that higher wages reduced teacher turnover but not burnout.  

Among the survey’s findings:

  • From the year before the wage adjustment to the year after the wage adjustment, there was an 80 percent reduction in lead teacher turnover and a 79 percent reduction in assistant teacher turnover.
  • After the wage adjustment, there was a 5.3 percent increase in lead teachers’ perceptions and a 9.3 percent increase in assistant teachers’ perceptions of their abilities to make ends meet.
  • There was a decrease of approximately 20 percentage points in depression scores among teachers in the year after the wage adjustment. But there were no significant changes in burnout or self-efficacy.

Principal Investigator

Principal Research Scientist

Related Tags

Data & Findings

  • "Mile High Early Learning Workforce Initiatives: Evaluating a New Teacher Salary Scale, Initial Findings."

    Project Report | August 13, 2021

    Schaack, D., Le, V-N., Adegbuyi, T. and Ortega, M.

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