Pay based on performancePublished 10:22pm Thursday, November 18, 2010
A principal is the chief executive officer (CEO) of the school to which he or she is assigned. In the business world, CEOs are often paid on the basis of their performance, if profits increase. School administrators have always been held accountable for their performance. Today, pay-for-performance is common in some school districts nationwide. The concept has not received widespread acceptance among the majority of school administrators.
Merit pay or incentive pay for teachers has been debated for decades. Little research exists concerning performance pay for principals since this is relatively new on a national level.
What are performance contracts? Performance contracts are agreements between an administrator and the school board that link the administrator’s pay to indicators of job performance. However, there is little consensus regarding what indicators should be used in administrators’ evaluations. Students’ standardized test scores are the most commonly used indicator. They are also the most controversial. Other indicators should be included in the performance pay contracts. Some factors are beyond an administrator’s control.
There are supporters and opponents of professional compensation for principals. The National Association of Secondary School Principals states, “It is the position of NASSP that performance-based compensation systems for principals should not be mandated. This position statement should not be misconstrued as an endorsement of such systems.”
According to the Southern Regional Education Board, state and federal accountability systems are increasingly placing the burden of school success–and individual student achievement—squarely on the shoulders of administrators.
Principal performance should take into account the context in which a school operates and be based on multiple objective measures beyond student performance indicators. The National Association of Secondary School Principals suggests the following indicators:
4Performance on state and local assessments (measures of individual student growth from year to year)
4Graduation rates and/or promotion rates
4Participation in advanced courses
4Implementation of innovative program enhancements such as career and technical education, international and environmental studies, and community service
4College and work readiness
4College attendance rates (if data are available)
4School and district improvement objectives
4School climate data
4School and community collaboration
4Teacher retention/transfer rates
Freedom to choose is paramount. Principals should be given the privilege to select newly hired employees.
It is feared that administrators’ performance pay and high-stakes testing rob students of a well-rounded education. An anonymous teacher writes, “And by the way – don’t tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend most of the year preparing him to fill in a few bubbles on a standardized test. Don’t tell us that these tests have to come at the expense of music, or art, or physical education, or science. These tests shouldn’t come at the expense of a well-rounded education – they should help complete that well-rounded education. The teachers I have met didn’t devote their lives to testing, they devoted them to teaching, and teaching our children is what they should be allowed to do.”
Pay- for- performance contracts should be examined on a district-by-district basis, because indicators and variables differ. No one model will fit all school systems. Nonetheless, during this collaborative and shared decision-making era in education, an innovative approach is to share bonuses among the principal and a school’s faculty members when projected goals are accomplished. And on a broader scale, the superintendent and central office personnel should be awarded bonuses when the district’s annual goals are met.