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NCLB Outrages

IPS chief's pay tied to success of students

Ohanian Comment: This, of course, is a side-affect of NCLB--mixing student test scores and money. And of course claiming that student test scores accurately measure learning. When will we get a test for happiness? Helpfulness? Patience? Perseverance?

Of course, we remember that Indianapolis doesn't have a history of sensitivity. They insisted on continuing with their standardized testing on 9/11/01 and 9/12/01. The reasoning was that students should be able to "compartmentalize their emotions."

by Kim L. Hooper

Indianapolis Public Schools may be among the first in Indiana to link their superintendent's pay to student success, but a growing number of urban districts across the country already have been taking that approach.

School boards in Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver and Illinois have all negotiated contracts with their top administrators based on meeting tough academic goals.

The Palm Beach County, Fla., superintendent can earn a 15 percent bonus on his annual $155,279 salary if test scores dramatically improve, suspensions drop and graduation rates go up.

Eugene G. White's $175,000 base pay makes him the second-highest paid superintendent in the state, behind Fort Wayne's chief.

But if White, 57, successfully meets performance goals outlined in his recently signed four-year agreement with IPS, his earnings could increase by $15,000, topping Fort Wayne Community Schools Superintendent Wendy Robinson's salary of $178,875.

Performance- or incentive-based contracts are becoming more common as school boards and educators seek working accords based on outcomes and goals, which are increasingly linked to student test scores.

Supporters say the move extends the pressure teachers face to boost test scores right to their superintendent's paycheck, a situation that can help inspire classroom workers if they perceive their chief's future, like their own, is tied to children's success.

But not everyone is convinced the practice is reasonable, given that superintendents are far removed from classrooms.

"It is good to have rewards for improvement," said Dan Clark, deputy director of the Indiana State Teachers Association, "but the rewards should be for the entire system and the schools, not an individual." Clark's union represents many of the state's 60,433 educators.

"Let's have rewards for the schools and school corporations," Clark said, "just like we have sanctions for schools and school corporations."

Accounting trick

The idea of offering superintendent incentives is a natural outgrowth of efforts to hold schools accountable, educators say. National and state reforms penalize schools that fail to meet stricter achievement guidelines.

Business leaders have long called for performance-based pay for educators -- including classroom teachers, whose contracts are typically based on years of experience and advanced degrees.

Facing a shrinking pool of candidates, some school districts use incentive packages and other perks to lure superintendents to their cities. They are also looking at nontraditional candidates.

In Denver, the mayor's chief of staff was recently appointed the new schools chief. District spokesman Mark Stevens said the previous Denver schools superintendent earned a base salary of $200,000 and was offered bonuses each of the four years he was in charge, declining them each time.

New Superintendent Michael Bennett will be paid a base salary of $160,000 and can earn as much as $40,000 in incentives, though Stevens said it is unclear what those performance goals were.

Such plans can prove disastrous, said John "Jack" Jennings, director of the Center for Education Policy, a Washington, D.C., reform group that has not been enamored with the president's No Child Left Behind program and its emphasis on test scores.

"It puts enormous pressure on people to raise tests scores at any cost," Jennings said.

Bruce Hunter, associate executive director for the American Association for School Administrators, disagreed.

It's hard to hold teachers and principals accountable for student performance, he said, if a superintendent isn't held responsible for that as well.

White's goals

For White to receive the highest bonus of $15,000, he must find a way to increase the number of IPS children passing Indiana's standardized test by nearly 5,500 students a year.

That is what's needed to meet the goal of 51 percent of the district's total enrollment of 39,931 passing the standardized test, a key target in White's contract and a goal of the district's five-year Strategic Plan. Last fall, about 14,400 IPS students -- 36 percent -- passed both the math and English portions of Indiana's standardized test known as ISTEP.

Even if he doesn't achieve the 51 percent goal and White doesn't get the $15,000, he still could receive a $5,000 bonus if students show some improvement on the statewide standardized test.

A veteran educator who for 11 years led Washington Township Schools in Marion County, White said he is undaunted by the performance goals.

"I don't worry about it," he said this week of his 18-page contract that also has perks such as a $900 monthly car allowance, $1,000 in moving expenses and contributions to a retirement account.

But he admits taking the helm of IPS, a district beset by lagging test scores and too few parents involved in school life, is the biggest test of his 34-year career.

"I'm taking it as a challenge."

Comparing salaries

Superintendent pay varies, with large salaries often going to chiefs of urban schools. Here's how the IPS superintendent's salary compares, based on enrollment, among districts of similar size:

Anoka-Hennepin Schools, Minn., $155,000, 41,383
Oklahoma City Schools, $155,000, 40,856
Indianapolis Public Schools, $175,000, 40,731
Hamilton County Schools, Tenn., $142,958, 40,564
Osceola City Schools, Fla., $121,718, 40,485
Douglas County Schools, Colo., $225,000, 40,511

Source: The National Center for Education Statistics and IPS

-- Eunice Trotter and Jane Huh

The perks of White's 4-year contract

Perks in IPS Superintendent Eugene G. White's four-year contract are common for schools chiefs and include full health benefits and a retirement plan.

Compensation: Base salary of $175,000. Eligible for annual lump sum bonuses of $15,000 and $5,000 respectively if specific student achievement goals or Strategic Plan goals are met.

Professional growth and development: The School Board will pay travel and lodging related to his attendance and participation with the American Association of School Administrators and the Council of Great City Schools.

Deferred compensation: The board will contribute annually to a tax-deductible retirement plan, not to exceed 6 percent of his salary.

Other benefits: Reimbursement of expenses including meals, entertainment, travel, professional books and supplies. A home computer and printer compatible with his office computer and a fax machine; a cell phone; a Blackberry.

-- Kim L. Hooper

— Kim L. Hooper
Indianapolis Star


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