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Performance pay slated for city principals

Note: They're hiring 5 data crunchers to administer this wrong-headed program. Numbers rule. No surprise. After he was defeated in his democratic bid to become governor of Massachusetts, Mark Roosevelt became managing director of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education. He graduated from the Broad Foundation Superintendents Academy in 2003. Yes, he's the great-grandson of Rough Rider Teddy.

By Joe Smydo

All principals in the Pittsburgh Public Schools will be on
pay-for-performance contracts at the start of the next school year, part of
Superintendent Mark Roosevelt's plan to make employees more accountable
during his push for an academic transformation.

District Chief of Staff Lisa Fischetti said the district wouldn't
necessarily eliminate across-the-board raises given to principals most
years, regardless of their performance. But the district wants to offer an
incentive system that will reward hard work, boost student achievement and
increase the number of effective principals in disadvantaged schools.

The district has applied for a federal grant to help pay for the five-year,
$8.9 million initiative, which would dramatically expand the
pay-for-performance program introduced this school year for principals at
eight new schools called accelerated learning academies.

Under the expanded program, the amount of principals' performance pay will
be determined by their students' achievement gains; whether they meet other
goals in their "school plans for excellence;" whether they accept additional
responsibilities, such as mentoring prospective administrators; and whether
they emulate recognized leadership standards.

Principals could earn up to $8,000 in yearly bonuses. They also would have
the opportunity to increase their base pay by $2,000 annually.

The district would hire five people to administer the program.

Richard Sternberg, president of Pittsburgh Administrators Association, said
principals would likely receive raises of $3,000 or $4,000 for meeting some
of their goals or for making progress on several fronts during a school
year. He said such increases in many cases still would be more than the 3
percent across-the-board raises.

Ms. Fischetti said the district might continue with the raises, too, to keep
base salaries competitive with those of other districts. But she said the
district could eliminate the step increases that principals, like teachers,
traditionally have received.

"If done correctly, it will reward principals that are going the extra
mile," Mr. Sternberg, principal of Grandview Elementary in Allentown, said
of the pay-for-performance program. He said the district has about 70

The school board approved across-the-board raises for principals and other
administrators Wednesday. The 3 percent jump, retroactive to Jan. 1, was the
group's first raise -- excluding step movement -- since 2005.

With those raises, base pay for principals ranges from $94,060 to $106,673.
Principals with advanced degrees make extra money -- such as an additional
$2,400 this year for having a doctorate.

Only principals will be eligible for pay-for-performance next school year.
Assistant principals and other administrators could continue to receive step
increases and be eligible for traditional across-the-board raises.

Thomas Templeton, director of school personnel services for the Pennsylvania
School Boards Association, said pay-for-performance is gaining popularity
because of ever-tougher achievement standards in the federal No Child Left
Behind Act.

In Texas, the Houston Independent School District announced March 13 that it
was awarding nearly $1.3 million in performance pay to 257 principals, using
state, local and federal money.

The payouts ranged from $890 to $8,920. The district also awarded $284,000
in bonuses to 19 executive principals, five regional superintendents and its
chief academic officer. All principals received an across-the-board raise of
4 percent this school year. The district does not give step increases to
principals, spokesman Terry Abbott said.

Incentive programs can have pitfalls, said J. Daniel Collins, executive
director of the Pennsylvania Association of Elementary and Secondary School
Principals. He said it can be unfair to hold principals accountable for
school performance if they don't have the authority to pick their own

Mr. Sternberg said the administrators' group will help develop the criteria
the district will use to evaluate principals.

Principals at the eight accelerated learning academies already can earn
bonuses of up to $10,000 for meeting goals tied with student achievement
during the year, successful implementation of new programs and other
measures. Ms. Fischetti said they'll also be eligible for performance pay
under the expanded program.

— Joe Smydo
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


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