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Cincinnati Links Administrators' Pay, Performance

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Cincinnati administrators' pay raises will be based on how well they do their jobs, under a new policy announced last week by the school district.

The pay-for-performance program, under development for two years, is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation for school administrators. It abolishes automatic cost-of-living adjustments and the traditional salary schedule, which paid administrators according to their years of service and academic credentials.

Instead, annual raises for the district's 250 central-office administrators, principals, and assistant principals will be determined, in part, by whether they meet specific goals for student performance at the school and district level.

Under the new plan, administrators' annual raises will be based on:

  • Their performance of tasks required for their jobs, including financial management, staff development and management, and school and community involvement;
  • Students' scores on national and district standardized tests and on the Ohio proficiency test required for graduation; and
  • Graduation, promotion and passing, and dropout rates.

The new system forms part of the 51,000-student district's ongoing effort to revamp its business and management practices. The restructuring was sparked by a business commission's 1991 report that has served as a blueprint for change in the Cincinnati schools.

"All employees need to be accountable for results," Superintendent J. Michael Brandt said in announcing the pay program. "By rewarding and recognizing administrators for their efforts and results, I believe that students will reap the ultimate benefits."

Equity Measures

To make the system fair, schools will be judged against their own past performance, not against other schools. The district also plans to make adjustments for student mobility when calculating improvements in test scores.

When looking at California Achievement Test scores, for example, the district will only count scores for students who have been present since the beginning of the school year.

The program, devised with the help of a consulting firm, establishes a new pay structure based on the work performed in the job and the marketplace pay rate for similar work.

Central-office administrators' pay was set at average levels for the marketplace, while the pay for principals and assistant principals was set slightly above the market to reflect the district's emphasis on school-based improvement.

Under the new system, about 15 employees will have their salaries frozen because they earn more than the new classification system recommends, according to Monica Curtis, the district's public-affairs director. Another 10 to 20 employees, mostly elementary assistant principals, will receive raises.

Over all, the pay plan is not expected to cost more money. Each year, the school board will approve a pot of money to be used for merit pay. The district's human-resources department will develop guidelines for distributing that amount based on the district's budget, administrators' scores on their appraisals, and the raises the market is paying workers in similar jobs.

Emphasis on Training

Cincinnati officials stressed that the new system will focus on helping administrators improve their performance.

During the year, administrators will meet with their supervisors to discuss progress, develop plans for action, and evaluate their own performance. That process will be repeated each year. Administrators who are having problems with particular aspects of their jobs are expected to receive help at the district's training academy.

"The idea is that if someone is deficient in an area, then they can be given training and development to raise their skills," Ms. Curtis said.

W. Steven Ottemann, the vice president of the district, said the emphasis on "performance management" would allow administrators to develop in their jobs.

Under the old system, administrators received brief evaluations each January. About 90 percent of them received good reviews.

Henri Frazier, the president of the Cincinnati Association of Administrators and Supervisors, called the pay plan an "exciting concept and very different."

"We are extremely supportive of an accountability system for all employees," she said.

The district took steps toward greater accountability for teachers last spring, when it reached a contract with the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers that more closely links teachers' pay to performance and includes more frequent evaluations. (See Education Week, 06/22/94.)

Paul Houston, the executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, said Cincinnati's pay plan sounded unique.

The decision to expect schools to improve over their own past performance, rather than measure up to a set standard, "makes a great deal of sense," Mr. Houston said. "That's clearly the way to go with something like that."

He cautioned, however, that administrators must be given adequate resources to make the improvements expected of them.

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