School & District Management

Poll Finds School Leaders Cool to Performance Pay

By Lesli A. Maxwell — July 06, 2009 2 min read

Despite the rising profile of pay-for-performance plans as a school improvement strategy, there is no consensus among school leaders that such a compensation system for teachers and other district employees is workable, a survey of school administrators suggests.

In the June survey, conducted by the American Association of School Administrators and completed online by 536 administrators from 45 states, 44 percent of the respondents said they had a “moderate to strong” interest in exploring the use of a pay-for-performance program for individual teachers, 46 percent said they would be interested in using it to reward groups of teachers, and 44 percent reported being interested in a pay-for-performance initiative that would reward all teachers. Respondents were allowed to rate their interest at each of the three levels.

More than 20 percent of the respondents said they had no interest in a pay-for-performance program at any level in their districts.

Officials with the AASA, an Arlington, Va.-based organization that represents 13,000 superintendents and other district-level school leaders, said the survey was meant to gauge support for introducing performance measures, such as student achievement, into compensation systems for teachers and other district employees. Eighty-two percent of the respondents said that any such system should apply to all educators in a district, including principals and district-level administrators.

Union Resistance Cited

For the survey, the AASA defined pay for performance as a compensation system that uses financial incentives or other means for motivating high performance by employees. More than half the respondents were administrators in rural districts, 35 percent were from suburban districts, and 13 percent were in urban districts. Most of the respondents were district superintendents.

Administrators also answered questions about what types of indicators should be used in a pay-for-performance plan and what factors might keep them from implementing such a program.

Student achievement and teacher evaluations were the two top indicators that respondents said should be part of pay for performance; 89 percent would include the former, and 68 percent the latter. Fifty-four percent also said that graduation rates should be included.

Resistance from teachers’ unions is the top barrier to pay-for-performance plans, according to the survey, with 75 percent of the respondents saying such opposition would make implementation difficult.

A version of this article appeared in the July 15, 2009 edition of Education Week as Poll Finds School Leaders Cool to Performance Pay

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