Teaching Profession

N.Y.C. Administrators To Receive Merit Pay for Boosting Scores

By Mark Stricherz — June 06, 2001 2 min read
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In a first for the New York City schools, the district will give bonuses of up to $15,000 to principals and other administrators whose schools posted major gains on test scores.

The rewards will go to leaders at 300 schools, which have yet to be announced. District officials grouped schools into three performance categories—low, middle, and high—taking into account students’ economic circumstances. Within each of those groups, they identified the top 25 percent of schools whose scores on city and state tests had improved the most between 1999 and 2000. For high schools, factors such as dropout rates were also used.

City officials depicted the bonuses as part of a broader accountability plan they are seeking to have implemented in the 1.1 million-student district, the nation’s largest.

“From [Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani’s] perspective, this is a real breakthrough for accountability, because principals will be held accountable for [improving] performance,” said Deputy Mayor Anthony P. Coles. “Merit pay is something that works in the private sector. “

He noted that school officials earlier had abolished tenure for the city’s principals.

Unions Concerned

Officials with the city’s principals’ union, the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, were less enthusiastic about the bonuses.

While the union agreed last year to merit pay in exchange for salary increases of more than 30 percent, spokesman David G. DeMond voiced concern about schools’ being arbitrarily selected. Schools Chancellor Harold O. Levy, he said, may “not use simple, across-the-board criteria.” (“Principals Approve New Contract in N.Y.C.,” Feb. 2, 2000.) Mr. DeMond added that the merit-pay plan might be forced on the teachers’ union, a worry shared by United Federation of Teachers.

In a statement, UFT President Randi Weingarten amplified the CSA’s reservations. “The union that negotiated this program is now questioning the objectivity, fairness, and integrity of its implementation,” she said. “This raises profound questions about how individual merit pay actually works for school and kids.”

Dick Riley, a spokesman for the teachers’ union, added that it opposes individual bonuses for teachers and is “more supportive of performance pay that is schoolwide.” Mr. Riley called test scores a poor gauge of student achievement.

The only types of schools that won’t receive the bonuses are ones judged to be failing by the state. Eligible supervisors must have been rated satisfactory by the system and have served in the school or district for three months.

In addition to benefiting principals and supervisors at the 300 schools, the bonuses also will be given to supervisors from eight district offices and the high school superintendency.

The bonuses will be awarded based on performance to administrators of schools in the top 25 percent of each cohort. Administrators at schools in the top 5 percent of their category will receive increases of between $7,500 and $15,000. The other bonuses will be between $2,750 and $10,000.

A range of additional factors went into ranking the high schools, said Marge Feinberg, a spokeswoman for Mr. Levy. They included the percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches, the number of children who use mass transit, and attendance and suspension data.

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A version of this article appeared in the June 06, 2001 edition of Education Week as N.Y.C. Administrators To Receive Merit Pay for Boosting Scores

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