Cities try merit pay for superintendents

If performance pay makes sense for teachers and principals, what about superintendents? Some urban school districts are offering merit pay for superintendents, notes the Hechinger Report.

Bernadeia Johnson, superintendent of the Minneapolis Public Schools, will earn a bonus of up to $30,000 on top of her $190,000 base salary, if she meets a serious of improvement goals. Her predecessor, Bill Green, refused a pay-for-performance deal.

One third of the 65 districts that belong to the Council of the Great City Schools are trying performance pay for superintendents.

In most districts, merit pay for superintendents is based on test scores and the district’s fiscal health. Graduation rates, a key indicator for school districts, are tougher for a superintendent to influence.

. . . Fifty percent of Johnson’s potential bonus hinges on higher test scores and progress toward closing Minneapolis’ racial achievement gap. Improved relationships – between the district and the public, as well as between administrators and staff – can bring another 10 percent. The rest of her potential bonus will be determined by how well she puts in place a new instructional system, a long-range financial plan and budget process, an accountability plan and a data-management system. Progress toward those goals can earn her a partial bonus.

“What gets measured gets done,” said Tom Madden, who chairs the Minneapolis school board. “Bernadeia knows that and the board knows that.”

Merit pay for superintendents ranges from $5,000 to $75,000. But the big bonuses lead to complaints.  In Philadelphia, Arlene Ackerman came under fire for accepting a $65,000 bonus on top of her $338,000 salary in 2008-09.

Former Minneapolis superintendent Carol Johnson now leads the Boston Public Schools. She is eligible for a yearly performance bonus of up to $20,000 but has said she won’t take any bonuses or raises through the 2011-12 school year above her current salary of $275,000.

“I don’t think in a period where schools are cutting resources for children, any of us can expect to take raises,” Johnson told the Boston Herald.

No research links superintendent merit pay to improved student outcomes. However, it sends a good signal that accountability starts at the top, says Mike Casserly of Council of the Great City Schools.  “I think it sets a good tone for the people at the top of the system to hold themselves accountable.”

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  1. It is probably easier to put meaningful quantitative measurements on superintendents on principals, and easier to put them on principals than on individual teachers, simply because the numbers are greater. And absolutely, accountability should be at all levels.

  2. I guess I could live off of a $190,000 salary and not accept anything else.

    Merit pay has been shown to not help. Why does everyone dance around the real issue here? It’s simple take a look at the students and their home life, that is the number one indicator of a good student.

  3. It’s nice that the idea of merit pay, which obviously works, is being extended to those up the administrative hierarchy.

    Sort of gives them an incentive to try to keep their attention on education as opposed to the current situation where administrators are motivated primarily by job security and have no stake in whether the kids are learning.

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    Responsibility without authority is meaningless, except to engender ulcers and alcoholism.
    Presuming the supes have the authority to make meaningful changes is nice, but do they?

  5. It’s nice that the idea of merit pay, which obviously works, is being extended to those up the administrative hierarchy.

    Except they don’t: