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The race for City Hall

Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.

Emanuel unveils performance pay for principals

Principals learned on Wednesday how they could win a bonus of as much as $20,000 in the coming year, but the head of the principals' group says she doesn’t think the money will do anything to spur better student achievement and that some of her members have already said they are uncomfortable with the program.“They feel like they do not produce stellar results by themselves," says Clarice Berry of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association. “It is a team effort.”

The incentives will be offered to principals in charter as well as traditional schools.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who unveiled the initiative, had previously announced that he had secured $5 million in private funding for a performance incentive program for principals. District leadership has said that they will use the money over five years. Bonuses will be handed out in October of 2012 after test scores are released and analyzed.

Standing in front of staff from school network offices, who had gathered at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, Emanuel said the chiefs of school networks will also be eligible for the bonuses.

Yet the mayor acknowledged that money is not the end goal for educators. “Principals and teachers are not motivated by money,” he said. “Like you, they have chosen education because they care about children.”

Berry was not invited to the mayor’s announcement. However, others in the audience said they, too, are skeptical that performance pay would spark school improvement. Bill Hook, principal of Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, said he doubts his fellow principals will do anything differently because of financial incentives.

“There will be no demonstrative change in what I do,” Hook said. “I work hard and try to do the right thing. That won’t change.”

Harrison Peters, chief of schools for the Far South Side High School Network, agreed. But he said he still liked the idea of bonuses. “It recognizes the hard work that principals do,” he said.

More accountability?

Emanuel has made merit pay across the district a key part of his agenda. Performance pay across all levels of CPS will create unparalleled accountability, Emanuel said.

Rather than meeting certain benchmarks, all of the criteria are based on growth in test scores and comparisons with schools with similar students.

Sean Stallings, chief of schools for the Burnham Park High School Network, says he thinks it is good that principals will be competing against colleagues whose schools are similar demographically.

“This give principals of neighborhood schools a chance to show [achievement] growth,” he said.

To get the bonuses, principals will be ranked on criteria that mostly cover growth on test scores, whether it the ISAT, the Explore or the ACT, depending on the grade level of the students. The criteria also include whether principals make substantial progress in closing the achievement gap.

However, some criteria seem to be tailor made for already high-achieving schools that might not have much room for growth.

Elementary school principals will get the bonus if their schools “maintain” a rate of 90 percent or more of students meeting college readiness benchmarks on the Explore. This year, only five elementary schools—Keller, Edison, Lenart, Skinner and Jackson—met that level, according to the district's new school progress reports.

Also, high school principals whose schools maintain a specific low dropout rate for two years will get the extra cash. Last year, only three schools would have qualified.

High school principals also will be rewarded for lowering the dropout rate.

Exactly how many principals have a chance of getting the bonuses is unclear. If they meet two criteria, they will get $5,000; for three, they get $10,000 and for all four, $20,000.  According to 2011 data on value-added test scores, 132 elementary principals would qualify in reading and 144 in math--two of the four elementary school criteria. CPS has not posted value-added test scores for high schools.

Berry notes that value-added and growth measures that compare to similar schools to each other result in principals trying to reach a moving target. Berry says it would take a sophisticated statistician to figure out if they have a chance at qualifying. “My guess is that [the number] is very small,” she says.

CPS spokeswoman Ana Vargas says there has been no retroactive analysis of how many principals might get bonuses.


hammer wrote 3 years 9 weeks ago

looks like the hammer will go

looks like the hammer will go down on the teachers...but we once again will not get a raise> i know its "private money" yet its probabaly money from business leaders who have made millions on city tax exemptions and were glad to see teachers not get raises. btw will teachers share in the wealth????

glenn gary glenn ross wrote 3 years 9 weeks ago

was this a sales meeting??

I am picturing rahm running a principals meeting like glen gary glenn ross....that scene where the sales manager offers the top sales guy (ie principals) offering bbq forks (money) to the principals...pitting each one against the other! this is nuts! teachers and principals went into education to help kids...and escape the business world...this is going to put more pressure on testing and the kids will suffer from dry and dull material while emanual runs our school system like a sales office manager.

Anonymous wrote 3 years 9 weeks ago

pay for performance

When normally intelligent adult get into education they lose every ounce of rational thinking. The "test" is not an indicator of achievement; There are too many variables to determine what a teacher has to do w/ artificial achievement; and teaching to the tesr will drag students away from real learning.

Cap Lee

lobewiper wrote 3 years 9 weeks ago

Principal Bonuses

"[T]he head of the principals' group says she doesn’t think the money will do anything to spur better student achievement and that some of her members have already said they are uncomfortable with the program.“They feel like they do not produce stellar results by themselves," says Clarice Berry of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association." “It is a team effort.”

How right you are Ms. Berry. Where is the research supporting this plan? TCPS teachers are already being asked to help balance the school budget by working longer hours for peanuts. With this initiative, they will will be asked not only to accept pay cuts but also to work harder so that their principals can make more money! Does CPS have any idea that this will likely foster resentment and harm teacher morale, and that morale among a work force matters? No sensible principal will do anything with his/her bonus money other than sharing it with his staff (say, by taking them all for a luncheon cruise on the Odyssey).

Anonymous wrote 3 years 9 weeks ago


It worked so well in New York. What a joke this is doesn't anyone read or care about other people's experiences.

Texas Parents wrote 3 years 9 weeks ago


VIOLATES FAIR LABOR STANDARDS ACT OF 1938: If a child is given work or assessments to do in the classroom that will eventually determine the income of a teaching professional, that student is providing the catalyst for the pay. Paying principals in Chicago based upon test scores from children is a violation. The principals should simply give those "bonuses" back to the school for children, not spend it on personal items. This is morally wrong on all accounts. Also, in Texas, administrators and teachers are paid “bonuses” or additional stipends through “strategic compensation” programs that are dependent upon the school-wide TAKS (standardized tests) growth or other student performance goals. This also breaches the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, which states that sixteen is the basic minimum age for employment. It also says that when young people work, the work cannot jeopardize their health, well-being, or educational opportunities.

Schools do everything wrote 3 years 9 weeks ago

Let cheating begin! It happened at UI Law-it will happen at CPS

"Pless resigned Friday after a two-month, $1 million school investigation found he reported inflated grades and test scores of admitted students in six of the last seven years to make the classes appear more academically accomplished than they were. A review of the investigative file shows the intense culture in which Pless worked, one focused on improving the academic credentials of the incoming classes in part as a means to improving the already well-regarded school's ranking.

"The college's strategic plans and annual reports focused on that ranking. Pless' salary increases were tied to it. The law dean and other top officials exchanged e-mails about the benefits of different combinations of test scores and GPA medians to achieve it."

Anonymous wrote 3 years 8 weeks ago

DC echo chamber brought to Chicago by Rahmbo

The basic and insultingly absurd premise in this is that now principles as well as teachers are phoning it in and will really work harder only if you give them more money because that's all that matters and that's all that's needed by our schools. The disconnect in this is that the "business model" morons pushing this seek to attract young go-getters to the field of teaching who by mere force of will and energy can do better than those with experience whom they seek to displace. What will those newbies do when they wake up one day and realize that there's no way they can succeed by merit alone? Back to the private sector for them. Good thing they don't have merit pay for cops since then we'd all be under false arrest so they could meet their quotas. Oooops, my bad, the NYPD quotas are already doing just that. I wish I knew how those at the top who have risen well beyond their level of incompetence have subverted the Peter Principle and get to keep doing this crap to us all. Guess I'll have to follow the money to find out what we already know.

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