Will Grading Principal Improve Pittsburgh Schools?

Pittsburgh Schools have not shown significant improvement as measured by the Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) assessment. Due to the district’s inability to show improvements mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act for 4 consecutive years, Pittsburgh Schools were required to make significant changes in the 2006-2007 school year. Those changes included closing 22 schools, opening accelerated learning academies, and adding more k-8 schools.

Superintendent Mark Roosevelt felt the “slow improvement” of Pittsburgh Schools also required some other big changes, starting at the top. Pittsburgh Schools will institute a district wide administrator training and management plan called the Pittsburgh Urban Leadership System for Excellence (PULSE). PULSE will require greater support for new principals, enhanced training for potential administrators, and tougher standards on principal evaluations. But the most notable component is the plan to eliminate annual step increases, and institute a pay for performance plan, for all Pittsburgh Schools’ principals.

Pittsburgh Schools applied for an $8.9 million federal grant to fund the program, and anticipate a response in June of this year. If the grant is approved, the traditional step increases Pittsburgh Principals are used to will be replaced by a $2000 increase in base pay. That would be tied to progress in meeting 28 performance-based goals. The other part of the incentive would include bonuses of up to $10,000 for demonstrated academic growth among students. This would position Pittsburgh Schools’ principals to make much more than with the step increase system.

Pittsburgh Schools initiated the pay for performance plan last year with the principals of the eight new accelerated learning academies. However, it is too soon to tell how much the students have benefited in that short period of time. Pittsburgh Schools have shown very small, very slow, improvement in meeting the AYP targets. Overall advances of 3% in 5th grade math and a record 9% in 8th grade reading do little to put Pittsburgh Schools where they need to be.

Is the pay for performance plan the answer? A rating scale using “rudimentary”, “emerging”, “proficient” and “accomplished” will be used in areas of academics, community relations and academic success. Pittsburgh Schools is one of many urban districts to grapple with the issues of meeting rising academic standards. The question of offering both administrators and teachers merit pay has bee a hot topic between unions and academic observers for decades. While the issue of bonus pay for performance has not often been used with Pittsburgh Schools’ teachers, if it is successful with the principals, teachers may not be far behind.

Will it work? Opponents have suggested that the academic world operates differently than the corporate one, and that incentives won’t work. Others insist that the lack of performance-based pay is one of the biggest problems with Pittsburgh Schools and public education as a whole. Stay tuned. Grading principals may be the most notable reform Pittsburgh Schools institute this year.

Will Grading Principal Improve Pittsburgh Schools? 7.1 of 10 on the basis of 2921 Review.