WASHINGTON — Principals were first to receive merit-based pay, followed by students and some teachers. Top officials at the Department of Education could be next.
Chancellor Joel Klein, in an effort that is sending his accountability mantra to the top of the schools chain, is asking a group of about 100 of his closest aides to draft performance goals they aim to meet by the end of the year. The goals will be monitored quarterly throughout this school year, in some cases by Mr. Klein himself. The conversations are preliminary thus far, but positive results could mean bonuses come June, the city official running the new program, Laura Smith, said yesterday.
Ms. Smith said the move was in line with the program of changes Mr. Klein has implemented, dubbed Children First. "If you look at the three pillars of Children First — leadership, empowerment, and accountability — this is the last pillar. How do you hold central office accountable?" she said.
The aides will be judged on how well they meet goals in three categories: student achievement, as measured by factors including standardized tests and graduation rates; principal satisfaction, as measured by a survey all city principals will complete this year, and operational goals specific to their department, Ms. Smith said.
Some aides, such as those whose work encompasses all the city's schoolchildren, will be judged according to the test scores of all city students. Those who oversee only one sector of schools, such as the manager who runs the so-called empowerment zone of schools where principals are given extra freedoms, Eric Nadelstern, will be judged only on the performance of students in those schools.
Whether positive reviews will be tied to an end-of-the-year bonus is not yet certain. Ms. Smith said conversations on the idea are in "very early" stages.
If merit pay for top aides is enacted, it would add to a slew of financial incentives Mr. Klein has brought to the schools, including a system to reward principals for student achievement and a new test plan recently announced for teachers at 200 city schools. Even students are being offered cash incentives, through separate private initiatives announced this year.
Ms. Smith spoke about the evaluations program at a conference yesterday at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D. C., on using "supply side" innovations to improve schools.
A supply-side approach means trying to change a school system's basic ingredients — from teachers to curriculum to management — rather than simply reshuffling them or expecting the so-called demand side, students, to effect change, the conference organizer, Frederick Hess, said.
He called the New York City schools "one of the three or four most interesting places" in tackling supply issues.
Ms. Smith also spoke about another project she built for the city, "Market Maker," which enables principals to purchase services and products on their own, rather than being handed them from central bureaucrats.
Larry Berger, the CEO of the maker of a software product that 200 New York City schools have purchased, Wireless Generation, said Market Maker has transformed the way principals do their jobs. "If something didn't work, principals used to say, 'Another bad decision by the central office,'" Mr. Berger said. "Now, they know it's their decision."