The Herald Bulletin

June 18, 2013

Editorial: Tie school administrator pay raises to performance

The Herald Bulletin

---- — Hundreds of millions of taxpayers dollars are pumped into K-12 education each year in the state of Indiana. The quality of that education, in large part, dictates whether Hoosier children are well prepared for college and, eventually, professional careers.

Because Hoosiers care so deeply about these two topics — the success of our children and the stewardship of our tax dollars — the performance of teachers and school administrators must be evaluated consistently for quality, and those who perform well should be compensated at a higher rate than those who perform poorly.

New state laws dictate that K-12 teachers and other staffers at schools that receive public funding have annual performance-based evaluations. Staffers are graded as highly effective, effective, in need of improvement or ineffective based on student test scores, lesson planning, classroom instruction and other factors. The higher the grade, the larger the raise — though local school boards can decide, within state parameters, how to divide money for raises. Those judged to be ineffective or in need of improvement must show progress or face termination.

In the old days — that is, before Tony Bennett’s four-year (2009-2012) run as superintendent of public instruction — union contracts would dictate teacher raises pretty much across the board in Indiana. Similarly, Hoosier school systems would generally give sweeping percentage pay raises to administrators, sometimes with little or no regard to annual job-performance evaluations.

While that system protected teachers and, to an extent, administrators from potential personal vendettas from above and other arbitrary decisions on pay raises, the system didn’t work in favor of the taxpayer and Indiana school children because it did not demand high-quality work by administrators on behalf of students.

The Anderson Community Schools Board of Trustees is considering a performance-based compensation proposal for ACS administrators. Such a system is always entangled in thorny issues: How should the performance of administrators be judged? Who should judge it? How can it be assured that administrators are judged fairly? How should the money for raises (a pie of about $60,000 for ACS administrators and administrative support staff for the 2013-14 school year) be sliced?

A proposal before the board would address this last question. The proposal would give school building principals rated highly effective a $3,000 raise, while those rated effective would receive $2,250. Those rated as needing improvement and ineffective would not receive raises. The board considered the proposal at its June 11 meeting but tabled a decision until the July 9 meeting (6 p.m. in the Anderson High School auditorium).

Whether the superintendent or his/her designees perform administrator evaluations, the process should be thorough and detailed, so that the administrator can move forward with a clear idea of what they’re doing well and where they’re falling short of expectations.

In the event that school administrators feel their evaluations and raises are not reflective of the quality of their work, they should have recourse to bring the review before an independent panel for examination. And, if the panel finds that the review was indeed unfair or lacks supporting evidence, the process should start over again.

It’s a new world for education in Indiana, with a higher degree of accountability for teachers and administrators. They are trusted with making the best use of tax dollars and, more importantly, making sure that every child gets a high-quality education. Yearly performance-based evaluations of school administrators — with pay raises tied to performance — are key to making sure the system works for students, parents and taxpayers.

In summary

Yearly performance-based evaluations of school administrators -- with pay raises tied to performance -- are key to making sure the system works for students, parents and taxpayers.