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New plan will allow merit raises for D.C. school principals

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D.C. Public Schools officials plan to offer performance raises to principals and assistant principals who score well on annual evaluations, expanding the merit pay system already in place for teachers.

All high-performing administrators would be eligible for salary increases of up to $5,000, while those working in the District’s 40 lowest-performing schools would be eligible for a raise of up to $20,000.

The pay hikes would be paid for in part with a five-year, $62 million grant — the largest of 35 such awards announced Thursday by the U.S. Education Department.

“I fundamentally believe that our teachers and principals in DCPS are the most dedicated and most capable in the country and this grant will help us provide them with the support they deserve,” Chancellor Kaya Henderson said in a statement.

The grant came from the federal government’s Teacher Incentive Fund, a program meant to encourage pay-for-performance initiatives in the nation’s schools.

“Our best teachers and principals are invaluable leaders in changing life outcomes for students,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. “They deserve to be recognized, rewarded, and given the opportunity to have a greater influence on their colleagues, students, and in their communities.”

DCPS was among the first school systems in the country to link teacher pay and job security with students’ performance on standardized tests. That move generated considerable local controversy, but it prompted national attention and spurred similar efforts elsewhere.

D.C. principals and assistant principals who work on one-year contracts and can be let go for any reason are likewise evaluated on school test scores. They also are judged on a range of other measures, including creating a positive school culture and complying with special-education laws.

Those who earn effective or highly effective ratings would be eligible for merit raises; those deemed minimally effective or ineffective would not.

Aona Jefferson, president of the Council of School Officers, the union that represents principals, assistant principals and other administrators, said she was “ecstatic” about the grant “because we want our people to make as much money as they can.”

But she challenged the school system’s right to institute merit pay raises outside of the collective bargaining process. The union’s contract expired in 2007 and negotiations broke off about two years ago.

“We look forward to working with the CSO to finalize these details,” school system spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz wrote in an e-mail.

It’s not clear how widespread the raises would be. DCPS officials could not say how many administrators earned top ratings last year.

The federal grant will also help pay to establish an 18-month residency program to prepare assistant principals to become principals.

The school system also plans to partner with a university to offer more leadership training for its strongest principals. DCPS officials said that they had been in talks with Georgetown University about a partnership.

Lastly, the money will help fund merit pay and training for teachers, and will pay for an outside consultant to help recruit high-performing, experienced teachers to work in the city’s neediest schools.

Nathan Saunders, president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, said he wrote a letter of support for the grant application and was pleased that the money was awarded.

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