Collective Merit Pay: Supporting Collaboration Over Competition
Kildeer Countryside Consolidated School District 96 was engaged in contract negotiations throughout the 2009–2010 school year. The economic climate coupled with increased accountability requirements contributed to a different landscape than in years past. While the conversations around the table related to economics were difficult, the hot-button topic was the proposal that the Board of Education put on the table regarding a performance-based compensation system, or merit pay.
The proposal focused on the opportunity for an entire school faculty to earn an additional 1.5%–2% on top of CPI (which was the base raise) if the student body hit three targets based on a triangulation of data. The three data points that would contribute to the eligibility for the established bonus included an NWEA (MAP) Measure of Growth, NWEA (MAP) Measure of Proficiency, and ISAT (State Assessment) Measure of Achievement. When the proposal gained no traction and the contract was eventually ratified without it, the Board of Education and then-superintendent Dr. Tom Many did not want to dismiss the concept.
In expecting its administrators to model for others, the superintendent proposed, and the Board supported, the introduction of the same performance-based compensation system for administrators. The underlying hope is that the participation in such a model by the administrators will help to ease high levels of anxiety regarding such a concept in the future for teachers. Currently the system is not tied to evaluation. The goal was to pilot a plan that emphasized maintaining high levels of student achievement, focused on student growth, and avoided individual competition.
The Board of Education wanted the individual allotment to be meaningful. They allocated $45,900 for the first year’s program. The maximum amount each eligible administrator can receive is $2,700, which translates to an additional 1.8%–3.8% depending on base salary. The bonus is a one-time payment that will be on the last paycheck in June and is noncumulative. It does not carry over to the next school year’s base.
Administrators eligible for the performance-based bonus include assistant superintendents, directors, coordinators, principals, and assistant principals who are not on retirement contracts. The targets were based on three years of data for all schools, and schools must reach or exceed the targets in math and reading for that year to be eligible for the bonus.
The elementary and middle school targets are as follows:
- NWEA MAP Measure of Growth = 60% of students meet/exceed target
- NWEA MAP Measure of Proficiency = 90% of students meet proficiency
- ISAT (State Assessment) Measure of Achievement = 90% meet/exceed
At the kindergarten level, targets are as follows:
- NWEA Measure of Growth = 60% (piloting at this level)
- ISEL Measure of Proficiency = 80%
- Harcourt Sight Words Measure of Achievement = 90%
Principals and assistant principals, the instructional leaders at the building level, are eligible for the bonus if their school reaches two or all three benchmarks. There is no bonus for only meeting one benchmark. The bonus structure is as follows:
- Two of three successful benchmarks = $1,800 or 2/3 of the allotted bonus
- Three of three successful benchmarks = $2,700 or the entire amount of the bonus
The targeted benchmarks are reviewed annually by the superintendent to make sure that they align with district goals and expectations per building.
District-level administrators are responsible to lead and support all schools in regard to student learning. They are eligible to receive the bonus if five or more of seven schools reach their targeted benchmarks. No bonus will be received if less than five schools meet the targeted benchmarks. The bonus structure is as follows:
- Five of seven schools are successful in reaching their benchmarks = $900 or 1/3 of the individual allotted bonus
- Six of seven schools are successful in reaching their benchmarks = $1,800 or 2/3 of the allotted individual bonus
- All seven schools are successful in reaching their benchmarks = $2,700 or the entire amount of the individual allotted bonus
If schools only reach two of their three benchmarks for a given year, the school will count as being successful toward the administrators’ determination for the bonus pool. If a school only meets one target, that school will not count as being successful toward the district administrators’ eligibility.
The plan, as implemented this year, received 100% buy-in and support from district administrators. It serves to remind district-level leaders, no matter the role, that student learning is our mission and that all positions should support this mission. Next steps for the next year will be to differentiate targets based on individual school data. The high level of comfort and confidence with which leaders talk about the performance-based compensation bonus will, hopefully, lead to more open discussions throughout the system.