State of the Superintendency                               Page 6


Contractual Merit Pay   

State of the Superintendency 

The issue of merit pay, or pay for performance, for superintendents has been discussed for decades.

Proponents contend that salary and fringe-benefit incentives elevate individual and institutional performance and provide a mechanism for retaining outstanding leaders. Opponents counter with three arguments: Assessment metrics are insufficiently precise; evaluative judgments typically are not objective; and performance goals can be unrealistic or unfair (e.g., basing merit pay on student test scores).

For most superintendents, annual salary is not based on a schedule, as it is for teachers. Yet surprisingly few have a merit pay clause in their employment contract. Data collected during an AASA-sponsored study in 2010-2011 found that only 15.3 percent nationwide had such a provision.

Closer scrutiny, however, reveals a nexus between district enrollment and merit pay. Pay-for-performance provisions were far more common in districts with more than 25,000 students than they were in much smaller districts. Moreover, as the bar graph shows, the relationship between district enrollment and merit pay was linear. The reasons for limited use of merit pay clauses are largely unknown.

Source of data: "The American School Superintendent: 2012 Decennial Study" (2011) published by Rowman & Littlefield Education and co-sponsored by AASA and Pearson. Analysis by Theodore J. Kowalski, study lead author and professor of educational administration, University of Dayton. 


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