AASA Snapshot Study Looks at Interest in Pay-For-Performance in School Districts Nationwide

June 11, 2009


Amy Vogt

ARLINGTON, Va. – There is a diversity of opinion among school system leaders on pay for performance programs, according to a snapshot study released today by the American Association of School Administrators. AASA produced the study, “Exploring the Possibility and Potential for Pay for Performance in America’s Public Schools,” in response to a growing dialogue at the local, state and national levels around the idea of restructuring teacher pay to include performance measures. The study, based on a survey of superintendents conducted in May 2009, reveals motivations and concerns that influence superintendents’ consideration of pay for performance.

A total of 536 school administrators from 45 states completed the 10-question survey. Key findings include:

  • School leaders have varied levels of interest in performance pay for teachers: 45 percent expressed moderate to strong interest, 28 percent expressed limited interest and 23 percent expressed no interest. Five percent of respondents were already pursuing pay-for-performance programs for teachers in their districts.
  • The top three motivations for implementing a pay-for-performance plan were identified as improving student achievement (77 percent), improving teacher effectiveness (64 percent), and providing a motivational tool for teachers (49 percent).
  • The top three indicators school leaders would use in evaluations to determine performance pay were identified as student achievement (89 percent), teacher evaluations (68 percent) and teacher attendance (54 percent).
  • The top three obstacles to implementing pay-for-performance plans were identified as teacher union resistance (75 percent), the capacity to link teacher evaluation and/or student achievement to evaluations (66 percent) and accuracy of performance measures (65 percent).
  • When asked which educators should receive performance-based pay, 15 percent of respondents said teachers, 14 percent said principals and 9 percent said administrators.  An overwhelming majority -- 82 percent -- said all three groups -- teachers, principals and administrators -- should be included in pay-for-performance plans.
  • Of those respondents identifying a desire to improve student achievement as a motivation for implementing a pay-for-performance program, using student achievement data was their top choice (94 percent) when asked to identify the indicators they would use in a pay-for-performance model, followed by teacher evaluations (71 percent), graduation rates (62 percent) and teacher attendance (55 percent).

The study is posted online

"Successful implementation of pay-for-performance models will require an ongoing dialogue with all members of the education community to arrive at a solution that best serves the nation's students," said Randy Collins, AASA president and superintendent in Waterford, Conn.

“It is clear from this study that AASA members are paying attention to the Obama Administration’s focus on the issue of pay for performance and teacher incentive pay,” said AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech. “The survey shows there is a degree of interest on the part of our members, while illustrating their concern over the obstacles that exist and the factors that would need to be clarified, such as the accuracy of performance measures and other data.”

About the Survey
A total of 536 school administrators from 45 states completed the 10-question survey in May 2009. The majority of respondents were superintendents (86 percent) and associate or assistant superintendents (13 percent). Fifty-two percent of respondents came from rural districts, 35 percent from suburban districts, and 13 percent from urban districts.

About AASA
The American Association of School Administrators, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. AASA’s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to the highest quality public education for all children. For more information, visit www.aasa.org.