AASA Snapshot Studies Gauge Interest in Common Standards, Pay-for-Performance

July 27, 2009

Amy Vogt

ARLINGTON, Va. – School may be out for summer vacation, but school administrators across the nation have been busy sharing their thoughts and opinions on some of the hottest topics in education today. As part of the American Association of School Administrator’s 2009 Summer Survey series, AASA members completed quick-snapshot surveys around pay-for-performance and common standards. The survey results are revealed in a new report, the “2009 AASA Summer Survey Series: Common Standards & Pay for Performance.” AASA produced the report in response to a growing dialogue on Capitol Hill around creating a set of common academic standards for K-12 students, and restructuring teacher pay to include performance measures. The results are clear: AASA members have a diversity of opinions about pay-for-performance programs and an overall support for common standards.

Common Standards Survey
A total of 179 school administrators from 44 states completed a survey about common standards in July 2009. Fifty-seven percent of respondents were from rural districts, 33 percent from suburban districts and 10 percent from urban districts. Highlights from the survey include:

  • AASA members share an overall level of support for/interest in common standards, with a very strong interest in a collaborative effort that includes federal, state and local leaders and education professionals/practitioners. Seventy-eight percent of respondents agree/strongly agree with the statement “I favor a single set of common standards/tests to replace the current system where each state has its own standards and creates its own tests.”
  • Reinforcing their interest in a collaborative effort, an overwhelming majority (88 percent) of respondents think that federal, state, local and education leaders should be involved in creating the standards. Eight percent think that only education professionals and practitioners should work to create the standards, compared to three percent for state and local leaders only, and one percent for the federal government only.
  • AASA members identified “leaders and politicians positioning themselves as education reformers” as the biggest reason for the increased attention to common standards. Fifty-six percent of respondents think the political posturing is a large contributor to the growing dialogue.

Pay-for-Performance Survey
A total of 536 school administrators from 45 states completed the pay-for-performance 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. Highlights from the survey include:

  • There is a diversity of opinion among school system leaders about pay-for-performance programs. Roughly 45 percent of respondents expressed moderate to strong interest in exploring pay-for-performance programs, whether at the individual, group or system level.
  • School administrators identified a variety of motivating factors, indicators and anticipated obstacles that influence their consideration of pay for performance. The number-one motivation to implement performance pay is improving student achievement, followed by improving teacher effectiveness.
  • Successful implementation of pay-for-performance models will require an ongoing dialogue that involves all members of the education community to answer tough questions, covering everything from who is involved and what the model will look like to how the model will be evaluated and sustained. As the dialogue around pay for performance moves forward, it is vital to recognize that the prevalence and structure of pay for performance in America”s public schools is not — and should not be — identical to that of the private sector.

“It is clear from these surveys that AASA members are paying attention to the Obama Administration’s focus on the issues of common standards and performance pay,” said AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech. “Our members have outlined their concerns over the obstacles that exist, the factors that would need to be clarified and their desire for a collaborative effort as the dialogues for both pay-for-performance and common standards move forward.”

"Successful implementation of common standards and 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 Mark Bielang, AASA president and superintendent in Paw Paw, Mich. “Echoing AASA’s interest in the common standards dialogue, the AASA Governing Board has asked the association to participate in the development of the common standards.”

Download the “2009 AASA Summer Survey Series: Common Standards & Pay for Performance” (PDF).

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.