Feel the PULSE: Performance Pay Plan for Principals in Pittsburgh

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Be careful not to stand too close to anyone and say that headline aloud, but Pittsburgh's plan to tie principals' salary increases to performance is worth a closer look.

Set to launch in 2007-2008, the plan will both change the salary structure and add incentives. Principals will no longer automatically receive annual step increases. Instead, each principal will be eligible for increases of up to $2,000 in base pay if he or she makes progress in meeting 28 goals relating to leadership, community ties, and academics. More importantly, principals are also eligible for yearly bonuses of up to $10,000 based on the academic gains of their students.

The compensation plan is part of Superintendent Mark Roosevelt's Pittsburgh Urban Leadership System for Excellence, or PULSE, program, an initiative aimed at improving school leadership. Why the focus on principals? "Good schools have good principals. Poor schools have weak leadership," Roosevelt says. How true--and how sadly unrecognized by so many reform strategies.

The Pittsburgh Administrators Association is on board, noting that the incentives are larger than principals' traditional step increases. The plan does not include removal of underperforming principals, saying only that those who receive poor evaluations will not get raises, but will get professional development and time to improve.

The prospects for Pittsburgh's plan appear promising. Sorry, we can't help ourselves. We're pleased as punch. No, seriously, STOP already.