BRIEF: Chicago Mayor Introduces Merit Pay for Principals

Published September 6, 2011

Performance evaluations and merit pay for teachers have changed school systems across the nation, but Chicago is the first district to initiate them for hiring and firing principals.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently secured $5 million in private donations to fund principal bonuses as part of a planned overhaul of Chicago Public Schools. Emanuel has made principal recruitment, training, and evaluation a focal point.

“It’s often hard to isolate the influence of a single teacher,” said Collin Hitt, an education specialist at the Illinois Policy Institute. “It’s easier to look at the performance of an entire school. The performance of a particular school relies heavily on its principal.” 

The Illinois House of Representatives recently axed Senate Bill 7 funds for training school administrators in new teacher evaluation standards. The bill, passed by the Senate in May, outlined a uniform system for rating teacher performance across the state. 

“If [this program] does not create sufficient results, then it can be folded at no taxpayer expense,” Hitt said. “But if it created successful recurrence, than it gives us a model of how we can spend taxpayer money more responsibly.”

Image of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel by Daniel O’Neill.