Union Nixes Plan to Reward Good Schools

Published January 1, 1997

A program adopted by the Philadelphia school board to link teacher performance reviews and pay raises to student achievement was denounced by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers as “vindictive” and “school-bashing.” The new professional accountability program holds teachers responsible for student test scores, attendance, and graduation rates.

Teachers at high-achieving schools would receive cash bonuses, while others could be dismissed if their students consistently performed poorly. In fact, up to three-quarters of the staff could be replaced at schools that fail to meet performance goals.

Such incentives to improve are clearly in order in the Philadelphia school system. Barely half of the city’s students graduate from high school on time, and fewer than one in five are proficient in reading, math, and science.

The school board is budgeted to spend a total of $1.4 billion on the city’s 257 schools this year, or $6,511 for each of the district’s 215,000 students. It appears to be serious about linking pay and performance. In September, the board concluded that Superintendent David W. Hornbeck had only partially met expectations, giving him a “grade” of 2.7 out of 4.0. Hornbeck did not qualify for a pay increase.