City Gives $5.7 Million to Principals in Bonuses

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The city's Department of Education distributed $5.7 million in performance bonuses to principals and assistant principals this year, based on rankings of their students' test scores and graduation rates, the same criteria used to assign letter grades to schools.

Though the city abandoned its bonus program for teachers last year after a study found the extra money did not help their work ethic or their students' performance, the Education Department is continuing to give principals and assistant principals bonuses because the program is part of their union contract.

Under the contract, principals of elementary, middle high, and early childhood schools receive $25,000 to $7,000 if their schools meet or exceed performance targets.

This year, $25,000 bonuses went to 17 principals of schools that ranked in the top one percent in the city. These included several selective schools, like Intermediate School 187 in Brooklyn and the New York City Lab Middle School for Collaborative Studies, but also schools that do not screen incoming students, like Public School 172, an elementary school in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

The list of schools where principals received bonuses does not include several in District 75 (special education) and District 79 (alternative schools and programs), which will be added later. But taking into account the exclusion of those schools, the numbers are similar to previous years.

This year, 275 schools qualified for performance bonuses, compared with 291 last year. And so far this year, the city has distributed $5.7 million in bonuses; last year it gave $6.8 million.

Public school principals began receiving bonuses in 2008 and critics of the policy have long argued that it offers an additional incentive -- beyond the desire to keep their schools open -- for school administrators to fudge their state test results or graduation rates.