Teachers and administrators earned $33 million in performance bonuses this year, 65 percent more than they took home last year, despite the school system’s shrinking budget.

The $33 million, which came from public coffers for the first time this year, was also significantly more than the Department of Education had set aside for the bonuses. Spokeswoman Ann Forte said the department had budgeted just a little more than it spent last year on the bonuses, about $20 million. To cover the $13 million difference, “we’ve found savings in central,” Forte said, referring to the department’s central administration. She did not identify where the savings came from.

The performance bonuses were handed out based on how schools did on their progress reports, the vast majority of which showed improvement this year. Forte said the city is likely to award less money next year, when the bonus trial extends into a third year, because it will be harder for schools to get high progress report scores.

Two years ago, the city made a deal with the teachers union to try the bonuses on a temporary basis, with taxpayer money funding one year of the program. Now that the two-year trial is over, Forte said the city anticipates maintaining the program next year and has had “discussions” with the UFT about doing so, also using taxpayer money. The bonus program for principals is part of the city’s contract with the principals union and has always used public funds.

The bulk of the awards, $27.1 million, went to a small group of high-needs schools that were eligible to receive school-wide bonuses based on their performance. Of the 152 schools that participated in the program last year, 135 of them received bonuses amounting to $3,000 per UFT member on staff. (Four other schools received smaller bonuses because they did not meet all of the “performance targets” they said they would.) Teams of teachers and administrators at each school decided this spring how those bonuses would be distributed, Forte said.

In a separate program, principals at schools whose progress report scores were in the top 20 percent citywide received bonuses ranging from $7,000 to $25,000. A total of 198 principals received bonuses through this program. We were unable to reach any of the principals we contacted today about the awards. The money will not appear in paychecks until later this fall, according to Forte.

See the list of schools and principals receiving bonuses here. The city’s press release, which came out just one hour before the start of the Labor Day weekend, is below:

CHANCELLOR KLEIN ANNOUNCES $33 MILLION AWARDED IN PERFORMANCE BONUSES TO NEW YORK CITY ELEMENTARY AND MIDDLE SCHOOL EDUCATORS

9,200 Teachers, Guidance Counselors, Paraprofessionals, and Other UFT Staff to Receive Bonuses for Improving Student Achievement

900 Principals and Assistant Principals to Receive $5.8 Million in Bonuses for High Marks on School Progress Reports

Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today congratulated the more than 10,000 elementary and middle school educators who will receive performance bonuses totaling $33 million for significantly improving student achievement in their schools. Teachers and other members of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) at 139 high-needs schools whose students met performance targets will receive bonuses totaling $27.1 million as part of the school-wide performance bonus program developed by the Department of Education and the UFT in October 2007. In another performance pay program based on school Progress Report results, principals and assistant principals at 198 schools also qualified for bonuses of up to $25,000 each. Bonuses given to principals and assistant principals through this program totaled $4.4 million.

“I am enormously proud to recognize the more than 10,000 educators who are helping our students succeed, particularly in schools where students need the most help,” Chancellor Klein said. “Thanks to their dedication, we know that more students than ever before are mastering the skills they need to have a real shot at success. I want to thank the teachers, principals, and other staff members at these schools for their outstanding work in raising student achievement.”

“The school-wide performance bonus program is a testament to successful collaboration,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said. “When teachers and staff members in a school community work together, it is the students who benefit.”

“All of us at the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) are deeply proud of the many school leaders who played a key role in contributing to the vastly improved academic performance in our elementary and middle schools,” CSA President Ernest Logan said. “Because of the strong leadership of these principals and assistant principals, the tireless efforts of the teachers and other professional staff in their schools, and the determination of their students to realize their full potential, our New York City public school system is on its way to becoming a model for educational success in urban America.”

School-wide Performance Bonus Program

Teachers and other UFT members at 152 of the City’s highest-needs elementary and middle schools participated in the second year of school-wide performance bonus program. Schools received bonuses for their teachers and other UFT staff if they met student performance targets set at the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year. Of the 152 schools, 135 met their performance targets and will receive a bonus equivalent to $3,000 for each full-time UFT staff member; four schools made at least 75% of their targeted improvements and will receive a bonus award equivalent to $1,500 for each full-time UFT staff member. Thirteen schools did not meet their targets.

In the first year of the program, teachers and UFT staff at 89 elementary and middle schools-56% of 160 participating elementary and middle schools-qualified for bonuses totaling $14.2 million for scores earned on the 2007-2008 Progress Reports. In its first year, the program was largely supported with private dollars raised by The Fund for Public Schools. The school-wide performance bonus program is now publicly funded. Bonuses are distributed at the discretion of each school’s compensation committee.

Additionally, the RAND Corporation is currently studying the effectiveness of the school-wide performance bonus program on improving student achievement and plans to publish an independent evaluation.

Principal Bonuses

The City’s contract with the CSA allows school leaders to earn bonuses based on the success of their students on Progress Reports. Principals of schools whose Progress Report scores are in the top 20% citywide among elementary, middle, high or K-8 schools receive bonuses of up to $25,000.

Elementary, middle, and K-8 bonuses are awarded as follows:

  • principals receive $25,000 if their schools scored in the top 1% (11 principals); $17,000 if their schools scored in the top 2-5% (38 principals); $12,000 if their schools scored in the top 6-10% (48 principals); and $7,000 if their schools scored in the top 11-20% (101 principals). 
  • an additional 99 principals who did not qualify for the CSA bonus but whose schools will receive bonuses as part of the school-wide performance bonus program will get a bonus of $7,000 if their schools met their target (95 principals) and $3,500 if their schools met 75% of their target (four principals).

In all schools where principals are receiving bonuses, assistant principals will receive half the bonus amount that their principal receives. A total of 297 elementary and middle school principals, as well as their assistant principals, will receive $5.8 million in bonuses.

Bonuses for teachers, principals and other educators working in high schools will be determined when high school Progress Reports are released later this fall.

Click here to review a list of the schools that qualified for performance bonuses.