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CPS principals will be formally evaluated on student academic growth

Updated: January 17, 2013 6:51PM

Just as evaluations of Chicago Public School teachers are partly based on the test scores of their students, principals also will be formally evaluated as of February on student academic growth, with bonuses going to the ones who thrive, the schools chief announced Thursday.

Also for the first time, city schools will be compared to national benchmarks in standardized test scores, CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said.

“We’re finally at a point where we’re holding all our key leaders to a system of accountability for the academic success for all our kids,” CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said. ”We can’t expect for our children to succeed unless we hold ourselves against the highest standards.

CPS principals who perform well will qualify for privately funded bonuses — CPS Principal Achievement Awards ­— though Byrd-Bennett did not yet have further details on those, or on what the ramifications could be for principals who fail to improve.

The district said it surveyed 100 school leaders in developing the evaluation process required this school year by the 2010 state law, the Performance Evaluation Reform Act. The law sets the minimum for “student growth” on standardized tests at 25 percent this year and 30 percent next year.

CPS will base 50 percent of a principal’s score on a variety of student growth measures, which will include test score differences at the end of the school year over the start of the year; growth among English Language Learners, special education students and other high-need students; and an index comprising the school’s rates for graduation, attendance and dropouts.

Robin Steans, the head of Advance Illinois who helped develop the performance law, said the principal process is much broader than the one for Chicago’s teachers, which bases up to 30 percent of their evaluations just on standardized test scores.

“It’s clear that the principal evaluations will look at not only student growth but larger student achievement factors, such as graduation rates, on-track performance, dropouts and attendance,” Steans said.

Byrd-Bennett said she didn’t yet know how those factors will be weighted, though math and science growth will likely count more in elementary schools, and growth in a standardized test for high schoolers called EPAS.

The other half of a principal’s score will be based on how he or she interacts with families and the school’s community and prepares children for college and careers, among other factors.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel campaigned on performance pay for principals and teachers. The Chicago Teachers Union overwhelmingly rejected that notion for their members and had teacher merit pay taken off the contract even before striking in September.

The principal performance pay — yet to be determined, Byrd-Bennett said — will come from the same privately-funded pot that paid for 82 principal bonuses in October.

Ten high school and 72 elementary school principals were chosen based on metrics such as student college readiness and graduation rate, and given between $5,000 and $20,000 from the Chicago Leadership Collaborative fund donated by philanthropists including CPS Board member Penny Pritzker and venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, an owner of Wrapports, parent company of the Chicago Sun-Times.

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