Pittsburgh Public Schools has awarded $109,235 in bonuses to principals in 58 schools for 2011-12, a total that is about a third of the bonuses paid last year.
The smaller bonuses -- averaging $1,791 -- are at least in part a reflection of the district's lower scores on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests.
In the past, top bonuses exceeded $13,000, but this time the three highest were around $6,000.
The bonuses were awarded despite a $9.86 million deficit forecast for the coming year because the district committed to them when it accepted a federal Teacher Incentive Fund grant.
This was the fifth and final year of using TIF money for districtwide principal bonuses, which have reached a total of $1 million, about $215,000 of which was paid for by the school district.
One of the TIF requirements is the continuation of "differentiated compensation" for principals after the grant runs out, said deputy superintendent Jeannine French.
Ms. French said the district is developing a way to "identify and recognize when our leaders are making great contributions to our schools."
She said recognition helps the district "to figure out which schools are making the gains we expect for our children, study those schools and study the leadership in those schools."
For 2011-12, principals were eligible for up to $12,000 in bonuses, including up to $2,000 for a performance increment and up to $10,000 for an achievement bonus.
The performance increment is based on achieving adequate yearly progress, known as AYP, under the federal No Child Left Behind Act and the principal's performance evaluation or completion of a directed professional growth project.
The achievement bonus called for a school to reduce the percentage of all students and African-American students scoring below proficient in reading and math. Schools get credit for reductions of at least 3 percent in various combinations.
Ms. French said the achievement part of the bonus used to be based primarily on growth, but she said, "We also know we have to get to certain levels of attainment for our children to be successful."
Only four schools met the standard for decreasing the percentage of non-proficient students needed for their principals to be eligible for the achievement bonus.
One was Arlington PreK-8, where principal Kevin McGuire received the top bonus of $6,400.
Among city schools, Arlington showed the biggest percentage gains in math and reading on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams. It also met its AYP targets in 2012 although it was in the "making progress" category because it missed in a prior year.
Six other schools made AYP, but the principal of only one of them, Molly O'Malley-Argueta of Allegheny K-5, who received $3,300, qualified for the achievement portion of the bonus.
The two others receiving bonuses that included money for the achievement standard in 2011-12 are Sarah Sumpter, Sterrett 6-8, $3,600, and Gina Reichert, South Brook 6-8, $3,400.
In addition to Mr. McGuire, two other principals received bonuses of at least $6,000: Lou Ann Zwieryznski of Faison K-5 in Homewood, $6,100, and Shemeca Crenshaw of Westinghouse 6-12 in Homewood, $6,000.
Both principals received consideration for bonuses they had earned at their old schools because they voluntarily went to high-need schools.
The rest of the bonuses ranged from $1,000 to $2,000. Three principals did not receive bonuses for various reasons, which could include evaluation, not being assigned to the building for a full year or being on leave.
Top central office administrators, including Ms. French and Superintendent Linda Lane, have turned down raises or bonuses.
Eleanor Chute: email@example.com or 412-263-1955.