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The Forum > Article Comments > A failure to make the grade > Comments

A failure to make the grade : Comments

By Andrew Leigh and Chris Ryan, published 13/9/2006

The academic ability of new teachers has fallen substantially.

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I've no doubt that overall, the calibre of teaching staff is falling. But the issue is much more complex than pay or status.

There has been a push in recent times to pass more responsibility on to teachers. I happen to know two teacher who are required to spend around half an hour every day discussing things like feelings and relationships with their students.

Where once parents where expected to handle these issues, now it is fobbed off onto the teachers.

Where it used to be a simple case of teach them math, english, science, history etc, the curriculum has been broadened. Ultimately, every time you add a new subject, there is less time spent on core subjects - and the performance of students in each individual subject is bound to fall as less time is being spent teaching it.

Add to this a deficit of male teachers. Why you ask?
Male teachers are getting more and more cautious about teaching, because if they are accused of some kind of sexual impropriety, regardless of whether they are guilty or not, they know that that black mark will never go away, so ultimately any aggreived student has the power to ruin the teacher's career. There is really no easy solution to this problem.

So why would you enter a risky low paid profession when you can aim higher?
Posted by TurnRightThenLeft, Wednesday, 13 September 2006 10:23:10 AM
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*grins* We've been at odds lately TRTL but you are right on the money there.

On the pay issue, though, my view - admittedly not a well researched one - is that there are some teachers out there who are really brilliant, committed, professional teachers who are far, far underpaid for what they do. But there are also many many teachers out there who are utter crap, little more than time-serving baby sitters, who in reality are not worth what they are paid now.

The real dilemma is how to provide more pay to (a) reward the great teachers and (b) attract more great teachers, without giving an undeserved windfall to the passengers.

The only ways I can see are (1) more effective performance assessment tools to allow the best teachers to shine, and to prevent the crappy ones from hiding, and (2) a change to the structure of the profession, with more grades (similar to the public service) so that a good teacher can compete on merit for higher status and better paid jobs within teaching.

Problem is, the unions will never accept option (1) and option (2) seems a bit artificial.

Then of course the problem gets worse, because the good teachers know they can do better, so they move out of teaching. The crap teachers accumulate in the system, because they are very comfortable thank you very much.

Looking forward to reading what better ideas are out there. There must be better options than these - buggered if I can think of them though.

Posted by Anth, Wednesday, 13 September 2006 12:07:30 PM
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The problem with this issue is that teacherís job should be more needs defined. A teacher in Primary school does not need to have the same higher level of accuracy than the teacher in high school. I believe that for a teacher to become a High School teacher they should have the highest of marks. For the Primary Years they really donít need the higher marks but they certainly need good marks and to be nurturing and patient as they are dealing with the little ones at the most influential, vulnerable and sensitive years of their life.

Teachers have to deal with childrenís feelings because children these days are being born more and more sensitive and emotional and are often having their feelings hurt and are suffering worry, anxiety and distress. Itís creating a lot of mental health issues and problems.

There is alot of bullying and jostling going on in the playground that is being left unchecked. And often teachers donít realise that their moods seriously impacts on their studentís day. My son tells him that whether he has a good day at school totally depends on what mood his teacher is in. He is 8 years old.

I realise it is not always the teachers fault and that they are human; the system neglects them as much as they neglect the students so it really is a lot to ask. I know that isnít always easy to cope. But the Labor Government is totally neglecting the public school system, its not good enough to just have some Selective Schools and focus on them. The neglect of the system is damaging to children and their mental health.

Of course our Politicians only care about their own and their own are usually in Private Schools.

People should stand up and rebel against the neglect of Public Schools. Every should be a good school as we want well educated and respectful people in society.
Posted by Jolanda, Wednesday, 13 September 2006 12:18:23 PM
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I see what you mean Anth... there has to be some way of rewarding the better teachers...

I'd like to see some system where the principal of the particular school is involved in the decisions relating to how much renumeration teachers receive, and of course, a proper review process to weed out favouritism.

The reason why I'd advocate a system such as this, is that not all students are equal, so we can't judge teachers purely on what grades the students receive.

If some kind of federal or state government process was created wherein teachers were solely rewarded for how high their students score, this would create a system where teachers are left jostling to teach the bright kids, and the underachievers are neglected.

Indeed - the skills of the teacher need to be rewarded, but any proposal needs to take into account the needs of students who can't quite make the grade, and the teachers who diligently keep trying to help them.

Of course, there would be problems with a principal-based system. But I think they'd be more easily ironed out than the issues associated with a 'one size fits all' policy. Plus, at least, it would be locally based, and the principals would hopefully know which teachers worked hard, and which ones didn't.
Posted by TurnRightThenLeft, Wednesday, 13 September 2006 3:33:47 PM
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There are still issues with Principals making the descision TRTL - namely that they have very very limited budgets.

My mother is a teacher, and was fairly recently on a five-year contract which made her the most senior teacher in the school, and obliged her to coodinate curriuculum etc etc. All good. As part of her contract, she had to have a performance review each year, with a series of bonuses available for good or excellent or outstanding work. On each of the five years my Mum was told that she should be given "outstanding", but that the school did not have the money to provide her with that bonus - so she got a written 'unofficial' rank of "outstanding", but her official record says only "good", and her pay packet said only "good".

She recently decided that the extra stress was not worth the extra pittance, and refused a new contract - because what was the point?

Schools never have enough money to cover all their costs, they are constantly fundraising for even basic items - if all the teachers in my Mum's school were on performance bonuses, where on earth would they get the money to even give her a 'good' score bonus?
Posted by Laurie, Wednesday, 13 September 2006 3:42:48 PM
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All true, Laurie, but that's not quite what I'm suggesting. Let's imagine for a moment that there were, say, 7 grades of high school teacher, from a level 1 graduate, fresh out of university, to a level 7 teacher who represents true excellence. Each level could receive an appropriate remuneration (*not* bonuses, we're talking base salary here)

The system, across a *state*, would then budget for a certain number of level 7 teachers, a certain number of level 6, etc etc etc. Then the Department works out what the allowance for each individual school is. So a school of excellence might be entitled to more high-level teachers, or alternatively a school where there is great need might be entitled to the better teachers. Resource allocation decisions could be made.

Then, at the school level, the Principal knows their entitlement: Ok, I am entitled to 0 level 7s, 3 level 6s, 8 level 5s etc etc etc. They might even be able to choose between fewer, higher teachers or more, lower teachers.

When a vacancy occurs at any level, it is advertised and filled on merit by teachers who are at the level below. So a level 3 at a particular school becomes vacant, level 2 teachers from the region are entitled to apply, and the best move up to higher status and better pay. Lower level teachers are either new to the game and thus inexperienced, but with potential to move up; or they've reached the level of their competence and are paid as such.

This sort of system works in fields as diverse as journalism and the Air Force. Why not teaching?

Posted by Anth, Wednesday, 13 September 2006 4:02:49 PM
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