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The Forum > Article Comments > Putting students last by rejecting performance pay > Comments

Putting students last by rejecting performance pay : Comments

By Jonathan J. Ariel, published 18/4/2007

Without a second thought, the states and territories rejected outright a pay-for-performance scheme for teachers. Shame.

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Jonathan Ariel, your bio indicates that you have experience in Finance and that your last school experience was in as a high school student in a classroom, so let someone else with a Masters, experience in business and as a teacher set you straight.

In Victoria 40% of teachers are employed on contracts. A contract teacher that doesn't perform doesn't remain. Under Kennett so many teachers were dismissed that any incompetent teacher who remained would have had to be very well connected politically. Each year permanent teachers are assessed and if they are not performing their pay can be cut.

In Victoria government schools ahve to hire their own staff, which is a great impost on staff time, formulating position descriptions, advertising the job, reviewing candidates, interviewing applicants and selecting the new teacher. This HR function has been devolved to the school with no additional funding.

The newly minted teacher has to demonstrate their worthiness to get a full license by producing a folder of critical reflection on their teaching practice over 6 months. The folder is flicked through and rubberstamped - much like your tax return. Sounds like a similiar system was proposed for the merit pay application.

Your throwaway line about Victorian students deserting government schools for the private schools might sound grave to NSW audience but Victoria has always educated 25% of secondary school students in the private sector. As a Victorian I noticed that as the government sector raised its standards so did the private school sector.

The speed with which Julie Bishop the Federal Minister for Education gave up her merit based pay indicates that it was only an ambit claim, there was no additional funding forthcoming. Why would teachers and principals claw tooth and nail to get more pay at the expense of their colleagues?

Teachers are supposed to provide a warm, calm environment to facilitate enquiry and learning and that's very hard to achieve when your facing hormonally charged 13 year olds with a hostile staff room behind you all fighting for your piece of the wages pie.
Posted by billie, Wednesday, 18 April 2007 9:25:32 AM
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Jonathan Ariel’s contempt for teachers is already known. He did write that the NSW premier “has a deputy who was a school teacher. God help us.” (“The people of NSW have lost”), so his “statement that students “remain saddled with the current crop of teachers” is no surprise. His comment about the “devotion state and territory education ministers have to their education union masters” cannot be taken seriously. If the unions were the masters, pay, staffing, conditions and security of employment and promotion would not have declined, suggesting weak rather than masterful teacher unions.

Beginning Victorian teachers would need a pay increase of more than 40 per cent to reach the relative pay scales of the past. In 1975, a beginning teacher was paid 118.8 percent of male average ordinary time earnings. That equated to $65,379 as of January last year. A beginning teacher was in fact paid $44,783 then - a relative cut of $20,596!

The 1981 Victorian secondary PTR was 10.9:1. Last year it was 12.0:1, meaning almost 2,000 teachers fewer than a poorer state could provide more than a quarter of a century ago.

Throughout the 1980s, the maximum teaching load was 18 hours (plus extras). It is now 20 hours. There used to be a time allowance pool of 90 minutes per teacher for organizational duties. It is now zero minutes.

Teaching used to mean ongoing employment. Now, six out of ten Victorian teachers under 25 are on short-term contracts. Promotion used to be ongoing. Now it is short-term to better facilitate bullying and exploitation of senior people.

In the last school I taught in, as a direct result of the latest EBA, teaching loads went up, period length went up and the management advisory committee was abolished.

Teacher unions are not powerful. They are weak – because teachers are weak.

I suggest that “better quality teachers will continue to be discouraged from entering the profession” because of the decline that has occurred in pay and conditions, and a “comply with the latest whim of the principal” performance scheme will not bring them back
Posted by Chris C, Wednesday, 18 April 2007 9:48:49 AM
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Contrary to what some finance professionals might think money is not the best motivator.

"Performance based pay for teachers is a very risky thing - it often reasults in reward-driven teaching with all sorts of negative side-effects, like
- pushing less-performing students out of schools
- up-marking
- teaching-for-exams

It is the professional pride and the need for self-fulfillment that gives best performance in complex situations.

Unfortuantely, in most western countries (unfortunately, I have to include my home Poland) teachers are under-paid.

Of course, poor teachers should not be teaching and there is a need of some systematic assessment.

However, simplistic solutions can do more harm than good.

Posted by Paul_of_Melb, Wednesday, 18 April 2007 10:02:53 AM
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"Jonathan Ariel is an economist and financial analyst. He holds a MBA from the Australian Graduate School of Management."

But Johnno, you haven't managed to keep throw-away partisan remarks out of your analysis, have you?

I suggest you get in touch with Kevin Donnelly, if you haven't already. Perhaps he can point out the gains made by the minister and the states toward a national curriculum. Maybe Kev can even give you some insight into what it was like to be a classroom teacher, back when Hector was a pup.

I have no philosophical problem with performance for pay, just like I have no philosophical problem with energy efficiency. The difficulty is in the implementation.

Teachers are managers, too. The process they are managing is complex, and to award pay for results, without a thorough consideration of how results are measured and compared, without consideration of the stakeholders involved in the process, is to grossly oversimplify.

Nearing my dotage, the teachers I remember as helping me most aren't necessarily the ones that got the highest seal of approval from parents and administrators. They may not have been the best for the class as a whole, and may not have been the sorts that would raise the average test scores. But then I was a bright, male underachiever, of the sort that frequents many primary and high school classes, in both private and public systems.

Who are we aiming to make valuable members of our society? It takes all kinds to make the world go round, and any system to reward competent trainers and memorable educators has to be both multidimensional and subject to agreement by multiple stakeholders.

Direct, formal links between achievement test results, parent approval and teacher pay are not, in my opinion, a good idea at all.
Posted by Sir Vivor, Wednesday, 18 April 2007 10:39:23 AM
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Jonathan Ariel is lucky that OLO does not have a pay-by-peformance system. His diatribe against State Education Ministers is based on nothing more than sour grapes that Federal Minister Bishop's ill-considered scheme did not get their support. To Ariel, this somehow becomes 'rank hypocrisy' (strange use of the word).

Students will lose twice, says Ariel: 'first they remain saddled with the current crop of teachers; and second, better quality teachers will continue to be discouraged from entering the profession.'

On the first count, the Bishop plan was not about sacking the 'current crop' of teachers - it was about paying some teachers more and others less on as yet non-defined criteria (NB Jonathon, not 'criterions'). Bishop herself was clear on one aspect of her scheme: under her plan the 'better' teachers would be paid more but the pool of funds for teacher salaries would not be bigger. What other logical conclusion could be drawn than that a pay cut was envisaged for some? Is it any wonder that some of the 'current crop' were nervous about possible pay cuts? And among the 'current crop' aree some outsanding teachers confronting even more threats to their professionalism.

On the second count, then, the threat of pay cuts for some teachers is hardly likely to stimulate people to become teachers. Moreover, people are discouraged from entering the teaching profession because of a range of reasons chief among which are poor pay and conditions in general as well as the continuous denigration of teachers and teaching as a profession by people like Bishop and Ariel. What's that about 'rank hypocrisy', Jonathon?

Likewise, the so-called 'mass exodus' of students from the state-based government school systems' occurs for a variety of reasons. Among them are, again, the constant barrage of criticisms, often totally ill-founded, by politicians and supporters of private schools.

If people like Bishop and Ariel genuinely want State schools to be better places they should analyse more honestly the real impediments to performance which include, but are not confined to, the inadequate resource levels provided by governments at both State and Federal levels.
Posted by FrankGol, Wednesday, 18 April 2007 11:05:48 AM
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I worked as a teacher, advisory teacher and specialist teacher in England, NSW and Queensland for more than 30 years. I can honestly say that I never met an "underperforming" classroom teacher. Teachers work really, really hard in very difficult circumstances. And often there are factors that affect their work that they cannot explain to the parents.
When I moved from NSW to Queensland the high level of fear among classroom teachers was immediately obvious. As was the bizarre and dysfunctional behaviour of a number of people working in administrative positions - school principals , district office staff or Head Office staff.
I could not understand the fear at the time. But I do now.
The problem with performance pay is that principals may not always be selected for promotion on the basis of "merit". Some principals may be pretty unpleasant and dysfunctional people. And they may not be really literate. The "merit selection process" does not place enough emphasis on reading, writing, listening and thinking skills, a demonstrated record of collaborative decision-making and, most importantly, knowledge of the official Departmental policies. In my experience many decisions made by administrators are based on gossip and may be in absolute breach of the official departmental policies.
Before principals are given the right to assess the performance of teachers, the principals themselves need to undergo 360-degree evaluation to see if they are performing effectively.
The idea of principals selecting their own staff is interesting because it means that principals would have to treat their staff with respect in order to attract and keep good teachers. Principals in remote areas would have to offer huge salaries and terrific conditions in order to staff their schools. And these communities might really support their teachers in order to encourage them to stay at the school. Making principals responsible for selecting their own staff could really work well for teachers and hugely improve their working environment.
The Bad Apple Bullies website supports teachers who are dealing with workplace bullying, harassment, mobbing, disrimination, victiminsation or "payback" etc. You are not alone.
Posted by Dealing With The Mob, Wednesday, 18 April 2007 11:10:28 AM
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