The usual suspects are mooting performance pay for teachers again, proposing government reform to extend the teacher pay scale based on performance factors.
The report is a farce, and John Morris should be ashamed of his part in it.What’s the point pretending it is an independent and rigorous consideration of the issue, when it is authored almost two years after Hekia made it clear the government fully intends to implement PP? It’s a foregone conclusion that they will try to force it through, much as they do with everything else.
Hekia chimed in this week to say all would be well because the application of PP would be “consistent and rigorous”. She is apparently oblivious to the fact that applying rules consistently is pointless if the rules themselves are based on a faulty premise.
So let’s get to the nitty gritty.
What’s the problem with PP? Why do teachers not want it?
A Barrier to Good Practice
PP is a barrier to teamwork as people become more self-interested and start to fight it out for the available pay rises. This is a disaster in schools, as it means teachers are less likely to share resources, share best practice, or ask for help.
Teachers worldwide have been warning that PP’s negative effects:
This is totally contrary to what is needed for great teaching and learning.
Carrot and Stick
Tying teachers’ wages to test results does not improve their performance. Research just out by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (UK), reveals that where salaries in similar school catchment areas differed by around £1,000 ($2k), “the higher-paid teachers did not perform any better than their less well-paid colleagues.” Source.
It’s no surprise. There is a mountain of evidence to show that PP motivates employees to focus only on doing what they need to do to gain the rewards – in other words they learn quickly to jump through the hoops. Worse than that is that the hoop-jumping takes place at the expense of those things that would help students, the school, and the education system as a whole.
So not only does PP fail to raise standards, it actually lowers standards.
It cannot be stressed strongly enough the error of using National Standards, NCEA or any other test results in assessing the performance of teachers. Hekia Parata has repeatedly refused to rule out the use of National Standards data in judging who gets performance pay. Indeed the new PaCT Tool has been developed with that totally in mind, as all students’ “standards” will be tagged to a teacher.
For a start, you have the serious concerns around the reliability of test scores and grades. Last year a whole section of National Standards results was moved down by the Ministry, with no input from teachers or principals. How would that affect someone’s chances of getting their performance pay? What if the results were moved for unscrupulous reasons by those in power? It’s happened, trust me. Which leads me nicely into another concern.
PP leads to people at all levels of education, teachers included, massaging the figures, either consciously or unconsciously. Quality teaching and learning makes way for more hoop jumping, with teachers feeling pressured into coaching students not to become good learners but just to pass tests. There is evidence of lenient marking and plenty of cases of just plain forging results.
How any of that helps the students is quite beyond me.
Attracting and Retaining Great Teachers
Performance pay takes no account of factors outside the control of the teacher. If PP is related to test/exam results, it is likely to lead to many of the most experienced teachers avoiding the most challenging communities, schools and students, concerned that social factors affect students’ achievement, which in turn would lead to a decreased chance of the teacher meeting whatever benchmarks have been set for PP.
So, over time, some schools will have difficulty filling positions.
Wait – aren’t we meant to be giving more help to those in most need?
This is all so totally counter-productive.
As most teachers know, as soon as you start offering extrinsic rewards to modify behaviour, you are seriously off track. Such measures crush intrinsic motivation, which is essential in all but the most mechanical of jobs. PP is also linked to decreased job satisfaction and lower self esteem.
This explains it brilliantly:
We already have a serious issue with job satisfaction in the education sector, top to bottom. What we don’t need is for staff to be even further beaten down – we need motivated, energetic teachers who are respected and trusted.
Recent research done by Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) showed that performance pay for teachers “is deeply flawed, and is yet to work anywhere in the developed world” and suggests instead that teachers should be judged against “rigorous appraisal against professional standards or criteria”. Like we already do.
Huh! So why change? Well, despite the fact that it is the better way, the current system doesn’t suit Hekia and co.
Your homework now is to start asking yourself why.
Special Topic / The Problem with Performance Pay