Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Call for performance-based pay?

This stuff just keeps coming. The other day a colleague mentioned that he felt weighed down by the continual flow of criticism and simplistic blame assigning reported (and generated) by the press.

Here is another example, this time the problem of teachers leaving the profession during the first 5 years of teaching. As is typical of this kind og debate, there is little talk of real school and working conditions for teachers, and no mention of social equity-academic success issues for young people. The argument almost always focuses on pay/remuneration.

Any decent management/HR person worth their salt will tell you that 'employee satisfaction' is almost never measured with reference to pay/remuneration. Why? Because you can bet that people will always (almost) consider themselves underpaid, or their work undervalued. Can you imagine anyone (regardless of the fact that you or I might consider them over paid) actually saying, 'Yeah, I get way too much money for my job!', or 'Yeah, the boss should really cut my wage, she pays me an obscene amount and I'm just really uncomfortable with it, in fact I can't sleep at night knowing teachers get paid a pittance. Is there somewhere I can donate?'

The tragety is that Unions often tend to mount the same narrow arguments. Probably, believing that this is something that teachers want - more money. I have a hunch that it is not that simple - certainly for young or early career teachers whose wages are pretty darn good compared to most graduate jobs - even though graduate teachers 'perform' similar roles to experienced teachers. There are MANY other factors that influence a decision to teach - the prospect of pulling in a big wage are not one of them. So in many ways, this fact (low pay) is settled for many teachers before they begin teaching.

The other point to make about this article is the way Lawrence Ingvarson draws an explicit connection from this issue of pay and teacher attrition to teaching standards, teacher assessment and teacher performance.
Dr Ingvarson said the pay system in Australian schools was based on job categories rather than teacher skills and failed to act as a lever to improve student results .... A society that does not make teaching attractive to the best people is a stupid society. Good teachers are worth their weight in gold and we need a hell of a lot of them to make a difference to student outcomes .... However, Dr Ingvarson warned that performance-based pay required a rigorous, valid system of assessing performance
Of course, this might not seem like such a bad suggestion. Pay teachers on their merits. Great idea, easy solution.


In connecting teacher assessment and performance to student outcomes/achievement and then both of these to teacher pay and classification is simply wrongheaded (and I'm trying to be restrained here). It ignores all that the profession knows about the complexities of teaching and learning, about school difference and context, about how to promote teacher professionalism and 'teacher quality' and professional learning cultures, about the difficulties that many schools, teachers and students face in the course of their lives and work.

My hunch is that teachers would take a pay cut, if only they were treated with respect and valued in more than hollow rhetoric; if only they could do their jobs in classrooms that were warm, confortable and well resourced; if only they had genuine opportunities for professional learning that wasn't explicitly tied to student outcomes and school imperatives; if only they weren't saddled with performance appraisals that take time away from working with students.

When will we have a serious debate on these issues?



At 5:42 pm, Blogger Nat said...

Wow. I have nothing to say about this because it's just so good. "I agree" just somehow doesn't cut it. Keep it up, you're talking for the rest of us.

At 10:25 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You forgot to say, if only their 'clientele' didn't tell them to f*** off every day!

At 10:56 am, Blogger Scott said...

KB, thanks for adding that other important dimension!


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