Red Alert

Performance Pay for Teachers

Posted by on August 19th, 2010

Anne Tolley spoke to Roger Kerr and mates about education last night. I trotted along for a listen.

Roger Kerr raised the question of performance pay for teachers. Being the audience it was they all thought performance pay is a good thing. There was no discussion about why they thought it was a good thing, just general agreement that it should happen.

The question I have for those who support performance pay for teachers is – which part of a teacher’s performance will they get paid for?

Common sense says teachers should get paid more if they get students to achieve the National Standards.

So what happens in those schools and regions where students enter a classroom at the beginning of the year well below the national standard? Why would a teacher want to teach in a school like that where despite his/her best efforts the student makes heaps of progress but fails to get over the National Standard ‘line’.

It would simply be a business decision for a teacher to teach in a school in a ‘good’ area, where even mediocre teaching can get a student over the standard. This will result in a migration of teachers to ‘easy’ schools and disadvantaged schools would struggle exasperating underachievement.

Digging deeper, what happens if a teacher does get the struggling student over the line in reading and writing, but fails to in maths?

What happens if a teacher gets 24 out of thirty kids over the national standards line, but six students don’t make it? Is the teacher a good teacher or bad teacher? Eighty percent success isn’t too bad, or is it?

Trouble is that figure equates to 1 in 5 students failing.

Let’s dig deeper still, in the maths curriculum there are 5 strands – number, statistics, measurement, algebra and geometry. Is a teacher a good or bad teacher if the student meets an achievement benchmark in algebra, geometry, statistics and measurement – but not number?

Again that is an 80% success rate, achieving in 4 out of 5 strands in the one curriculum area. But we want kids to be able to achieve in numeracy and literacy, and failing in the ‘number’ strand means the student isn’t numerate.

Is a teacher good or bad if they focus on ‘number’ over statistics, algebra, measurement and geometry?

Are we saying these other strands aren’t important?

If my receipt of a performance pay bonus depended on me making sure kids were numerate over statist-erate, or measure-ate, or algeb-rate or geome-rate, I would focus on numeracy – statistics and everything else can go to hell.

And let’s look deeper again. A class of thirty, 5 strands in maths alone, 30 x 5 = 150 targets a teacher has to achieve to be deemed successful, just in maths. Maths is generally taught about 5 hours a week. Bugger that, if my performance pay bonus depends on the class achieving in maths, I’ll dedicate most of the week to that. A balanced curriculum can get stuffed.

That’s not even counting the 4 strands in science (or is science no longer important), 3 strands in technology (or is technology [R&D] no longer important), 5 different styles of writing, oral language, 4 health and PE strands, dance, drama, and other arts strands, languages etc.

How many strands does a teacher have to make sure each student achieves in before s/he deserves a performance bonus?

Multiply the number of students in a class by the number of strands across the curriculum and a single teacher has thousands of performance targets to meet a year.

Then there are all the other things that teachers do besides making kids learn.

Do they deserve performance pay for – 1) doing duty?, 2) coaching sports teams? 3) being associate teachers of student teachers? 4) being tutor teachers for beginning teachers? 5) liaising with parents, whanau and iwi? 6) taking after school music or art classes? 7) after school tutoring? 8) leading professional development and appraisal of peers? 9) organising school discos? 10) fundraising? 11) organising the school play? 12) organising the school fair? 13) organising sports trips? 14) organising the school library? 15) organising the swimming sports, athletics day, 40 hour famine, breakfast club, buses, cross country, art exhibition, assemblies, class camps, community problems solving, peer mediators, restorative justice programme, assessment moderation sessions, interschool quality learning circles, professional development programme, etc, etc, etc.

Is the teacher who just teaches, a better or worse teacher than the one who runs around and gets involved in the corporate life of the school?

Common sense would say that the teacher who just focuses on the classroom would get better results, so teachers should just teach. To hell with everything else.

Roger Kerr made the comment, “How hard can it be? Surely schools aren’t that complex?”

I’m interested in the performance pay model Roger has in mind.


55 Responses to “Performance Pay for Teachers”

  1. Don says:

    I wonder how they will reward the teachers who turn around children who are anti social and beocme good members of the class community, learning to share, relate to others etc but don’t manage academic grades? Surely we would want good citizens first and foremost? How can you measure that success for pay bonus? This would divide the teaching community.

  2. Waterboy says:

    Performance pay is a good idea where the raw product you are working with is the same across the board.

    There may be some merit for this if we are to have teachers who specialize in being good teachers, I.E we dont just give an increase in salary for positions of responsibility.

    So you could legitimately have a teacher who focuses his / her career on just teaching and doesnt move into management being able to access a higher income.

  3. Lou Peters says:

    I think you’ve missed the piont of perfromance pay. It is usually an “at risk” payment above the normal salary, so if you just turn up and do your job, you get your normal salary. If you exceed expectations by measurable criteria then you should be eligible for performance pay. It is not as difficult to measure performance at all in teachers. It is not about National standards or anything else to get hysterical about, its about making progress with students, above what an “average” effort from an average teacher would bring. I am a teacher and I have worked with some fabulous practitioners, and far too many genuine muppets who work as little as possible, don’t particularly like the students and refuse to do anything that requires “extra” time. Both these types of teachers get paid the same under the PPTAS controlled agreements. Fair ? Hardly. Stupidity? Certainly. The good ones should always be paid more than the average ones. I’m beginning to think some teachers (and some of my colleagues) don’t want their performance measured at all. For anything.

  4. Gregor W says:

    Lou has a good point.

    Generally perf. pay is ‘at risk’ and designed to be a bonus if you exceed your agreed metrics. So the trick is getting the metrics right. It’s all about the goals being achievable. If they are not then the performance system will fail.

    Usually there ia a generic element (i.e. a measurable year on year improvement of ‘x’ based on a benchmark for each school, but set by the ministry and board) plus a personal goal element (i.e. training, personal work related objective). These two factors can be weighted according to both the teacher’s current strengths and their (and their employer’s) desired state of effectivness.

    Most of this stuff is pretty standard and should be able to be deployed fairly easily.

    Practicioners who make the effort to create an enviroment that allows students to exceed expectations should be rewarded for their zeal and diligence.

  5. Paul Johnson says:

    Gregor and Lou do have points but the line is still the same…measured attainment. Looking at an often employed school scenario of strongest teachers worst class, how would their model of performance pay work then? Not quite so simple I think but mine is simply an opinion like the others.