Red Alert

Performance Pay for Teachers

Posted by on February 7th, 2013

Treasury documents released this week talk about exploring new ways of ‘holding teachers accountable for their performance’.  It’s becoming increasingly clear that the National government want to put performance pay back on the agenda.

My good mate and former (and hopefully future) colleague Kelvin Davis wrote an excellent post on Red Alert back in 2010 pointing out some of the pitfalls of performance pay for teachers. Here are some of the salient points:

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’.

There are some excellent teachers working really hard in schools where the students are struggling. They get incredible results, and often the students in their classes learn a lot more in a year than a child at a school with better test scores, yet because the kids are still behind some of their peers at the end of the year, these schools are labelled as ‘failures’. Why would a great teacher work their guts out at a struggling school when they could get more ‘performance’ pay by working in a school that wasn’t struggling?

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.

This comes back to one of the major flaws with National Standards. It’s all very well to say we want teachers to focus on literacy and numeracy, but what if that comes at the expense of other areas like science, technology, or social studies. If teacher pay is going to be based on a narrow set of targets, that’s where they will focus their efforts, rather than teaching a broad curriculum.

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.

As Kelvin points out, there is a lot more to teaching than making sure kids hit an arbitrary and narrowly focused set of standards. The fundamental problem with ‘performance’ pay for teachers is that a narrow range of student achievement statistics alone aren’t a reliable measure of how good a teacher is. Can we do a better job of rewarding great teachers? Undoubtedly. Should we provide more incentives for teachers to undertake professional development and continually strive to be better teachers. For sure. Will ‘performance pay’ based on student achievement help achieve these things? No.


25 Responses to “Performance Pay for Teachers”

  1. indiana says:

    “Can we do a better job of rewarding great teachers? Undoubtedly. Should we provide more incentives for teachers to undertake professional development and continually strive to be better teachers. For sure.”

    So if these things don’t improve the performance of a teacher or if the teacher doesn’t take up these incentives; should they still get paid the same as another teacher who actually transitioned these development incentives into raising student standards?

  2. PlanetOrphan says:

    How can you justify a “Standard” when scaling is involved ?

    With scaling and by definition, 40-45% of all students are destined to fail regardless of the teachers input.

    And we scale up by the way, not down.

    A farce is what it always will be, those Gnats’ need to get out onto a footy field and blow off some hot air.

  3. bbfloyd says:

    Every time i see this subject come up for debate, the first thing that happens is the derailing of any sensible, realistic discussion by the simple expedient of assuming that performance pay can be measured with any degree of certainty regarding the effect of individual teachers on outcomes for underperforming children….

    Not one single one of the proponents for creating competition between teachers can answer how it is that schools can effectively counteract the influences every child brings from home…

    Consider the case of the child who lives in a household where dad has no grasp of how to inspire his children to make the effort required to succeed at school… He may have background of family violence, alcohol abuse,criminal behavior, to name but a few of the impediments to providing examples of how best to succeed…

    Mum may well be a damaged, and unbalanced person who struggles with being disaffected from mainsteam society, for no better reason than which family she was born into..Alcohol dependence, and it’s sibling, violence, is one of the more common symptoms of dysfunctioning families, and individuals…

    If any of those that prefer to skim over the realities of being brought up in these kind of environments can show how individual teachers can circumvent the kind of mental/emotional roadblocks that develop in the childs mind as a result of the kind of depreivation they suffer outside the school gates, then be my guest…

    If you can, then I take my hat off to you…

    And before any silly assumptions are made, I am one of those children…. And i was only one of the many hundreds of thousands of children who were abandoned, and then scapegoated by national party governments more interested in creating an environment that encouraged wholesale theft of the means by which redress could have been made…

    Please… don’t take this issue away from those who need it to be sorted once, and for all….This is an issue that will continue to cost this country financially, and socially, and which goes to the heart of what the savage government was trying to eradicate…

  4. Ianmac says:

    Performance Pay divides. Cooperativeness enhances.
    Masses of research has been done on identifying just what makes a good teacher. There are huge variables. The only common factor seems to be the degree of enthusiasm of the teacher.

    There is a belief that if you reward children/adults,anyone with money or other means, then the others not so rewarded will try harder. The reverse is often the case.
    And a person who has been regarded as top, is far less likely to take risks. (My niece was terrified that she might loose her place in a top streamed class so she played it safe.)

    Seems counter-intuitive but Rewards can punish Initiative, Enthusiasm, Enquiry.

  5. PlanetOrphan says:

    Gotta agree with IanMac as well, fear based psychology rarely works to do anything other than scare people into submission.

    Not all that counter-intuitive if you look at it that way.

  6. bbfloyd says:

    “Performance Pay divides. Cooperativeness enhances”…

    That stikes me as an excellent catchphrase for those who would counter the reactionary slogans used to derail this debate…

    This isn’t a criticism, as this sentence encapsulates the overarching reality behind why we shouldn’t allow a group of corporate raiders to decimate our ability to produce a world class education regime…

    Thanks ianmac..

  7. A Mother says:

    @bbfloyd
    I really feel some teachers will ignore those in the too hard basket, concerning on the ones near the line and getting them over that (getting as many children over that line to increase pay). Those well above could be left to their own devices.

    Having one child that is above (by two years) in reading but well below in writing (again by about 2 years due to fine motor skills, that I think he has a disability there and pushing to have that tested but they tend to wait until they are 7 or 8 and he is 6) I have a real worry what will happen. What happened to working with children at the level they are at and extending them?

    National Standards looks like they are having a negative effect on students already.
    http://www.nzei.org.nz/NZEI/Media/Releases/2013/2/Maths_report_shows_negative_impact_of_government_policy.aspx#.URMwAx2siSq

  8. PlanetOrphan says:

    We should not forget that John Key still indorses Hekia Parata without hesitation.

    Replacing REALITY with his delusional engineered attack on the Teachers Union.

    He never “accepts” any REALITY.

    All expertly hidden behind an incompetent Minister and an incompetent (or cursed with Design limitations) software providor.

    Why did Lesley Longstone resign again ?

  9. Jack Ramaka says:

    We should have politicans on performance based pay, if they were running their own businesses they would be bankrupt or in receivership.

  10. bbfloyd says:

    @A mother…You raise the “spectre” of bulk funding…

    I havn’t done the research, but it strikes me as probable that any “bulk funding” regime the raiding party would impose would be tied to national standards…

    The higher the pass rate, the more “brownie points” schools can beg for….

    if the funding is rated by numbers of students, then performance pay of idividual teachers becomes problematical in the extreme, although politically, having teachers forced to compete for pay, and the pressure to fund that performance pay, at the expense of facilities, being forced onto principles, would take the teachers union out of the game for long enough to get charter schools well established..

    Either way, the utterly dishonest statements regarding performance pay being uttered by the current stooge(joi(parata)ce) are irrelevant to the reality, and serve to demonstrate unfitness for office….

    Forcing teachers to accept responsibility for what happens to children outside school amounts to an attack on our children…

    The driving force behind that attack is profit… Profit..Profit…For the people who spent good money to own their own party….The rest of us are just units of consumption, or to be consumed…Therefore beneath consideration…..

  11. John says:

    …so this is from the same crowd hell-bent on saving money not on educational improvement – remember Larger Class Sizes – better results….
    …and the same crowd who think that National Standards will fix everything, but exempt their own proposed Charter Schools from educational standards scrutiny…..
    …and the same crowd who will bail out the film industry by destroying the actors union and having their lips surgically attached to nether regions of Warner Brothers executives…
    …who will bail out rich private Wanganui Collegiate because a Royal went there, but install Charter Schools for the price of a pot of tea with ACT and use Charter Schools experiments in South Auckland and Christchurch East because the parents there are Labour Supporters and won’t object to “allegedly” raising achievement (which won’t be judged against National Standards/NCEA or the scrutiny of OIA or Ombudsman)…

    …and all implemented by “the best communicator in the National Party”…

    It’s all a nightmare educational JOKE….

  12. Ianmac says:

    bbfloyd: Maybe the direction that National is heading in (Nat Stds/Performance Pay etc) mirrors the Washington DC experiment. It is 59 minutes long but try:
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/education-of-michelle-rhee/
    The last 10 minutes is scary.

  13. Yoti says:

    Chris you are on a performance pay regime. Your boss has decided that you are better than the others in your party and promoted you. This means that you get more money than other members in you party that have not performed. I believe you deserve it.

    Good teachers should be paid more than bad teachers and time in the job should have nothing to do with it.

    You have proved that newcomers can get paid more than than the ones who clearly do not have talent, or are just comfortable where they are.

  14. bbfloyd says:

    @Ianmac…Michelle Rhee=Korean Ruth Richardson….

    So much for us to look forward to….

    The eventual corruption of the teaching profession….

    Watching each generation of school leavers, being progressively better prepared, for life supplying the bodies for prison labour contractors….(at last! at last! We can compete for nike’s business!)

    The ritual for each “lucky” generation of kiwis, of deciding which country they will emigrate to, so that their children have a better chance of a decent education without it costing them their soul…( A good pointer to that would be the societal stability/health of the prospective destinations)

    So can we assume surity in the knowledge that we are about to entrust the education to a policy that owes more to greed, narcicism, sociopathy, with a bit of bigotry thrown in for good measure…along with enough basic literacy/numericy to supply the above..

    Well…………I can see this working brilliantly, as long as you earn over 150k a year….rising to 250k within a decade as choice is removed…

  15. Sofie Bribiesca says:

    Performance pay you ask? How about any bloody pay? Or pay that has been earnt last year or the correct pay? How dare this government question a teachers ability when it cant get it’s act together for how many months now? Yeah, performance pay for National party first.

  16. George says:

    By definition teachers are people who can’t so we are never going to get real performance out of them. Although replacing all the tired old fifty and sixty somethings with keen young teachers from India would do a lot to improve the situation.

  17. PlanetOrphan says:

    Why hasn’t the Datacom contingency plan been implemented ?

  18. Grant Hay says:

    If you were running Datacom would you be interested? Why would you be? Not just a matter of flicking a switch either. I’m no expert but I imagine getting the less than perfect datacom system up and running again would entail quite a bit of time money and effort.

  19. PlanetOrphan says:

    So why would Datacom organise and accept a contigency contract in the first place Grant ?

  20. Grant Hay says:

    Not arguing PO :) . I thought their contingency contract expired middle of last year at which time they could relatively easily have got back into the game again. I don’t know that there is a new contract in place with datacom. Is there one that you know of? I believe Joyce was going cap in hand to them to try and arrange some sort of possible rescue mission. We’re not getting told much about the nitty gritty are we? So it’s a bit of a guessing game unless you’re in the loop. It’s obvious that Datacom was neither error free nor cheap when they had the contract. My wife’s a teacher and many of our friends and aquaintances are as well, so believe me when I say I’m not defending anyone over this large pile of manure…very frustrating.

  21. bbfloyd says:

    “bit of a guessing game unless you’re in the loop”.. and my guess would be that the real power behind the puppets in cabinet have decided to use the confusion as part of their plan, alomg with performance pay, and bulk funding, to destabilise the teachers unions long enough to get charter schools established…

    Once the education budget has been captured for the profit of the govts sponsors, then the teachers unions wil be welcome to create as much havoc as they like, seeing as how it will likely be a labour/green govt that has to deal with it…

    Yet another excellent handle for our “fourth estate” to harass, and criticise them with…same old same old… the tories meddle with the health, and balance of our society to make profits for their owners, and the news media ensures that blame is sheeted home to the labour party…a perfect symbiosis…

    the only losers are the bulk of society… again…

  22. ghostwhowalksnz says:

    Grant , Datacoms payroll was designed in the day when faxes were used to communicate changes. So was very labour intensive.

    This is the real background to the current problems, an internet capable payroll, which has had a lot of blocks on it so teachers have to go through online admin changes to change pay grades.

  23. bbfloyd says:

    @GWWnz…. That suggests to me that the sensible path would have been to simply get datacom to upgrade it’s system to keep pace with the changing data gathering technology….

    I’m curious as to whether engaging talent2 initially was no more than a tool to pressure datacom into keeping it’s costing of any updates to a minimum… Not an unusual tactic in the business world during renegotiation of contracts…

    If so, then the decision to go with an incomplete setup becomes more suspicious by the day…especially as datacom had been approached to devise a contingency plan once it was realised that novapay was looking unlikely to be capable of doing the job it was designed to do…

    I would like to see those in positions to ask the hard questions of our “masters” actually ask those questions…

    It is rather obvious that the “fourth estate” are studiously avoiding doing just that…

    It stretches credibility past breaking point to assume none of the press gallery aren’t aware of just why this debacle was allowed, indeed encouraged, to happen…

  24. Mike says:

    Teachers have always been one of National’s favourite targets because 1.they are fairly strongly organized (union) ; 2. National thinks teachers are mainly trendy lefty liberals – which the Nats have always despised; 3. They don’t just go away and do as the are told, they have political views and frequently let these views be well known. None of these attributes are seen as desirable by National-led governments.

  25. Grant Hay says:

    What I’m about to say will get up a few noses and is in the form of gross generalizations but here goes anyway :) ..

    There are several rather amusing sides to the general perceptions / myths about teachers and their unions. Amongst them:

    “Teachers are trendy bleeding heart lefties”. In fact many teachers are what I would call “centrist” and conformist politically and divide fairly evenly down the National / Labour voting divide.

    “The Teacher unions are hotbeds of radicalism and are always going on strike or threatening to do so”.

    Actually, the NZEI is no hot-bed of radicalism. Primary teaching is and always has been largely the preserve of women, often married women whose income is secondary to that of their husbands or solo parents who want and need a steady income. Most teachers are not interested in rocking the boat and disturbing the status quo. I can remember the NZEI going on strike briefly about once in my lifetime, but it may have been twice. Can anyone state the fact for the record?? The NZEI has also been, by and large an organisation controlled by principals and senior staff who again have little interest in challenging the establishment in any major way and whose interests are not fully aligned with those of most classroom teachers. The solution to this lies in the hands of teachers but they are not a terribly politicised bunch so it tends to be a union run by bosses. Quite amusing really. I don’t know who the current president is but the last two have been principals and I think this has been true more often than not during the last thirty years.