Red Alert

Posts Tagged ‘performance pay’

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.


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.