Must try harder…

[Hat tip to Slim at The Dead Roo for the link.]

We’ve previously had a couple of vigorous debates on the culture wars sport of teacher bashing, and in particular, the idea that performance pay for teachers would be a panacea for all educational ills. A while back, Ken Lovell at Surfdom also critically and acerbically examined many of the assumptions that lie behind performance based pay for teachers. It turns out that many LP commenters, and Ken, aren’t alone. Julie Bishop is off to demand from the states that they sign off on her ill thought out talking points on teachers’ performance pay tomorrow. It’s all stick and no carrot for the states, as Cossie previously slapped down any notion that the Commonwealth might actually put the pay in performance pay by providing funding. The ministerial meeting is likely to be more about election year stoushing than anything serious.

Which is probably good, since Bishop’s model is anything but. The Age reports on a study commissioned by Bishop from the Australian Council for Educational Research which, while not apparently arguing against the principle (it’s hard to say definitively, because as Slim notes, the report isn’t online at ACER, Bishop or her department’s websites), should embarrass the Minister because it basically states that far more research is needed and that serious thought needs to go into funding models. Her populist and flip idea that principals, parents and students could evaluate teachers is met with an obvious objection:

It calls for long-term funding for the new salary arrangements. And – at apparent odds with Bishop’s desire for school principals to determine which teachers deserve bonuses – the report also argues that such schemes should not be left to individual schools to implement in their own way because this could lead to bias and cronyism.

That would come as no surprise to anyone who’s worked in a large organisation – private or public – where despite the best “metrics” that HR wonks can devise, performance related pay is often significantly distorted by office politics or favouritism. Bishop’s talking points seem designed to send perverse incentives and to create an individualised workplace culture, rather than being based on any sound evidence basis or research.

It’s very easy, then, to agree with Sue Willis from the Council of Education Deans:

“I’m not suggesting that teachers need a massive pay rise. What I’m saying is that the way in which the salary structure is organised does not allow a steep enough curve. We’re quite flat compared to other countries in the OECD: teachers in Australia start reasonably well off, but don’t improve in their salary like the rest of the world,” says Willis, who is also the dean of education at Monash University.

“I agree that if you don’t reward expertise and experience, then you lose an enormous number of highly qualified teachers. But if Julie Bishop wants to reward teachers more, I would think she should be arguing for a different kind of salary structure, where there were incentives for highly skilled teachers and experienced teachers to continue to teach, and where the resources are there to enable them to do a good job.”

That would indeed be good, but all we’re likely to see is yet another purely symbolic and dumbassed round of the culture wars being played out with Ms Bishop adopting her best weird head prefect stare.

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Posted in education, Federal Elections, politics
24 comments on “Must try harder…
  1. wpd says:

    Great post Kim. Personally, I feel as though I have been there and done that.

    Bishop will prevail, at least in the short term. The power of the purse and all that.

    To be perfectly fair, teachers should be allowed to select their students. Why not? After all, football coaches select their teams, PMs choose their cabinets, political parties choose their candidates, sculptors choose their marble, potters choose their clay, ambulance chasing lawyers choose their clients, and if performance pay were to be universalised then Doctors would demand that they be allowed to choose their patients.

    Please. Ideology confronts reality.

  2. steve says:

    There’s a big risk it will end up like the Disability Minister’s meeting in Brisbane a couple of weeks ago where the Feds turned up with a poor plan along with not enough money and had the states unite to send them back to Canberra to get advice and money.

    They now have to have another meeting before the next Costello budget to try to sort the mess out.

  3. Shaun says:

    Bishop’s talking points seem designed to send perverse incentives and to create an individualised workplace culture, rather than being based on any sound evidence basis or research.

    I could never understand the need for such a workplace culture (private or government). I’ve seen what happens when a management culture promotes competition (and not healthy competition – almost open warfare and the bitching and backstabbing that accompanies it). It is a grossly inefficient, and demeaning, way to manage staff.

    It is amazing how better things are when people work together rather than be divided by a common goal.

  4. observa says:

    Really principals just need the ability to hire and fire, or more commonly, be able to get rid of the droogs. That’s essentially the difference between the privates and the publics. Once the public system bungs a droog on permanently, the whole bloody system’s stuck with them and they have to be placed before lots of better temps on the books. What inevitably happens is principals with clout in the system get to avoid having them, but then those principals are already in the best burbs by no strange coincidence. In the absence of some form of reasonable market rating, non price rationing becomes the norm.

  5. observa says:

    What public Ed needs is to look at how the AFL is run vs say English/Euro soccer. You don’t want open free market slather for the obvious reasons, but you need some reasonable salary caps and draft pick system to even things up a bit regularly. Obviously you need to pay the same calibre teacher a bundle more to teach at ernawoopwoop than leafy middle class metro burbs. As well you need a certain overall quality of teaching within each school. You also need to up the pay of in demand, low supply teachers like science and maths. What’s needed is to introduce an overall points system for schools to select staff from. ie you can’t burn up lots of points on a few key teachers without sacrificing quality elsewhere. As well an overall salary cap needs to be implemented for different schools(a bit like giving Sydney and Bris an extra salary cap concession until it was no longer required) Streuth if the AFL could do it, there’s no reason why our public Ed systems couldn’t be brought up to pace.

  6. observa says:

    Yeah that’s how it works. Teachers come with calibre points and a pay scale range, depending on skills and experience. They can then drop some pay to fit in with a particular team they like (a la Brissies stars)to fit within the school’s global salary and points cap. Then those salary savings are available to pump into struggletown schools.

  7. Kim says:

    It is amazing how better things are when people work together rather than be divided by a common goal.

    Amen to that, Shaun!

    Anyone else see Bishop on Lateline? I don’t mean to be rude, but since it’s been well known that Ruddock is in fact a vampire for some time, has anyone else wondered if Nelson and Bishop represent the ALIEN OVERLORD faction of the cabinet?

  8. Christine Keeler says:

    Is it just me, or does Julie Bishop look to be possessed by the same alien presence that once inhabited the corpse of Richard Alston? It’s the eyes and the robotic batting eyelids. It’s not human.

  9. Kim says:

    She’s a triffid, I think.

  10. Christine Keeler says:

    Well with a childhood like this nothing about her would surprise me http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RIrLmsGapM

  11. Kim says:

    Well, if she ever falls from favour, she could be made ambassador to Germany and go to lame zombie parties in Berlin:

  12. Christine Keeler says:

    Ja, ist gud, ist wunderbar!

  13. steve says:

    Seems Maccas have a cure for the teacher debate. Just send the kids to work.

  14. Rob S says:

    A part of me hopes that the Liberal Party gets its wish and we end up with a fully national, federalized education system. Julie Bishop’s deepest darkest nightmare would be the day that she and her office are suddenly responsible for everything that the state governments are currently responsible for in education. They don’t really want a bar of it, no way. How can they blame the states for things going wrong (and they certainly would under the one homogenous federal system) after that? Imagine seven states’ worth of clamoring for funding all landing on Canberra’s doorstep instead of being directed at the states, and everyone now knowing that the buck stops squarely with Julie!

    It would be like Lynne Kosky, Victorian public transport minister, saying that she doesn’t really want to be responsible for running Melbourne’s train system because it’s all too hard.

  15. The Editor says:

    The ministerial meeting is likely to be more about election year stoushing than anything serious.

    Oh, it’s serious. Seriously ignorant of the true role of education ministers: to increase the quality of education in Australian schools.

  16. The Editor says:

    It would be like Lynne Kosky, Victorian public transport minister, saying that she doesn’t really want to be responsible for running Melbourne’s train system because it’s all too hard.

    Or that we all had it so wrong for so long about train punctuality. It doesn’t matter.

  17. emma says:

    Bishop’s rapid blinking shows she’s wearing contact lenses. Rapid blinking is neccessary to keep the lenses moist.

    This tell us Julie is a little bit vain. She refuses to wear glasses in public.

  18. Christine Keeler says:

    Bishop’s rapid blinking shows she’s wearing contact lenses.

    It’s not so much the blinking. It’s the thousand yard stare. You know, like she’s receiving messages from her alien overlords on Proteus Gamma 9.

  19. adrian says:

    Yes, she was like an android that’s getting towards the stage of terminal dsyfunction. The messages are still getting through, but only just.

  20. John Greenfield says:

    While teachers continue to present themselves as being too immature and/or stupid to be subject to the same types of performance evaluation as everybody else on the planet, the public system will continue to bleed students.

    And what a joke being concerned about the example set by Coutts-Trotter. Compared to the truly vile Pat Byrne, Mr. Coutts-Trotter is a saint.

  21. oyster says:

    Bishop was certaintly hard to watch , she had alook about her that was’nt right, car’nt put my finger on it but it was scary. She also said that there no extra funding for performance pay and it would come from the salaries of the not so good teachers, I was a bit gob smacked by that and was surprised Tony did’nt push on that point

  22. emma says:

    The thousand yard stare is partly a consequence of the contact lenses. When you’re used to wearing glasses during the day, your face feels strange without the additional weights and obstructions of glasses, and that can come across as a fixed stare. This suggests Julie wears glasses around the office but puts contacts on just for interviews. Ugh.

    That migth also explain the strange forced smile. She’s obviously been instructed to smile by her media minders, and probably practices with her glasses on. Then her face gets mixed up when she tries doing it with contacts.

    Julie, just wear the glasses.

  23. Christine Keeler says:

    Bishop’s rapid blinking shows she’s wearing contact lenses. Rapid blinking is neccessary to keep the lenses moist.

    To be honest emma, it’s not so much the blinking as the zealous thousand-yard stare. You know, she’s not looking at you, she’s looking through you as she receives transmissions from her alien overlords up there in Omni Perseus 9.

  24. John Greenfield says:

    I have to admit, Julie Bishop does present as a fembot!

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