[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.