Cat, bag

Julie Bishop, whose ill thought out talking points on teacher performance pay went precisely nowhere when they were considered last week at a ministerial meeting with the states as predicted, has come clean and admitted her “incentives” model would lead to many teachers being paid less. The Minister, of course, is not advocating a pay cut for teachers, or is she?

“If people aren’t being paid just on the basis of years in the job, the increments would not automatically increase,” she told ABC’s Insiders program.

“Those who are assessed as being more skilled — their performance is better than others — would have a salary increase. Those who would not be so assessed would be paid less.”

Yet she denied that this amounted to cutting wages.

“I’m not talking about pay cuts. I’m talking about a differential in salaries,” she said.

Some of her previous musings have acknowledged that part of the problem with the teaching profession is that many who would otherwise want to join it, or stay in it, get demoralised by the comparatively low pay. Getting “stuck” at the top of a rather short incremental ladder is a big part of it. It’s pretty obvious to anyone but the logically challenged Federal Minister why the current proposal is an awful idea, but if you need any convincing, go read this ripper of a post from Pavlov’s Cat:

Is this what happens when pollies blindly follow the ideology of their parties? Is the economic-rationalist notion that human beings are merely quantifiable units something that these people really believe? Or have they just stopped bothering to see whether the ideology matches up with the daily life as we know and live it?

But in the meantime, Ms Bishop, here’s an idea for improving the performance of teachers. Leave them the hell alone, and stop putting even more unwanted and unwarranted stress on them than the load they’re already carrying.

Update: Tigtog links to a number of posts at different blogs on the Bishop and performance pay themes.

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71 comments on “Cat, bag
  1. Christine Keeler says:

    There are so many things I find annoying about Julie Bishop – the alien possession, the smarmy Head Gel persona, the cringing Downerish humour, the appallingly transparent flirtatiousness – it’s hard to know where to start. But her performance on Insiders yesterday is certainly worthy of comment.

    She couldn’t give a single coherent reason as to why we should be embracing this nonsense about performance based pay and why it’s suddenly a solution to some crisis in teaching manufactured by no-one other than herself.

    ‘Logically challenged’ isn’t the half of it. It looks to me what she’s done is pick up a few pamphlets from the Institute of Public Affairs and decided to run with them.

  2. Kim says:

    I meant to work “confected crisis” in there somewhere, Christine.

    She’s not a big picture person, is she? She seems to run just with whatever talking points cross her desk without being able to articulate any way that they’re connected with each other…

  3. Christine Keeler says:

    Well, Kim, that’s what happens when you coast your way through life with motorised eyelids. She’s got the intellectual depth of a pancake.

  4. Kim says:

    So it would seem, Christine. Nelson may also be the victim of alien abduction but at least he could keep on message about why all the crap he spouted was important.

  5. Christine Keeler says:

    Actually I think they make a good pair. Never mind the quality, look at the posture.

    Nobody picked up on it, but on Insider’s yesterday she started rabbiting-on with some argument about how universities had been ‘shoehorned’ into offering too many HECS places over the past ten years or something – the very period when guess who was in government?

    Into the “naughty corner” with her. I felt nauseous just writing that.

  6. Kim says:

    Yes, that little question time incident kinda summed her up.

    All very postmodern this forgetting of history…

  7. Lang Mack says:

    Now this is something I could never work out, how do these people get an education?
    I’m sure there is an obvious answer that has avoided me, I used to think “Oh, they have a Degree or Doctorate so I’ll back off”, then people like Abbott, Nelson, Bishop ,Downer(Gawd) make me think again, how do these people do it?..

  8. wpd says:

    If the teacher unions are running the governments, then why are teachers so poorly paid?

    And why didn’t Barry Cassidy ask her some questions to that effect?

    And BTW, what is the ‘problem’ that she is trying to solve?

  9. Christine Keeler says:

    Remember that their education doesn’t matter LM. Just keep in mind that they’re your betters and the country would really be in safe hands if people like you would only shut up.

  10. JohnZ says:

    When I went though school, there were some truly awful teachers. In particular, one Indian maths teacher caused a large drop in many student’s grades due to her atrocious English. The grades tended to bounce back once the student left her class.

    Perhaps merit pay is too difficult to quantify, but at the very least the principle should have been able to sack her.

    Any objections to this?

  11. DavidL says:

    Whether or not teachers in general are paid what they are worth, the issue being pushed by Bishop is that some teachers are better than others and that better teachers ought to be paid more. More particularly, she suggests that if teachers were offered more for better performance, some of them would do a better job.

    It’s not exactly rocket science. Who could deny that some teachers are inspirational while others are barely fit to lead playground games.

    If you knew your kids would receive a better education because the teachers had lifted their game, you might be glad of it. You might even choose to leave your kids in the public education system.

  12. MrLefty says:

    Yes, she looked like a fool in that interview. Barrie kept asking her how she was going to raise the pay for some teachers without either cutting salaries for others, or raising the salary bill, and she kept pretending she wouldn’t have to do either. Someone needed to sit her down and teach her some elementary mathematics.

  13. Kim says:

    Any objections to this?

    Yes.

    For two reasons.

    (1) As Dr Cat says, students contribute to their own learning. They’re not empty vessels into which teachers pour knowledge.

    (2) If indeed the teacher concerned had problems in oral communication, why is the instant response to sack her rather than give her additional training?

  14. Kim says:

    I mean, really, it’s pretty appalling that the first thought on hearing about alleged deficiencies in work performance (and anecdotally at that) should be that the person should be sacked!

  15. JohnZ says:

    They’re not empty vessels into which teachers pour knowledge.

    That’s not an argument against anything. Some teachers are better at teaching than others. Schools need more of these teachers and policy should be designed to attract and retain them.

    She was 50-60 and had been in the country for decades. Assuming she had language training and it failed, should the principle be able to sack her?

  16. Kim says:

    Well, if you believe we can solve personnel issues going to people’s livelihoods through anecdote and blog comments, JohnZ, I don’t share your view.

    That’s not an argument against anything. Some teachers are better at teaching than others. Schools need more of these teachers and policy should be designed to attract and retain them.

    Yes it is. The whole argument is about how to measure performance. And an argument against some flip correspondence between “exam results” and “teacher performance” is precisely that there are very many variables which go to how well students learn, most of which are not easily able to be isolated. I’d suggest you read the post I linked to.

  17. Pavlov's Cat says:

    Schools need more of these teachers and policy should be designed to attract and retain them.

    I know it’s incomprehensible to some people that extra dollars will automatically and simply attract better “performance” and I’m sure in business this is usually true. In business it is certainly easier to quantify and prove.

    Good teachers, on the other hand, are almost always good teachers because they love to teach. They’re not necessarily going to be attracted simply by more money — much less merely by (as it now appears Ms Bishop meant) knowing that some people are now getting paid less than they are.

    Most good teachers are much more likely to be attracted by less tangible things: by a job at a good school (and by “good” I don’t mean the places with hot and cold running spas, to-scale models of the Globe Theatre, and bully-boys stuffing other kids in wheelie bins and digitally recording their non-digital rapes of other teenagers; I mean the places that care more about about education than about status or sport); by a job in a school with a good principal or a happy staffroom; or by a job in which they might be able to make a real difference to the lives of the kids they’re teaching.

  18. anthony says:

    Smells to me like a cheap way of increasing the salary band for teachers.

    Earn [up to] THOUSANDS!!!! a WEEK!!!!!

  19. Rob says:

    Sport’s not part of education?

  20. Kim says:

    Interesting observation, Rob. Perhaps we should pay teachers according to how good their students are at cricket or how fast they can run?

  21. Disclosure: Before getting into the lawyering thing, I was a secondary (and occasionally primary school) teacher until 2001 (full time), then part-time for a further 2 years thereafter. After that I tutored and lectured in the tertiary sector. I taught in Australia, the UK and Italy, in both the public and private sectors. My views are therefore anecdotal, but shaped by experience.

    These are my observations:

    1. Systems that require their students to do relatively few things very well are more successful than systems that attempt to be all things to all men. The Italian education system shines in this respect. Teachers do not provide moral instruction or carry any form of government policy into the classroom (there’s no expecting teachers to do the job of parents, for example). Italian children are taught to speak, read and write their own language with fluency and economy, to manage number with some skill and flair. They have a sense of their own history and culture, and well-managed excursions give them a window onto their classical heritage. And that’s it.

    2. Very bad teachers (and there are many, unfortunately) make the work of other, better teachers more difficult. Schools – based on the idea of subsidiarity – should have the power to dismiss.

    3. Teachers have no sticks and few carrots. This makes eduation in many schools a daily battle and drains even the most enthusiastic staff-member. Once again, the Italians had the best approach. They accepted that some children were ineducable and if those children failed to appear at school time after time, no attempt was made to retrieve them beyond an initial contact with the parents.

    4. Apart from aptitude, many students do not contribute to their own learning. Yeah, I copped Friere as an education student, and he talks a load of rot. His ideas may work for adult education, but are downright dangerous when applied to children, especially younger children. The great majority of children need to have information broken into bite-sized chunks so that it can be fed to them. Only a combination of intellectual aptitude and middle-class background allows a child to participate fully in his own learning. That combination does not represent the majority of children.

    5. Teacher training is a mess. The current system is a combination of educational theory of no practical use in the classroom and a ‘prac’ placement that is essentially pot-luck. You may get a good supervising teacher who is keen to impart all their wisdom. You may get a bully who decides to treat you like a child and even attempt to damage your future. You may get a lazy slug who decides to take a month off and leave you all their classes. You may get a school that decides to use you as their unpaid supply teacher (this is illegal, btw, but very common).

    6. There is no way to make some (essential) material interesting. It has to be drummed in on the end of a hammer. There is no getting away from this fundamental truth.

    Since this comment is already very long, I’ll stop there. The shorter me: this problem is very complicated, and there are no easy answers. I wish there were, but there ain’t.

  22. JohnZ says:

    It’s telling that you won’t endorse the sacking of a teacher who can’t communicate clearly, even if they unsuccessfully took language courses.

    What do you think is a sackable offence for a teacher?

    They’re not necessarily going to be attracted simply by more money

    I note the weasel word “necessarily”. You’re correct, some teachers won’t be motivated by more money.
    On the other hand, many potentially good teachers would be attracted to the profession if they knew their salaries wouldn’t top out at $70k.

  23. wpd says:

    There is a high turnover of teachers. That can be a problem, but it also can be a ‘good’ thing.

    If you are not ‘cut out’ to be a teacher, you recognise that pretty quickly. That is one reason that there is a high turnover of teachers in the early years. If you can’t cut the mustard, then life is very miserable. You don’t wait to be sacked, you walk because there is no place to hide.

    Of course, some persist and then become successful. Others continue to be a disaster. In the public system, the principal doesn’t have the power to ‘sack’ but he/she has the power to make recommendations; and they do. At that stage most incompetent teachers elect to walk. Some hang on, but sackings do occur.

    BTW, everyone agrees that they know who the ‘good’ teachers are. And everyone knows who the ‘bad teachers’ are.

    The problem is that the vast majority of teachers fall into both categories. A bit like PMs actually.

    Something about being in the mind of the beholder.

  24. Pavlov's Cat says:

    Sport’s not part of education?

    Fair point. I meant sport glorified at the expense of, oh, you know, maths, sciences, languages, history, stuff like that.

    Apropos and to illustrate the kind of attitude to which I was referring, here’s a bit from the ‘Tips and Rumours’ section of today’s Crikey regarding the Xavier College ‘Bullies and the Bins’ episode:

    Xavier has a strong culture of bullying, exacerbated by teachers being told to go easy on kids that are good at sport or have wealthy parents.

    The anonymous tipster goes on to tell the story of a Xavier student who was unrelentingly bullied for two years, including death threats via SMS and MSN on a daily basis for months.

    To me, that’s a school full of ‘bad teachers’ by definition. Any good teacher would see it, act on it, if necessary defy the school about it, and then, if necessary, leave, loudly blowing the whistle on the way out the gate. Yet I’m sure Xavier pays its teachers generously.

  25. Kim says:

    It’s telling that you won’t endorse the sacking of a teacher who can’t communicate clearly, even if they unsuccessfully took language courses.

    Why’s it telling, JohnZ? I don’t want to get into discussion by anecdote or hypothetical. I don’t suggest that no teacher should ever be sacked, but nor do I think it’s helpful either for me to formulate some list of “offences” or for people to make the assumption that the sack should be the first option.

  26. JohnZ says:

    Perhaps we should pay teachers according to how good their students are at cricket or how fast they can run?

    Strawman. Perhaps we should pay sports teachers based on how much they add to their student’s performance.

    Matter of fact, that’s exactly what football teams the world over seem to do.

  27. Kim says:

    Perhaps we should pay sports teachers based on how much they add to their student’s performance.

    How do you quantify that? And do you believe that being a phys ed teacher is just about that?

  28. Rob says:

    Great comment from sl, and particularly interesting about the Italian system.

  29. LQ says:

    Trouble is, JohnZ, the students aren’t going to turn up for sports training.

    The maths and English teachers, desperate for their little performance bonus, have got their students doing extra coaching after hours, when the sports training is meant to be.

  30. ‘Value-add’ assessment can be very effective, in that it rewards teachers who improve student learning the most from an empirically assessed baseline. A school with students from low SES backgrounds can then reward its staff based on how much those students improve from an (admittedly low) baseline. This system is used in the UK by Ofstead (Office for Standards in Education), the schools inspectorate. The system came unstuck in the UK because – when I was there – asylum seekers were not detained but allowed into local schools, which had the effect of undermining the ‘value-add’ existing pupils had achieved. My understanding is that now, unless asylum seekers obtain refugee status (much rarer in the UK than here), their results are no longer counted towards the relevant school’s profile.

  31. JohnZ says:

    Note that in my original comment, I said the principle should have the option of sacking the teacher if s/he wished. I’m not suggesting we compile a list of sackable offences, I’m saying that principles should be given control over the staff at their schools.

    In many cases they don’t even get to decide who is hired. The NSW department of education foists a teacher onto a school, irrespective of whether they will match the school.
    This is great for those who’ve been in the system for a long time. It’s disastrous for the students and young but talented teachers.

    How do you quantify that? And do you believe that being a phys ed teacher is just about that?

    Lets look at how every sporting team in the world manages to do it. Probably a good deal of discretion is required. Boards of parents, senior staff and perhaps external members might be a good start. Performance pay is very common in the private system and often works well. Lets try out a few ideas and see if they work. If they don’t then we can go back to flat salaries.

    The ideological opposition to even trying performance pay is simply amazing.

  32. joe2 says:

    Let’s face it, if Julie and the team like ‘performance based pay’, so much, why not introduce it for politicians. Oh they say “we have to face the electorate every three to six years”. Get with it. Many teachers have to explain their contractual existence every year, already.

    Once you are in the inner-sanctimonious of the Howard party, you are protected for life. While grumpy, old fashioned, conservative and irrelevant you can call yourself a ‘liberal’. Having had a ‘private school’ education you can maintain that you went to a “public school”.

    How did she ever slip through Harvard or did it depend on whether she could afford an extra qualification there too?

  33. Pavlov's Cat says:

    The ideological opposition to even trying performance pay is simply amazing.

    I see: so opposing it is “ideological”, but supporting it isn’t — just common sense, eh?

  34. Katz says:

    Think about the best ten teachers you had.

    Now think about how you arrived at those decisions.

    Now think about whether you have changed your mind about those decisions in the time since you left school.

    Now think about how you would quantify those criteria to reward those teachers.

    Now thnk about how many of your contemporaries agreed when they were pupils with your current assessments.

    Now think about how many of your contemporaries would be likely to agree now with your current assessments.

    There are many conclusions that can be made from this mental experiment.

    One of them is that there is no bottom line in the influence of a teacher (unlike the coach of a football team for which there is a bottom line at the end of every game).

    There are, however, individuals who are utterly incapable of being or becoming adequate teachers. If general rates of pay were increased it would be possible, though not certain, that such persons would never be employed as teacher. The pool of applicants would be large nough for more of the unsuitable candidates to be rejected.

  35. wpd says:

    Lets look at how every sporting team in the world manages to do it.

    I agree. Coaches of sporting teams choose their roster. Apply the same to teachers. They should have the freedom to select and/or jettison their students.

  36. JohnZ says:

    I support it because I know from direct experience that performance pay is an excellent motivator.
    I accept that there are problems with quantifying student performance. Perhaps they are insurmountable. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.

    You, on the other hand, seem determined to ensure the experiment doesn’t ever go ahead. Your references to “economic rationalism” strongly suggest this is ideological for you.

    We’ve got a lot to gain and little to lose. What harm in trying?

  37. Kim says:

    JohnZ, there have been numerous discussions on this blog which go to the reasons why teacher performance is much harder to quantify than, say, the achievement of sales targets or billable hours. I’d suggest that you search the archives, as I don’t really wish to reiterate them all every time this is discussed.

    It’s very clear that the alternatives on the table, as presented by Julie Bishop, are ill thought out, as a report she herself commissioned from ACER shows (see my post last week – link in the body of this post). Under her model, teachers have a lot to lose in that either they will be denied pay increments, or their pay will be tied to measures which are subjective and leave much scope for subjectivity and error.

    The arguments regarding the collaborative nature of educational work are also persuasive to me.

  38. tigtog says:

    While we’re being all hypothetical about teachers with heavy accents, I stopped patronising a particular bicycle emporium because I saw the owner PRETEND that he couldn’t understand an accented immigrant, who wanted to spend several hundred dollars in his store.

    When I, who could understand her perfectly, attempted to repeat what she was saying (assuming he had a genuine hearing problem perhaps) he glared at me hostilely and then continued to stare her down and repeat “Can’t understand you love”.

    So perhaps, JohnZ, if all the other teachers at the school could understand this accented teacher perfectly, then the principal may have just refused to blame her for people who had an ideological problem with understanding her instructions.

  39. Pavlov's Cat says:

    Your references to “economic rationalismâ€? strongly suggest this is ideological for you.

    I used that phrase once, to identify what seemed to me to be the ideology behind Bishop’s push — and as distinct from the several paragraphs of not particularly ‘ideological’ reasons I gave for opposing it.

  40. We’re still left with a system within which there are significant numbers of poor quality teachers, where their training varies from marginal to useless, and where people are deserting the public sector in droves. Imputing bad faith to a criticism of a teacher whose accent made him hard to understand will get us nowhere.

    The issues are very simple, although (as I said above) any solutions are very complex.

    1. Should schools have the power to dismiss?

    2. Is there a way of rewarding good teachers?

  41. JohnZ says:

    tigtog, I’m not sure if you read my post properly. I, as a student, along with the rest of the class, found her very difficult to understand. The principle would have been powerless to do anything about it even if she wished. It is exceedingly difficult to sack a teacher. As far as I can tell, no one here has commented on whether principles should decide who works at their school.

    Quantification is not the only way to manage performance pay. It’s pretty much impossible to quantity how well I’m doing my job, but I still get performance pay. Discretion is the key.

  42. wpd says:

    The issues are very simple, although (as I said above) any solutions are very complex.

    1. Should schools have the power to dismiss?

    Talk about simple solutions to complex problems.

  43. Eddy's mum says:

    And of course
    3. What if there aren’t enough “good” teachers, do we make do with the slightly less than good or do without?

    and

    4. Who decides what is “good”? It will be especially important if you are going to lose your job over it.

  44. JohnZ says:

    You going to answer the question, wpd?

  45. Kim says:

    people are deserting the public sector in droves.

    Actually, I think it’s been exaggerated, SL:

    The proportion of these students attending government schools was 66.8%, down from 70.7% in 1996.

    http://144.53.252.30/Ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/4221.0Main Features22006?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=4221.0&issue=2006&num=&view=

  46. Kim says:

    Sorry, buggered link. Go to the “Australian Schools Census” on the ABS page.

  47. Frank Calabrese says:

    Sorry, buggered link. Go to the “Australian Schools Censusâ€? on the ABS page.

    You mean this link ? 🙂

    http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/4221.02004?OpenDocument

  48. Kim says:

    Actually, not quite the same one, but that one’s better! 🙂

  49. wpd says:

    JohnZ – Which question?

    I think I have asked a number. But I accept that this thread is moving quickly.

  50. joe2 says:

    “We’re still left with a system within which there are significant numbers of poor quality teachers, where their training varies from marginal to useless, and where people are deserting the public sector in droves”.

    A most extraordinary comment, skepticlawyer.
    Any evidence for your view, as ‘prosecution’, against teachers?
    Or is it just what you have been told ?

  51. Dismissal is the easy one, and I think I’ve covered it in my earlier (lengthy) comment. As to coming up with an adequate system to sort the teaching wheat from the chaff – that is a different kettle of fish 😉

    I’m quite happy to admit I don’t have the answer (or even a selection of possible answers). It would, however, be helpful if the problem were acknowledged.

    And that’s still nearly 4% in (I’m presuming from your comment) roughly 10 years. No system can afford to sustain those numbers without serious questions being asked.

  52. Pavlov's Cat says:

    JohnZ, I think Tigtog understood your comment perfectly well; she’s just moving faster than you. (Clearly she’s a candidate for a performance-based rise.)

    And I wouldn’t go ticking other people off for not having read things; you obviously haven’t read the post of mine that Kim linked to in her original post here, either, but it hasn’t stopped you from ticking me off for being a fool for ideology. Ticking-off seems to be something you’re quite good at, in fact; is that what you do for a living? It would certainly explain the performance pay.

    Quantification is not the only way to manage performance pay. It’s pretty much impossible to quantity how well I’m doing my job, but I still get performance pay.

    If it’s impossible to quantify, how can there possibly be a sound basis to give it? If it can’t be measured, what is the criterion? Secret ballot? Friends in high places? The Merit Fairy?

    Discretion is the key.

    What, like ‘Sshh, don’t tell the others’?

  53. Only 7 years as a teacher in three different systems, Joe2.

    I see it was too much to expect some people to read long comments. I should have known better.

  54. Kim says:

    No system can afford to sustain those numbers without serious questions being asked.

    But are the questions being asked serious, SL? I don’t know that the ones asked in political debate are at all. Last year the Ministerial confected crisis noise machine was going on about curricula, this year it’s all the fault of teachers…

    In fact, one reason for the growth in private school numbers under the Howard government has been the fact that it’s become much easier to open small religious private schools. The shift to them might indicate that people from Protestant sects, Islamic and Jewish backgrounds, Pentecostals, etc., are now being catered for within the private school sector which was formerly dominated (in terms of religious schools) by Catholic schools and posh Anglican and Uniting Church ones. It doesn’t necessarily (for instance) indicate anything at all about the quality of teaching in state schools.

    A lot of stuff is conflated in a lot of these debates.

  55. No, the political questions being asked aren’t serious, and even private school boosters avoid the elephant in the room: the presence of a minority of students who make teaching impossible, usually in state schools because the private schools can either (a) get rid of them or (b) are sufficiently draconian to impose appropriate behaviour (although as to whether the students in question actually learn anything is another story).

    Only in Italy did I see a system that just shrugged its collective shoulders and abandoned them to the consequences of their choices. At first I was aghast, but I have to admit it was a much better teaching (and learning) environment.

  56. slim says:

    SL – 7 years in three different systems does not concrete evidence make – anecdotal maybe, but hardly objective, as another person may have had a different experience. Hardly the basis for policy reform.

    Does anyone know of any actual figures for percentage of poor or ineffectual teachers? I would think it prudent to know that first. If, for the sake of argument, 10% of teachers were bad, possible solutions would be different from the situation where 40% were bad.

    As far as pay is concerned, if the percentage of bad teachers is small, across the board pay rises may well suffice to attract better competition. But of course, the real problem is that Australia will be 30,000 teachers short within 3 years and will be obliged to accept what we can get. Viable solutions are bound to involve far greater investment in teacher training, teachers, and schools.

    I browsed the OzPolitics blogfeed earlier this evening and didn’t pick up anything on Bishop’s admission, so I went ahead and posted my own. And now I discover this great thread here! So it goes.

  57. wpd says:

    At first I was aghast, but I have to admit it was a much better teaching (and learning) environment.

    A particular and peculiar view of what teaching and learning is all about. At least in the Australian context.

    Sums up your arguments perfectly.

  58. And that means what, wpd?

    From what I can gather, the only people on this thread who’ve seen the inside of a secondary classroom from a teacher’s perspective are PC and me. I was very careful to frame my comments as derived from experience, as has PC in her various education posts over the years, so it is not necessary to repeat a point I have already made and am happy to concede. I do not wish to use the ‘s’ word, but that is what you are doing. If you are unwilling to engage with informed views that happen to diverge from your own, that is your look-out.

  59. Helen says:

    “Those who are assessed as being more skilled — their performance is better than others — would have a salary increase. Those who would not be so assessed would be paid less.â€? [My bold]

    Yet she denied that this amounted to cutting wages.

    “I’m not talking about pay cuts. I’m talking about a differential in salaries,â€? she said.

    I guess what the linked AGE article failed to do was to make clear exactly what Bishop meant by “would be paid less”.
    Does that mean a pay cut?
    Or does it mean less in comparison with the uber-pedagogues who will now be paid more?

    Seems she wanted to imply the latter, but still claiming that the pay budget would remain static. Which is impossible.

    Obviously, this ambiguity has arisen from Julie’s poor command of english. Tsk.

  60. wpd says:

    SL, 7 years. Sorry! You cut and run.

    I was a teacher for many years. I was also a parent with children in public and private schools, a union researcher, a private secretary to an education minister, a university lecturer for seven years.

    I think I can see it from a number of perspectives.

  61. slim says:

    For the record, I’ve had 7 years private primary and 7 years public secondary.

    But my question remains a valid one. If one of the desired consequences of performance pay is to weed out ineffectual teachers, then it behooves us to know a) how you can reliably measure teaching effectiveness, b) to what extent is it a problem, and c) if the solution is commensurate with the problem.

    I suspect that what is being offered by Bishop is an over-reaction to a conflation of a number of issues with a silver bullet solution. This is after ten years of neglect by the Howard Government (like so many other policy areas of critical importance). The education solution for the future? A low-budget impact item – a national curriculum, standardised testing and reports and performance pay for teachers, when the sector is crying out for resource to meet the demands that students, parents, tabloid journalists and shock-jock shills and politicians place upon it. If this is all they can manage, then public education may well be more stifled and crippled as a result.

  62. joe2 says:

    Ultimately skepticlawyers comments must be seen in the context of her original wise words…… that she claimed, I did not notice. Perhaps through not having had a good observant teacher like herself.

    “My views are therefore anecdotal, but shaped by experience.”

    Very limited experience I would suggest, despite her protestations. The sooner she gives up as ‘judge and jury’ and inflammatory comments like, “people are deserting the public sector in drovesâ€?, a reasonable debate might be had.

    We have a pretty reasonable secondary education system despite so much money being drawn off to support independent schools.

  63. JohnZ says:

    wpd, my question was whether you support giving principals the power to hire and fire staff.

    PC, when I say my performance can’t be quantified, it means there are no numbers at the end of the year which directly measure performance. There is, however, a pretty clear impression of how well I performed my duties, and senior management uses these impressions when deciding on bonuses and pay rises.

    It’s not perfect a perfect system and certainly open to abuse. I think think there’s a general understanding in schools as to who the good teachers are. It would be nice if the principal could reward these people, even if some people are treated unfairly.
    Obviously a system which quantified performance would be better but as I’ve conceded several times there are issues here to.

    One possibility would be to pay higher wages at disadvantaged schools. At the very least it would give the principal more options when choosing staff.

  64. Kim says:

    wpd, my question was whether you support giving principals the power to hire and fire staff.

    What does this mean, exactly, though? In Queensland now interviews for teachers are conducted at school level and teachers are graded initially for their suitability for working for Ed Qld by the principal and supervising teacher of their final prac school. And principals would have a role in recommending termination. I don’t see why there’s this fetish for schools to be some sort of mini-enterprise. Any large organisation (and education departments are very large) wants some consistency in recruitment (remember – what we’re talking about is standards!) and also follows good HR practice which recognises that decisions on personnel matters are not just for the immediate supervisor, because that person might have biases, personal issues, etc. It’s just a matter of being fair to people and having consistent HR policies – again, as I say, no different from 99% of large private sector employers. The latter point is also why subjective perceptions shouldn’t be the determinant of performance pay.

    One possibility would be to pay higher wages at disadvantaged schools.

    Labor Party policy. But unlike the government, the ALP is promising the commonwealth will come through with the dosh.

  65. Pavlov's Cat says:

    people on this thread who’ve seen the inside of a secondary classroom from a teacher’s perspective are PC and me

    Nope, not me either, SL — just 20 years of tertiary (a different set of intractables and imponderables) plus several close friends and a sister in and out of primary and secondary teaching over many years. Enough for me to have an idea how hard they work and what they’re up against.

    But I’m not sure why people are suddenly being challenged to prove their cred anyway. However depressing the fact may be, I don’t think it can be denied that many more people are taking (or wanting to take) the private school option than used to be the case, but I’d also argue that that’s a direct result of the Howard government talking state education down and being shamelessly partisan about directing federal education funding towards private schools. It’s very hard to keep up standards when the federal government is openly making it impossible.

    I’ve seen people on this very blog seriously arguing that if you send your kids to a state school you’re ‘sending a message’ that you don’t really care about them. Ten years ago such a remark would have been unthinkable. That climate of opinion didn’t just grow by itself.

  66. Brian says:

    PC there was an interesting discussion today on Life Matters with Terry Aulich, Executive Director of the Australian Council of State School Organizations and Jane Lomax-Smith, Education Minister, South Australia. Aulich in particular, but Lomax-Smith also, was concerned about the damage that pollies were doing to the morale and standing of teachers, making recruiting of the best more difficult.

    Roy Morgan has just done a poll on the image of the professions.

    78% of people over 14 rate teachers as “high” or “very high” on ethics and honesty. They are just below nurses, pharmacists and doctors. Also they have improved from 54% in 1979.

    State and federal pollies are on 16 and 17%, just ahead of union leaders, journalists, insurance brokers, advertising people, and estate agents with car salesmen bringing up the rear. They’ve pretty much marked time since 1979.

    So we have scummy pollies and media types taking down well-regarded teachers.

    Aulich said parents were pretty happy overall with what teachers are doing. They’d want to see schools better resourced and teachers better supported, yes, and paid better too.

    He said that new teachers are isolated in an environment where others are ostensibly coping. He’d like to see them on a half teaching load while they sorted themselves out with lots of mentoring and an opportunity to compare notes.

    Lomax-Smith said they already had a merit pay system in their Advanced Skills Teacher scheme. She’d listen to the feds, she said, if they had improvements to offer, but not a scheme that was based on unworkable and untried principles, or where they had been tried they’d failed.

    Both were very articulate and disinclined to cop any old rubbish that’s handed out.

  67. Brian says:

    Sport’s not part of education?

    That’s an interesting question, Rob.

    I used to have an office next to the guy who headed up Health and Physical Education for the state. School sport was one of the bains of his life. It tended to be run by enthusiastic sporty teachers who put in heaps of time and enthusiasm. But often their efforts worked against the aims of the PE curriculum.

    In brief, too much specialisation and too much competition too early.

    Also the School Sports Council, which was run by a guy I went to school with and a VG sprinter, had better access to the minister’s office than my colleague who although much more senior was buried under three layers of bureaucracy.

  68. Kim says:

    Thanks for the link, Brian.

  69. Craig says:

    I am not a regular reader of this forum, but I thought I would give the perspective one currently being trained in the teacher education system. Can I say my impression of Friere, Shor and others which SL expressed are mine also exactly!

    As students we are forced to look at a massive amount of readings like this in the curriculum units I am doing and to be honest as a primary teacher I can’t see the relevance of it. If we want better performing teachers coming into the profession then honestly we need our universities to train them better! Next year I will be teaching and I am already feeling pretty angry about the poor training my course has given me so far.

    Just my 2 cents.

  70. Gavin says:

    As a currently practising teacher, I’ll offer a couple of observations.

    There is undoubtedly a problem of bad teachers, and I think something should be done about it. I don’t think that “thing” should be performance-based pay, because I believe that would undermine the collegiality of the job. Competition is generally a good motivator in life, but one must allow that there are exceptions to this rule, and there are times when collaboration is important. Collaboration is very important in teaching.

    What should be done? Principals of all schools should have the power to hire and fire. It’s disgusting how difficult it is to get rid of a bad teacher. And the motivation to do so is limited, because they could be just replaced with another lemon.

    Bad teachers are a detriment not only to their students; they damage staff morale as well, which becomes a detriment to all teachers and students at the school.

    Now, there aren’t enough teachers out there that a lot of sackings would occur. It’s just important, I believe, that teachers have that level of accountability.

    In short, merit pay might be the best thing ever invented, but I don’t think so. Try some other reforms first: they’re easier to implement and in my opinion are more likely to have a beneficial effect.

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