Performance pay has little merit: academics

Teachers' collegiality could suffer withperformance pay

Academics have been voicing their opposition to the concept of performance pay in recent weeks following the Turnbull government’s announcement of a “package of education quality reforms”.

The government plans to link an additional $1.2 billion from 2018 to 2020 to “reforms in our schools”.

Its policy document, Quality Schools, Quality Outcomes, states: “Changes to state industrial relations agreements to link pay progression for teachers to the nationally agreed Australian Professional Standards for Teachers are needed. Teachers ought not be able to automatically move from one pay increment to the next without demonstration of their teaching ability and effectiveness against these standards.

“Research has shown that teacher effectiveness can be increased by recognising high performing teachers and rewarding them with increased pay by linking their performance to higher bands of pay in industrial agreements.”

Murdoch University education researcher Deborah M. Netolicky, in her blog, the édu flâneuse, urges Australia “not to spend precious education budget money on teacher performance pay”. She cites a range of academics whose research opposes merit pay for a number of reasons, in particular that it has a negative impact on teacher collegiality.

“Negative drivers of change are ineffective in driving positive transformation. What Australia doesn’t need is to cultivate cultures of fear, competition and compliance in our schools,” she writes.

“We need to invest in teachers and in education … but performance pay which alienates the profession and is ineffective in improving it, is not the way to go. We need collaboration, not compliance and competition. We need initiatives that trust and encourage teachers and principals to grow their practices and their schools. Australian educators need voice, agency and support to improve, not punitive sticks and accountability carrots.”

Research into linking teachers’ salaries to performance is mixed to say the least, University of Southern Queensland senior lecturer Stewart Riddle writes in an article for The Conversation.

“We should be cautious of any moves to link teacher pay to single, simple measures, whether those are standardised test results or the national teaching standards,” he says.

One of the most succinct arguments against “bonus” pay came from Gonski schools funding review panel member, Dr Ken Boston: “The teachers in our most disadvantaged schools are at least as good as those in our most advantaged schools: the issue is not their competence, skill or commitment. The issue is that their number, resources and support are unequal to the task.”

Also, the Productivity Commission has said: “Efforts to improve teacher performance should not focus on the payment of performance bonuses. The long history of mixed results from overseas experiments with teacher bonuses suggests that an effective and widely-applicable system is unlikely to emerge in the foreseeable future” (PC Schools Workforce).

Deborah M Netolicky’s full blogpost can be found here. She wrote another article about performance pay for teachers, for The Conversation, warning of a danger of fear and isolation. Also in The Conversation is Stewart Riddle’s article, “Budget 2016 brings temporary solutions for schools, and puts more demands on students and teachers”.

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