New Zealand Post Primary Teachers' Association / Te Wehengarua (PPTA) President Robin Duff looks at the simplistic and outdated twentieth century call for performance pay.
Performance pay and the "silly things some people say" - developing public policy based on an online poll
Abraham Lincoln must have been anticipating the New Zealand Herald campaign for performance pay for teachers when he said: “If all the people say a silly thing, it’s still a silly thing.”
The Herald imagines it has some evidence and moral authority behind its campaign for performance pay for teachers because it received majority support for an online poll which asked respondents if they supported it.
I have a few questions about that myself, starting with: when did New Zealanders relinquish the idea of public policy based on informed debate in favour of becoming what David Lange called “poll-driven fruitcakes”?
Start from an Informed position and ask informed questions
There are other questions that come to mind. How much human resource expertise did the anonymous respondents have? How many of them were familiar with the range of rewards and sanctions in the current teacher employment agreements? Had any of them bothered to review the range of international research about the complete failure of performance pay systems to lift educational performance anywhere? Do they think performance pay has been successful in the global financial community? And finally, what would the results have been if the question had said, instead, “do you think it is good idea to keep underperforming teachers in the classroom but pay them less”?
If the answer to that question is “yes” then how far should we extend that principle? We can introduce performance pay for airline pilots and surgeons but who would want to fly with the pilot who is paid the least or receive medical treatment from the surgeon who is the worst-paid, least supported and (probably) most demotivated?
Professional careers have mandated requirements to enter, and continue practicing within, the profession
The difficulty with simplistic calls for performance pay is that they don’t recognise that in some fields, public safety demands a black and white test ― either the professionals meet the test or they don’t. That is why all these careers have mandated requirements:
first ― selected entry into the pre-service academic programme;
second ― selection into the profession through registration and;
third ― ongoing performance management through registration and attestation.
There is a further check on performance in that jobs are competitively applied for and appointed on merit.