Posted by: Rob on 30, Mar, 2012
There's been considerable discussion in the office and among members about performance pay. I've put together some thoughts around this discussion. What do you think?
It is useful to first determine what is meant by 'performance' or 'merit' pay
Does it mean more pay for those who take on more work? Extra-duty payment.
It can mean pay for doing extra work over and above the teaching job you are employed for. We have such 'extra duty' pay for managing a department (units and MMAs) or being in charge of specific management functions (units, MMAs, SMAs).
If people want to consider more 'extra duty' payments so that additional duty/work is recognised more, then that is something PPTA has proposed regularly. It addresses the case of those who choose to take on additional work.
There are arguments for fairness and freedom to choose additional duties. It is unlikely, however, to improve student outcomes and there are downside risks for employers.
(These are the kinds of payments principals receive for going overseas to find foreign fee paying students - the school gets concurrence (official authority from the MoE) to an additional payment for this work, which is over and above their normal principal's duties. )
Does it mean paying more to whoever is better than average at teaching? Performance payment.
It can mean trying to identify differences in the performance of teachers at the same task (i.e. teaching) and making judgements about who is better and therefore making differential payments on that basis. The area is fraught with problems - What criteria? Who is assessing? is it across one or many variables?
What is considered to be of value to measure? What are the actual motivational outcomes of trying to measure between individuals in a collaborative workplace? What are the demotivational consequences of differential pay? What difference does the class composition make to teacher outcomes?
What factors will affect the student outcomes on which a teacher will be measured? How reliable are the assessment measures over time? How do you avoid subjective assessments or cronyism? Etc, etc.
There is nothing in the research evidence to point to performance pay as a way of raising student outcomes and much to count against it as ineffective, counterproductive and wasteful (even in the business world).
It makes assumptions about what motivates teachers as a group to seek to improve outcomes for students which demonstrate a fundamentally flawed understanding of the nature of the teaching workforce.
Does it mean who should I punish? At risk pay
It can mean 'punishment pay'. If someone does something the employer does not like then they withhold pay.
When there is low level of personnel management in a school then withholding pay is an easy alternative to developing the skills needed in that area. It can also mean paying less to those who are deemed to be less effective than average.
PPTA has not considered advancing this as it is not seen to be a particularly constructive approach to school relationships and improving student achievement.
Does it mean identifying those who are not suited to teaching? Incompetence
There are competence processes in the Agreement and teachers who become incompetent can be dismissed.
PPTA does not support the notion of retaining teachers who are proven to be not competent but paying them less. The organisation does not support a pay rate for incompetence.
High entry requirements, strong personnel management skills in schools and a strong culture of professional development supported by resourcing and collaboration are keys to keeping the profession strong.
Does it mean identifying those who need help? Professional support
Teachers already have to demonstrate that they are competent in order to move up the salary scale and schools have annual appraisal processes.
PPTA has strongly promoted robust appraisal processes tied to improved professional development opportunities. There is no point in identifying a weakness if the system does not provide the resources and the capacity to address those identified weaknesses.
Does it mean assessing outcomes to spread best teaching practice and provide support where it is needed? System improvement
This can be a collaborative exercise to identify good teaching pedagogies and spread them through the school and between schools.
This is fully supported by PPTA, which has pushed for the resourcing and system support for this over many years.
It does not require differential pay or punishment pay or trying to rank teaches in arbitrary and subjective ways. It does require cooperation, which is undermined by differential and punishment pay mechanisms. It may be accompanied by extra duty pay for those who pick up additonal work in the process. It is underpinned by sound assessment and review processes and underpinned by the findings from sound research.
Can 'performance' pay be useful in improving student outcomes?
No. The research clearly indicates otherwise and that it is likely to be counter-productive with respect to collaboration and student outcomes. However, sound, collaborative performance appraisal systems which identify where resourcing can be applied through well resourced, well structured, timely and meaningful professional development support can form the basis of a growth in the workforce and through that to improved student outcomes.