Parata is talking about performance pay for teachers and publishing league tables for schools based on National Standards. This is, as Sir Humphrey would say, courageous.
Teacher unions are opposed to both policies. To bolster their argument the NZEI recently brought Australian academic Professor Margaret Wu to our shores. Wu was quoted in the Otago Daily Times as saying that “we need to look at education more broadly than just students’ academic results”.
It is hard to imagine a more incredulously stupid comment. We pay teachers to teach – not to eat their lunch. We can and should assess success by comparing what the class knows at the end of the process from what they knew at the start. A competent principal will know which teachers are effective and which are not.
Not just the principal. As a pupil, we knew who were the good teachers. Not necessarily the popular ones, but definitely the good ones. It was common knowledge. Our chemistry teacher was teased mercilessly by students and parodied as a robot. But almost all his students knew he was a good teacher and they learnt chemistry.
A system that does not reward success encourages failure. Poor performers stay, talent leaves, children remain uneducated. Our education industry has become a sheltered workshop for useless teachers and a frustrating workplace for good educators.
The problem with the NZEI and the PPTA is that they are unions masquerading as education think-tanks. Unions exist to advance the cause of their members. This is honest work in a free society and teacher unions have been remarkably successful at shielding their members from any form of performance scrutiny. They are so good I suspect they have convinced even themselves that it is not possible to tell a good teacher from a bad one and that students learn by osmosis rather than by anything a teacher actually does or does not do.
The job of the education unions is not to improve the education system. Their job is to look after their members, specifically to keep them in jobs, get them pay rises, reduce their hours worked, and get them more funding. Now there is nothing wrong with that – so long as one realises their arguments are about self-interest, not about improving educational outcomes.