Damien Grant on performance pay

April 22nd, 2012 at 11:43 am by David Farrar

writes in the HoS:

Parata is talking about 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.

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31 Responses to “Damien Grant on performance pay”

  1. Other_Andy (2,558 comments) says:

    “Their job is to look after their members….”

    No it isn’t. They are a Labour Party proxy. Their job is to promote Labour policies and, when Labour is in opposition, fight (any) National policy.

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  2. mikenmild (11,246 comments) says:

    Still pushing the same tired myths about the teacher unions, eh? They’re not interested in education? Ha, and the Police Association is uninterested in public safety and the Medical Association doesn’t care about health.

    [DPF: The NZMA is not the doctors union. They have seperate bodies for professional ethics and advocacy and for negotiating pay rises.

    The NZ Police Association is primarily representing the interests of their members yes. Sometimes this coincides with the public interest, but not always]

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  3. HB (301 comments) says:

    ” in New Zealand, social-economic background has more of an impact on education results than in most other OECD countries, which is a polite way of saying our education regime favours white and Asian students at the expense of the brown and poor.”
    (also from the article you reference)

    and we know that this gap is widening.
    While I agree we need to look at improving teacher quality as no system is perfect, we need policies that address the underlying root causes of poor educational and health outcomes for those at the ‘tail’ of our society.
    I think you are also wrong about the unions not being interested in education. That is not my experience at all. Most of us are parents/grandparents for a start and want the best for our own. By and large the vast majority of teachers want the best outcomes for the students we teach. We do care about them. I think it would be impossible to to the job otherwise!

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  4. Other_Andy (2,558 comments) says:

    @mike

    I have almost 30 years of experience in education, in several systems and on every level, from primary to high school.
    I have dealt with ‘the union’ and several ‘union offiicials’ in those years. And no, in my opinion, they are interested in education as long as it fits their political dogma.
    And your educational experience is…?

    As for the other unions. Had a look at the “New Zealand Nurces Association” website. Projects include “Union Climate Change Action” among other projects. Have a look at their “Vote Well campaign” (Especially the video on the bottom) and tell me what that has to do with nursing?

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  5. Scott Chris (6,013 comments) says:

    Wu was quoted in the Otago Daily Times as saying that “we need to look at education more broadly than just students’ academic results”.

    [Grant] It is hard to imagine a more incredulously stupid comment.

    Err, who’s being stupid. Of course evaluating academic results is the the primary measure of student achievement, but not the sole measure. Same principle applies to evaluating teacher performance.

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  6. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    I’m pretty right wing these days. But when it comes to education I think the argument falls down.
    How do you tell a good teacher from a bad teacher?
    By the percentage of children that get good grades?
    But kids from WWhyfuckamoocow are never going to do as well as those in Auckland Grammar Zone range. It’s a complex mixture of parental success, genetics and early life experiences that dictate success. Not that you shouldn’t test teachers performance but you almost have to have some kind of impartial assessment process.

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  7. Paulus (2,589 comments) says:

    Other Andy is right

    The only role of the Teacher’s Union is to look after their jobs – not the teacher’s jobs – the Union.
    Forget the puplis – they are not really interested – only there left wing views – principally hard faced solo women.

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  8. Than (447 comments) says:

    @Monique – you can’t look simply at the grades, but that doesn’t mean you cannot find meaningful ways of measuring teacher’s effectiveness. For example, rather than the grades measure the improvement in grades. Or the percentage improvement, which would reflect that low scoring students are often the hardest to teach. And comparisons could be made between teachers of the same decile school rather than all schools.

    Just because measuring teacher performance is not completely trivial doesn’t mean it cannot be done.

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  9. tvb (4,311 comments) says:

    The teachers unions are about protecting the duds and the pedophiles, fleecing their members for subscriptions and financing the Labour Party. They are an abomination.

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  10. Alan Wilkinson (1,865 comments) says:

    Than, quite right. Where I take issue with Damien’s article is that it overlooks the debilitating impact of the teacher unions on the economic and social understanding of almost all pupils, not just the 30% who don’t achieve NCEA 2.

    Taught almost entirely by teachers who have no experience of private enterprise and have spent all their lives working for the Government in educational institutions almost all NZ students leave school with a seriously warped and misinformed view of economics and how society works.

    That is the elephant in the room.

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  11. PaulL (6,013 comments) says:

    @Monique: don’t fall for the simplistic strawmans that people put up. Nobody is suggesting that you would measure a teacher by something as simple as the level of knowledge of their students at a point in time. There is a lot of literature on how to do a reasonably good job of this, typical factors included would be:
    – the change in knowledge between start and end of the year, not just how much they know at the end of the year
    – some factors that include the “ability to learn” of the child – typically relative wealth and ethnicity. I’m not a big fan of these, because it sounds like the soft chauvanism of the left (i.e. the kids of poor people should be assumed to be unable to learn), but there are ways to do it well
    – some adjustors that relate to the subject being taught

    It’s not easy, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. And, to my mind, a “good enough” system is far far better than a system that simply doesn’t attempt to measure teacher performance at all. There might be some argument about whether a teacher is sitting at 45% or 55% of their peer group, there’s usually no argument about whether a teacher sits at 10% v’s 90% – everyone knows the great teachers, everyone knows the useless teachers, the rest are in the middle. That’d be a good starting point.

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  12. PaulL (6,013 comments) says:

    Strawmen? Strawmans. Always a hazard posting on educational threads without checking before pushing the submit comment. Sigh.

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  13. Mark (1,467 comments) says:

    if the measurement of performance is not objective, based on consistent and moderated data who is going to measure the performance of teachers. School boards of the well intentioned but unqualified. now it might work in a decile 9 or 10 school, I am less confident for the decile 2 and three schools.

    Has Parata bothered to talk to school boards of trustees about this?

    And Parata is now going to release league tables based on National standards that are not consistently applied, are not moderated by the ministry and are based on different testing systems. That seems sensible. The league tables will be on bald data and will not pick up this schools who lift students performance considerably over twelve months. No if that school is not getting those children to the achieved status all you will see is an under performing school when the truth could far different. But will that stop the blow hards condemning a school. not likely.

    What I find ironic is that NZ ranks in the top 6 OECD countries in terms of education but according to the highly informed posters on this blog the system is fucked. Have a look at your own profession and rank it in terms of OECD performance and I suspect it might not come out as high as the teachers but they are unionised so must be useless. Now we all know there are poor performing teachers but that is what we have school principals and the ERO to flush out.

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  14. dion (95 comments) says:

    > that is what we have school principals and the ERO to flush out.

    They’re doing such a great job that a convicted sex offender was weeded out of the teaching profession after only two years.

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  15. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    I just yelled,”go to bed strawman”, to my boys jumping around the room.
    It’s about reducing the level of hysteria around the subject of teacher performance. On one side, god forbid anybody should suggest a teacher is incompetent, but on the other it doesn’t behoove a nation to treat a class of professionals like second class citizens.

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  16. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    The National Standards are hopeless from my experience with children in the New Zealand school system up until the end of last year. The maths is pegged far too high for one. Children who do not meet the standard are not offered extra tuition to bring the individual up to standard so it seems a completely futile exercise. More pandering to the blue rinse brigade who constitute Nationals core voters.

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  17. mikenmild (11,246 comments) says:

    Pandering is the right word for those who proposed the national standards – an illusion of doing something about a non-existent problem.

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  18. Psycho Milt (2,401 comments) says:

    Our education industry has become a sheltered workshop for useless teachers and a frustrating workplace for good educators.

    As clearly demonstrated by our consistently low rating in comparisons with other OECD countries, perhaps? Does this Damien Grant talk out of his arse as well, or does he just use it for writing?

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  19. Psycho Milt (2,401 comments) says:

    The problem with the NZEI and the PPTA is that they are unions masquerading as education think-tanks.

    And the problem with the govt and its advisors is that they consist of idiots like this. Watching right-wingers tell us about public-sector professional organisations is like watching Anders Breivik tell us about military tactics based on his extensive Call of Duty and World of Warcraft experience – seriously, just stop embarrassing yourselves.

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  20. krazykiwi (9,189 comments) says:

    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”.

    Exactly. With 500 million students in China and India foolishly concentraing on academic results, we can be sure that our focus on mediorce basket weaving and interpretive dance will give the next generation of kiwi’s a competative advantage.

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  21. mikenmild (11,246 comments) says:

    I think part of the problem is that some have a very stereotyped view of the teacher unions are embarrassed to find that they are associations of professionals who actually happen to know quite a lot about, um, education.

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  22. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    Academic results are not the be all and end all. If the Prime Minister left school without any qualifications, the PM would presumably, according to Grant, be a failure. Many of out top entrepreneurs and business people have not done well academically. School hasn’t been their thing. Of course some kids leave school as soon as they can, because they hate the place and want to get into work. Grant clearly needs to go back to school.

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  23. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    Damien Grant is the intellectual heavyweight who recently said:

    “I do not want to pay for sea views for Housing New Zealand tenants and I’m not excited about paying for pensions for retirees who have more assets than me.”

    DPF, why do you support this moron?

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  24. Griff (7,212 comments) says:

    Mike the left propaganda generated by many in the teaching profession is well known and commented upon by many teachers. you don’t pass teachers training unless you profess a belief in the cultural nonce and lefty pc dribble taught in training collage.

    Just an aside
    At school back in the dark ages I had an English teacher by the name of R H Lockstone
    In todays ultra pc environment I very much doubt the leering perverted old foul breathed monster would get into teaching let alone manage a full career
    I still cringe at the idea of him spitting on the girls in the front row.

    One of the best English teachers ever. if he was alive today he would be debating on here with the best R.I.P

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  25. Psycho Milt (2,401 comments) says:

    you don’t pass teachers training unless you profess a belief in the cultural nonce and lefty pc dribble taught in training collage.

    True – it’s part of the same secret pre-graduation ceremony in which you commit to supporting the final victory of the proletariat and the formation of One World Government.

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  26. Griff (7,212 comments) says:

    sarcasm heavily misplaced there
    My sister is special needs teacher,life partner is ex teacher now councilor both will agree there is lefty indoctrination in teacher training after the experience of facing reality .
    I know of one lad who was disciplined because his view of te treaty was not concurrent with the revisionist propaganda taught in our schools.Even the resources used to teach te treaty are demonstrable at odds with the known history of the time.
    Re graduation ceremony the last one I attended I walked out due to the racist bias apparent in the ceremony. Graduates were asked to keep it brief until the tereo group got up and generated an hour of wailing and gibberish. One rule for all except if you are maori =aparthied

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  27. Psycho Milt (2,401 comments) says:

    I know of one lad who was disciplined because his view of te treaty was not concurrent with the revisionist propaganda taught in our schools

    Just like when I was kid and the teachers would deal to you for rejecting the prevailing ideological platitudes of that time – you just happen to dislike the currently-prevailing platitudes.

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  28. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    DPF back on his favorite hobby horses again – teachers and unions, each a target for him on their own but combined, ecstasy!

    Of course, his views are informed by his prejudices and fueled with appropriate anecdotal evidence, mirrored by his devotees here who follow the same prescription.

    And fact free propaganda, as usual, from Damian Grant, that offers up a feeding frenzy for the ignorant masses who seem to congregate around this site.

    Fact: The only European nation that outscores NZ in the well-regarded PISA tables is Finland.

    Fact: NZ has one of the longest tails in the OECD, the causes of which and the remedies to are well known to the education fraternity.

    So what do we get from these facts?

    Policies imported from countries well below us in the performance tables and still dropping, to the extent that in one, Britain, many neo-liberal reforms are acknowledged as failing. But we import from that country a chief executive who was instrumental in implementing those failed policies.

    And the right wing think they are smart?

    One thing we do know about the right wing, though, bullying comes easy to them and little makes them slaver more than the chance to bend their arm and lash out at their favorite whipping boys (and girls, I suppose, in these days of equal opportunity – also bought in over the dead bodies of the right wing, overwhelmingly male, diehards who had to get to their final resting place before the world could move on)

    Hekia Parata is proving a great disappointment. I used to think she was independently intelligent. Alas, I suspect John Banks is really ruling the roost in her ministry.

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  29. Alan Wilkinson (1,865 comments) says:

    “NZ has one of the longest tails in the OECD, the causes of which and the remedies to are well known to the education fraternity.”

    More money, smaller classes, more holidays, more “cultural understanding” for teachers then? And more welfare to produce an even longer tail?

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  30. Psycho Milt (2,401 comments) says:

    NZ has one of the longest tails in the OECD, the causes of which and the remedies to are well known to the education fraternity.

    The causes are equally well known to the govt and its advisors. However, admitting there’s a sizable lumpenproletariat is politically unpalatable because people would then expect them to do something about it, so they blather about there being an “issue of teacher quality.” Union-busting is territory they’re a lot more comfortable on.

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  31. PaulL (6,013 comments) says:

    Right PM, that is obvious. They’re poor, therefore they’re dumb, therefore this is the best we can expect of them. Welcome to the left.

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