NZ Herald on performance pay

The Herald editorial:

Not many professions are held in such high regard as teaching. People, by and large, recognise that few jobs are so demanding and offer so relatively little in financial reward. All the more surprise, therefore, that a Herald-Digipoll survey this week revealed that a clear majority are now happy to disregard the adamant view of the teachers’ unions and support for the profession.

Making it the rare combination of both right and popular.

Fortunately, MPs on Britain’s education select committee are less timid. In a report released this week, they said teachers’ pay should be more closely tied to the value they add to pupils’ performance, so the best were rewarded while the weakest were discouraged from staying in the profession. They urged the Cameron Government to develop proposals for a pay system that rewarded teachers who added the “greatest value” to pupil performance. Whatever the practical and political difficulties in this, they said, the value of an outstanding teacher was so great that these must be overcome.

Exactly. Of course there are practical challenges. But that is no reason not to try. The evidence is clear that the ability of a teacher to connect with their students has more influence on educational outcomes than any other factor such as class size, school, poverty etc.

There is no doubt that agreement on measures of excellence presents an obstacle to pay on merit, probably an insuperable one for national negotiations. But it would provide little difficulty if left to school principals and their boards. The boards become well acquainted with the work of individual teachers, while principals must know which of their teachers are doing the most to improve the achievements of their pupils.

This is absolutely right, and why the teacher unions are so against. To make performance pay work, you need to decentralise salaries.

Throughout its first term, the Government showed little interest in challenging teachers’ national pay negotiating system. The new minister’s statement offers little hope of change, and little encouragement to excellent teachers who continue to feel undervalued. Paradoxically, Labour Party leader David Shearer may have given a stronger signal when he talked earlier this year of acting against the “bad teachers in our classrooms”. The findings of the Herald-Digipoll survey should provide the requisite backbone for politicians of all shades. As should the way in which education will suffer until excellence in teaching is recognised.

It is a battle worth fighting.

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