How to do performance pay for teachers


It is easy to understand the teachers’ unions’ objections to performance-based pay. At least if this means basing teachers’ salaries solely on the performance of their students in end-of-year tests. As ACG Sunderland principal Nathan Villars pointed out in this newspaper, that would hardly be fair on the teachers with the less able students. Nor would it incentivise the best teachers to teach in the schools where they might be needed the most.

As the Post Primary Teachers’ Association argued last month, it would be like basing doctors’ pay solely on their surgical success rates. This, the PPTA observed, might discourage the best surgeons from taking on patients with poor prospects.

Yep based only on exam results would be a bad way to do it.

Modern performance-based pay systems like the Impact system, adopted in 2009 in Washington, DC, recognised that students’ abilities and starting points differ, both across classrooms and across schools.

To address this, they take into account the level of attainment, specific learning needs and the family circumstances of the students entering a teacher’s classroom. They also take into account differences between classrooms such as the number of students a teacher has. A teacher’s performance is then assessed based on their students’ progress throughout the year. It is not just a matter of year-end attainment. It is the “value add” that matters. In the Impact appraisal process, other qualitative measures like classroom practice, and core professionalism round out an overall assessment of a teacher’s performance. And because collaboration is a key component of the system, teachers remain highly incentivised to work with their peers and as a team, despite their remuneration also reflecting their own individual performance.

It is the value add that matters.

This might all seem alien to teachers used to a one-size-fits-all approach to remuneration that rewards time in the job, rather than success in the classroom. But it will not seem strange to anyone else. After all, aren’t most of us rewarded for how well we do our jobs, and not simply for how long we have occupied them?

It works in almost every other profession.

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