Julie Bishop says the Government supports so-called “merit pay”. What do they mean in practice?
Well, itâ€™s hard to say precisely, because this is a Government of spin. No plan and no vision, just a series of short sighted slogans.
But if the Howard Government means anything by so-called “merit pay”, they mean paying teachers more when students get higher marks and principals allocating performance bonuses within schools. The only problem? It just doesnâ€™t work. You only have to look at the overseas experience.
In the US, the system is described by the OECD as a failure. Why? Poor implementation; lack of clear criteria; and a failure to give teachers useful and effective feedback.
And what is the result? Low morale among teaches and a less cooperative and constructive learning climate.
Merit pay is another Howard Government path to Americanisation that we shouldnâ€™t take.
What I want to see is a new set of high national standards for the teaching profession and I want to see teachers paid more when they achieve those standards.
Thatâ€™s why today Iâ€™m announcing the Government I lead will develop an explicit set of national teaching standards. These will be based on the existing national framework which was approved by all the Education ministers â€“ including the then Federal Minister, Brendan Nelson.
Will ‘standards-based pay’ produce results? Maybe, but I’m sceptical. As Sara Mead and I pointed out last year, there’s no evidence (at least in the US) that teachers with a Masters degree produce higher test score gains. In preliminary work with data from Queensland, I’ve found similar results. Higher qualifications don’t seem to be correlated with student scores.
In short, teacher certification is a hoop, while kids’ test scores are an output. It would make more sense toÂ pay for outputs, not hoop-jumping. Surprisingly, many Australian journalistsÂ (who are typically paid for writing good stories, not having extra degrees), don’t seem to understand the distinction.
* An aside: It’s not clear which OECD report Beazley has in mind. A Google search for “teacher merit pay site:oecd.org” brings up this one, whichÂ seems pretty even-handed.