Half a dozen views on merit pay

In Saturday’s Age, I was one of six people asked to provide fifty words answering the question “Should teachers be paid on the basis of merit or years of service?”. The answers are over the fold.

MARY BLUETT
Branch president, Australian Education Union Victorian
The concern about performance pay schemes is that they don’t make good educational sense. They may import a competitive ethos, but they will not improve the quality of education. The best way to attract and retain the best teachers is to provide an attractive career structure and competitive salaries.

JACINTA CASHEN
President, Victorian Council of School Organisations
Aside from the fact that there appears to be little if any evidence that performance-based pay for teachers works, how would we work out which teacher is responsible for a student’s performance? What we need to be talking about is not only pay but how to provide teachers with the resources and support needed.

ROSA STORELLI
Principal, Methodist Ladies College
Undoubtedly we would wish our more effective teachers to be paid more, but one must consider the complexity of determining this. A measurement based on student results is not the answer. Our challenge is to find a model that provides salaries commensurate with responsibility, complexity and effectiveness.

MICHELLE GREEN
Chief executive, Association of Independent Schools of Victoria
We need to identify highly qualified teachers, align performance standards and find ways to reward teachers accordingly. But how do we measure merit? It’s not just about exam outcomes. A fair pay system will recognise teachers’ skills based on measurable and objective criteria, taking into account individual merit.

FRED ACKERMAN
President, Victorian Principals Association
It is generally agreed, and supported by research, that the teacher’s role is multifaceted and does not lend itself to traditional forms of performance assessment. This does not mean that teachers are or should be exempt from performance assessment. The question is whether the system is sufficiently robust.

ANDREW LEIGH
Economist, Australian National University
Teacher quality matters immensely, and there are big differences between the best and worst teachers. So why not experiment with merit pay schemes, offering six-figure salaries to get the best teachers working in the most disadvantaged schools? Let’s make teaching poor children the most exciting job in Australia.

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5 Responses to Half a dozen views on merit pay

  1. slim says:

    Experiment might be a good way to explore the merits of merit pay, rather than attempting to blackmail entire State Education systems with merit-pay for funding. And where is the additional funding for performance coming from? Not from the Feds I would suggest.

    Much better to demonstrate that it works and how it works, rather than assume a nationally imposed policy will be effective and to hell with the consequences if it isn’t.

  2. Kevin Cox says:

    I am impressed by figures from ACER which show the difference a teacher makes. http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/edt/eofb/subs/sub111.pdf

    We need to find ways of getting great people into teaching. One way is to recognise their contributions and part of that has to be on the results that their students achieve. Whether this is played out as merit increases or simply in recognition that they doing well and paying everyone well and then increasing pay for those that teach in difficult circumstances – such as disadvantaged schools might give the best overall outcomes.

  3. David says:

    Presumably private schools are free to pay their teachers on the basis of merit (as they determine it). Do any do so? If so, is there any useful data on the results? If not, why do you think that is?

    I would think that if we’re worried about the constraints / limitations / inflexibility in the public system, we should pay more attention to what schools without those constraints choose to do and how it works for them.

  4. Ben says:

    I am sick of seeing market solutions to problems that clearly do not, and should not, involve the market. For god’s sake, just pay them more and give them better conditions. The only way to get decent people teaching is to make the job more attractive than one in the private sector. A competitive pay system would pit teacher against teacher, would encourage even more sucking up to principals, and teachers would increase the marks of students to earn more money. The argument is unbelievably shortsighted and fallacious

  5. Andrew Leigh says:

    Ben, I’m not sure how “just pay them more and give them better conditions” is a non-market solution.

    Your critiques of merit pay are all reasonable ones (I discussed them here), but studies of merit pay programs haven’t found them to be a major problem in practice.

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