Today’s Australian carries an article headed “Teachers back merit-based pay”. This surprised me, but having read the DEST report on which it’s based, it doesn’t seem to be oversell. Here are the key questions:
To what extent do you agree that the following would help retain teachers in the profession?
…Higher pay for teachers who demonstrate advanced competence
Secondary teachers: Strongly agree 44%, Agree 26%, Disagree 16%, Strongly disagree 10%
Primary teachers: Strongly agree 39%, Agree 28%, Disagree 20%, Strongly disagree 9%
(See pp120-121 of the PDF)
I’ve been arguing lately that education policymakers should favour pay-for-performance over pay-for-credentials. The basis of this is a spate of US studies, and my own research in Australia, which finds that teachers with Masters degrees do not have higher value-added. Indeed, in my Australian study, some of the Masters coefficients were negative. (On this – though not on many education policy issues – I disagree with Brian Caldwell, whose latest book argues that all Australian teachers should have Masters degrees.)
What’s surprising about the DEST survey is that teachers seem to agree that it’s better to pay for results than degrees and certificates. For both primary and secondary teachers, “Higher pay for teachers who gain extra qualifications” is less popular than “Higher pay for teachers who demonstrate advanced competence”.
That said, merit pay isn’t the only interesting thing to come out of the survey. Teachers also cite student management issues and perennial policy changes as a deterrent; both of which policymakers should be alive to. And they cite class sizes, which suggests that perhaps we need some more homegrown research on the relationship between class sizes and student performance (I’m an open-minded sceptic on this one).
All in all, a fascinating survey. We should do more like this.