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Why Performance Pay For Teachers Is A Good Idea!

One of the little suggestions in the recent announcement by the Turnbull Government that they were going to replace a billion dollars of the billions that they ripped out of Education, was the idea of performance pay for teachers. And by, suggestion, I mean that they were going to make it a condition of states getting the money. So it looks like they’ll be demanding that the states introduce performance pay.

Ok, I know most of you have probably read some of the reasons against it. You know, things like in all the places where it’s been introduced, all the studies tell us that it doesn’t improve outcomes. But we don’t need to look at things like that when our Prime Minister has common sense.

Or you may have heard arguments like the idea that it’s better when teachers cooperate and share ideas and strategies which improve learning outcomes for students, rather than jealously guarding their secrets so that they can continue to be the one receiving the performance pay.

Then, of course, in Victoria there’s the point that some teachers after a few years in the classroom, apply for leading teacher positions and a rewarded with a higher salary than if they just progressed up the ranks on the basis of years served. I can’t speak for other states, but there’s no reason that an outstanding teacher in Victoria couldn’t be on a higher pay than the most experienced teacher once they’re no longer a graduate teacher.

But all the arguments ignore how it would actually work in practice.

At the moment, teachers progress up the salary scale by a couple of thousand a year, subject to a satisfactory performance, for the first eleven years of their teaching, but once the Liberals get their way and performance pay is introduced, teachers will only progress up the salary scale on results, not on years of service. And we all want “results”, right?

Except that it’s a little unclear what’s meant by “results”. There are a number of ways I see this happening:

1. All teachers start on a graduate salary of $63,000 and they’re eligible for bonuses if their students do better than the other teachers in their school. These bonuses are paid on a one-off basis each year.

2. All teachers start on a graduate salary of $63,000, and if they meet certain agreed outcomes such as 90% of their students meeting a minimum standard in a test, then they go up an increment to $65,000. This has the obvious problem that not all classes are created equally and for some the figure could be achieved in they approached their teaching like Bernard from “Black Books”, while others could achieve it with their class if the ran intensive classes twelve hours a day for three years before allowing their students to cheat on the final test.

3. All teachers start on a graduate salary of about $63,000. Those who get the best results progress to the next subdivision of $65,000. By best results, we’re talking about the top ten percent of teachers, but this would gradually drop over time till only the top two or three percent gain an incremental pay rise.

4. All teachers start on a graduate salary of about $63,000 and have to achieve certain mandated benchmarks before they receive an incremental. Examples of benchmarks could include things like reducing the number of obese students in the class, reducing unemployment in the area, exposing the climate change conspiracy, curing cancer, reducing the divorce rate or discovering the whereabouts of the Holy Grail. Failure to complete the designated task would mean no increment, and no increment means that the school’s don’t need to spend as much on teacher salaries and this would reduce the education burden so it could be spent on more worthwhile things like submarines, helicopter flights and building the extra jails that we’re sure to need.

4. All teachers are paid $100,000 but from that they have to provide their own books, whiteboard markers, digital tools, furniture, classrooms and pay a levy toward the cost of educating any students beyond secondary level.

So whichever way it goes, you can see that performance pay is an excellent idea because it will enable the Liberal government to ensure that education costs don’t blow-out and that the best and brightest teachers entering the profession realise that they’d be better off joining the private school system, or finding something better to do with their life.


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  1. Athena

    Who will want to educate kids with learning disabilities and other special needs? Oh I forgot, they should just be institutionalised and forgotten. The conservatives don’t give a rat’s posterior about them once they exit from the womb.

  2. guest

    This idea has been done to death. You need to look again at the arguments against it.

    That class of students, did they progress because of the present teacher or because of what the previous teacher did. This applies especially with NAPLAN, which is conducted early in the year.

    Or was the success of some students due to the work of grandma, auntie, the neighbor or the battery of tutors?

    And those special teachers who achieve a special ranking and more pay – will they not be expected to do more because they are being paid more?

    Then there are those teachers who are very good with less able students, while this other teacher only ever gets to teach the brightest and best. How will they be assessed? Under testing regimes in the USA, schools were penalised if grades slipped – and even if A schools still achieved A they were penalised for not improving. Crazy?

    Perhaps there could be individual negotiation of salary – which would explain the sealed pay slips so no one knows what the other person is being paid.

    It is just another top-down control. Does it happen in Finland, where teachers have some professional autonomy?

  3. Rossleigh

    guest, I suggest that you should probably read the article before commenting…

  4. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    I like No 4 but only if there are incremental increases of $5,000 (could say $10,000) per 2 years according to extra experience and time acquired and/or extra services provided to extra-curricula activity and pastoral care of the students.

    I defy anybody to say that teaching is not a complex, demanding, multi-talented career that should be remunerated according to the complexities involved.

  5. michael lacey

    Can we pay politicians according to performance because most of them would starve!

  6. Adrianne Haddow

    I would have been at the bottom the pay scale in my role as an English as a Second Language teacher. My students made phenomenal gains in developing a second language to enable them to take part in the mainstream classroom, but their gains were not measurable against their peers for the first few years of their Australian education.

    So my successes, and the student’s successes, would not be seen as sufficient to give me access to the hallowed group of top earners. Although, running into former students, years later, most were attending university and achieving well.

    What a pity the LNP government don’t make their own salaries contingent upon results.
    We’d be reducing that deficit in no time at all.

  7. keerti

    How do you rate the ability of a teacher?By students results? Seems logical, except if that was the case all the students in a class would get the same marks.One of the strongest correaltions for success at school is socioeconomic status of parents….teachers have no control over that. Another is if parents read a lot children are most likely to as well…what comntrol does a teacher have over that? If parents are constantly fighting because they are stressed from being unemployed they won’t do well …that would be down to agovernment that runs the economy to depress the job market(as the present one does)….

  8. Jennifer Meyer-Smith


    I’m responding to your logic seen through the prism of the dysfunctional family, pressured kids and their mums.

    Very valid points. Other factors are also at play in every classroom with only one teacher in control at every given time, so just imagine 10 times the explosions happening and see if you can imagine a solution.

  9. Harry.V.Dirchy

    I like number 4 it would be a real money saver – doing away with the CSIRO, the Family Courts, and most of all the Catholic Church (which would then cut down on the cost of the odd royal commision, not to mention the Family Courts – oops sorry I already did).

  10. kerri

    The whole performance pay BS really gets up my nose!
    As a teacher, never having got beyond “assistant class” I had a fellow teacher comment, when I was a graduate, that she didn’t see any reason she should be getting more pay than me when our allotments were the same!
    7 years later when I was in reciept of a Higher Duties Allowance (still an assistant class, for those of you not in teaching, assistant class was the lowest pay level the HDA just boosted your income a bit [$200 per annum] as recognition for taking on duties above your status)
    I was the assistant year 7 co-ordinator, co-ordinator for school camps, head of Geography faculty, did the allotments (ie; allocated who was teaching which subjects at which year level and therefore implying which teachers were “in excess” and bound to be shipped out of the school to who knows where) and was the primary constructor of the school timetable which involved co-ordination at years 11&12 with two other schools where classes were shared and kids were bussed from school to school, blocked classes so that 3 science disciplines could be taught to 3 separate classes all at the same time, TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) classes which involved students being removed from history, english and geography to have extra english language lessons as well as the usual blocking of fine art and sports classes, was demoted by a new, and extremely sexist principal, to being “in charge if the kids who did yard duty”. Oh and I was on school council and several committees. Voluntarily. No pay for committee or council service.
    I reassigned the allotments, declared myself “in excess” and brought the principal to tears when, in the presence of the VSTA shop steward, I told him I was leaving and had secured a position in a school (run by the ex deputy principal who had left and become principal in his own right and was prepared to employ me as he knew my worth) nearby. The tears started when I pointed out that as the timetabler and having done the allotments I could simply readjust the allotments and keep on staff a teacher who did not want to be “in excess” and relieve myself of teaching duties thereby making myself “in excess” (seriously it was one of the most enjoyable days of my life. This a**hole had demoted 5 women and promoted a man to year level co-ordinator with zero experience beyond classroom teaching but he did have a penis)
    Throughout this ordeal, my greatest pleasure was in teaching was the kids!
    7 years later, when I had retired, a friend had entered the teaching profession. Her salary was equivalent to the salary of a principal when I had worked 7 years earlier. She was not only “assistant class” but a graduate! The salary Rossleigh quoted above is twice what I was on when I retired. And then some.
    In spite of all my expertise and enthusiasm, I still taught kids who failed. They were not capable of passing! No one, regardless of enthusiasm, regardless of experience, regardless of resources can make every kid pass and get good results.
    Teachers can, however, pass kids who are incapable.
    And Private schools can more readily expel kids whose learning difficulties do not reflect well on those all important pass rates.
    Government schools have to go to extraordinary lengths to expel a student! It is near impossible. Or was.

  11. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Yes Kerri,

    this performance procedure plays into the hands of every little hitler type on the ladder. It plays colleagues off against colleagues when it pretends to promote collegiate behaviour.

    The teaching system is a f—ing fraud. Labor must change it – starting with Victoria.

    Talk to me as an experienced teacher and I will guide you to the changes.

  12. Keitha Granville

    Everything has become so totally focussed on results/tests/outcomes that we seem to have forgotten about creativity, individual brilliance, and all the other special things that each and every student can bring to a class or a school. It’s not all about tests. And making pay a condition of results means that children in the lower socio economic areas will end up with the teachers who don’t perform according to these test results – because all teachers will want to pick schools with students that can help them get ahead.

  13. Athena

    Totally agree Keitha, plus the special things that children take away from their lessons that cannot be measured this way.

  14. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Exactly Keitha and Athena.

  15. Kaye Lee

    Where is the consideration of a child’s self-esteem in all this? Not all children are good at written exams. Where is the consideration of individual need and differing learning styles? Where is the encouragement to be innovative and creative? Where is the recognition that we are all good at different things? Our job as teachers is to instil a love of learning and provide students with the skills to research, develop, and expand – to try new things. This approach would inevitably lead to the expansion of the cheating that already goes on where private schools spend their entire time teaching to an exam which leads to many of their students failing at tertiary education because they have no initiative.

  16. Miriam English

    Kaye, you took the words out of my mouth.

    Our prime minister doesn’t seem to actually be interested in innovation after all… just tired old broken ideas from the USA’s Tea Party.

  17. jimhaz

    How would it work if the kids determined the success of the teacher?

    I haven’t been in a classroom for 30 years, so no idea of what modern teaching is like – but even when young I knew which teachers I respected. You’d have to be clever in the way questions were phrased so as to not mark down the more autocratic, but good, teachers.
    I don’t like the idea of performance pay – simply too hard to measure and too subjective. A good person can perform badly if the management itself performs badly or has personality issues. They can also perform badly if their organisation stuffs them around.

    To me this seems to be another attempt to destroy public education at all levels. Performance systems would suit private education entrepreneurs. They will ramp up this and bring about more Private Public Partnerships, where they can lure teachers with good performance results with a few grand extra per annum.

    Note that there would be NO WAY they could force a performance system on fully private schools by withholding funding. That would seem unfair to me.

    Our LNP politicians are controlled by a love of all things American whether good or bad. It is as if they have no aptitude for conceptual discrimination.

    Bad teaching should first be tackled at the source – a) the uni’s admissions systems and their over reliance on overseas students, b) the decline in pay for teaching relative to other professionals c) the possible inaptitude of those actually employed to assist classroom teachers teach better (ie head teachers, deputies etc) due to systematic organisation problems and d) minimisation of bureaucracy where it stifles.

  18. diannaart

    I like #4 and #4 combined.

    Without the $100,000 base salary – saves money and keeps teachers on their toes, because they haven’t enuff to do wot wif all those paid holidays (unless you are on a contract, in which case, you may as well give up now).

  19. guest

    Rossleigh, I did read the article and I did not see the need to concoct a fictional list of steps in the teaching hierarchy.

    Other comments here have merely confirmed what I said: the idea of payment by results has been done to death.

  20. Miriam English

    Perhaps the fact that our politicians and their policies are so close to a caricature has made it difficult for some to see satire. It looks to much like what those in power seriously propose. While it makes for a great source of comic relief for those of us who enjoy a good laugh, it is nevertheless worrying that a jape can be so easily confused with real propositions made by real people who have real power to change real lives.

    Thanks for the chuckle Rossleigh, though my smile felt like it was cracking at times when my thoughts strayed too close to what those halfwits in government are thinking (or not thinking, as the case may be).

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