The Dog’s Bollocks

Truth is like a dog’s bollocks – pretty obvious if you care to look.

More teacher bashing and pig weighing proposals

The Age editorialises today Labor must pass the test on grading teachers’ performance that while teacher unions are ‘passionate advocates for their members and, in calling for more investment in education’ they have also been ‘Labor’s Achilles heel for too long, holding back the tide on changes most people want and the country undoubtedly needs.’

Excuse me? Other than a push by ideologues, economists and bureaucrats for performance-based pay and AWAs, what is the tide of changes most people want? I would suggest that most people involved in public education think improved funding for resources and attracting teachers in the first place would be a good start.

There is the suggestion that teachers automatically receive pay increases without regard to performance. All state school teachers, at least, must participate in an annual review, whereby a panel evaluates a teacher’s performance across a wide-range of criteria related to curriculum outcomes, teaching practice, professional development, student welfare, dealings with parents and community contribution among others. Incremental pay increases only happen when a teacher is assessed as meeting the required standards. A teacher failing to satisfy a review panel is required to undergo a number of remedial processes, and may ultimately be sacked.

Substituting this process for another similar one (presumably standardised across the nation), together with any kind of reasonable and equitable performance pay system will add yet another layer of bureaucracy. As I’ve commented before, repeatedly weighing the pig will not make it any fatter – you need to feed it sufficiently in the first place.

And just where is the conclusive cost/benefit analysis evidence that performance-based pay for teachers results in better outcomes across the public system? It’s easy enough to create a system which attracts the best teachers and best students (the private schools have been doing it forever) and argue that the process works, but where are the figures on the costs to poorer, disadvantaged schools in the public system?

I suspect the ongoing debate about teaching and learning standards is as much about ideology as it is about effective policy determination. It’s an easy one for politicians and journalists to bang the drum about. As perennial as law and order – tough on crime and harsher sentencing! Makes great copy, but doesn’t result in effective policy. And as usual, the very people who make the commitment to qualify as teachers and give their all for the betterment of students and their families, are side-lined in the debate by ‘experts’ in economics and management.

Wise words at The Age from education consultant Dr Kevin Donnelly who said it was important that teachers were accountable, but it needed to be done in a sensitive manner.

“It’s a double-edged sword. If you look at some of the debates in the US and the UK, there is a line of argument that if there is too much accountability and it is too intrusive and too bureaucratic that it’s more difficult to attract good teachers and to keep them.”

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Filed under: Education, Politics

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The Dog’s Bollocks

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The Dog's Bollocks: "Bollocks" is one of my favourite words, and this is now one of my favourite blogs and I've only been reading it for five minutes. – John Surname

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