The Dog’s Bollocks

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

Performance based pay and teaching standards

A sensible comment from Christopher Bantick in an oped piece in The Age today:

Teachers are the easybeats of the education system. Smith’s attacks on what he sees as an unregulated system in terms of review and assessment of teachers is short-sighted.

Why the teacher unions — the Australian Education Union representing 165,000 teachers in state schools and TAFE, and the Independent Education Union of Australia with 65,000 teachers on its books nationally — are concerned about Smith’s comments is they are palpably wrong. Teachers do not need external assessment and particularly assessment imposed federally.

There are two issues being discussed in this debate:

  • Attracting quality teachers to the teaching profession
  • Ensuring the highest teaching standards possible

However, these two issues are being conflated into one solution – performance based pay for teachers against a national benchmark. There is free-market ideology at play here. “We need better teachers and teaching standards, but we don’t want to increase funding for teachers, so let’s pay the best ones more and fund it by paying the inferior ones less! Brilliant!”

The issue of standards can best be addressed by reviewing and modifying as necessary existing assessment procedures currently in practice in all schools. This probably best done by existing state and system processes. If a national scheme works, well and good. If it does not, the whole nation suffers.

Insofar as salary scales play a role in attracting better teachers, a simple, effective solution is to increase the money paid to teachers! Invest in education. A radical idea I know. Much easier (and cheaper) to convince the voters that you know what you are doing in education (and disguise that you are not investing sufficiently) by constantly denigrating teachers and their profession and banging on about standards and values and more testing.

There are suggstions that the ENTER score required for teacher training courses should be increased. Easier said than done. Tertiary training authorities are, of course, subject to their own market constraints, so realistically, they will accept whatever it takes to maintain their market share in a buyers market. Increased salaries for teachers will increase demand for teacher training, and only then can training bodies can be more selective – when demand exceeds supply.

Applying performance criteria to teacher remuneration would be a complex and cumbersome process if it is to be done effectively, assuming that it can even be done. It is not a simple matter of comparing apples with oranges, or even rotten bananas. Teaching is a complex set of skills/responsibilities/duties of care that defy reduction to measures easily comprehended by politicians and economists. Not all aspects of human care, nuturing and development can be reduced to simply measuring widgets on a production line. A child’s formal education continues for 12-13 years. If the goal of teaching and schooling is to produce successful adults from student children, performance criteria would really need to cover this whole time span and indeed, beyond into adult working and family life. But that would be too complicated. Let’s just measure some arbitrary test scores and national averages.

If we are to persue performance-based pay, let’s also apply it to other professions, espcially those most vocal in advocating performance-based pay for professions other than their own:

Economists

  • effectiveness of economic ideas in practice
  • impact of theories, ideologies on economic growth
  • creating real employment
  • sustainability
  • impact of the military and war in sustaining a nation’s or corporate vested interests
  • cost/benefit analysis of impact on humanity, the global economy and environment

Politicians

  • What they achieve compared to what they promise
  • penalties for lying, corruption, negligence and incompetence

Journalists and media moguls

  • comprehensiveness and accuracy of reporting
  • ratio of reporting on issues of substance/celebrity trash
  • penalties for spin, misleading, obfuscation and omission

The War on Terror and the invasion of Iraq

  • detection and removal of WMD
  • creating secular democracy in Iraq
  • improving quality of life for Iraqis
  • reducing terrorism
  • reducing anti-Americanism
  • compliance with UN treaties, international law, human rights and the Geneva Convention
  • budget impact on CoW economies
  • de-nationalising Iraqi oil and securing good deals for US/UK/AUS/European oil corporations
  • fostering peace in the Middle East

Nah – that’d be way too hard.

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Filed under: Economics, Education, Politics

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The Dog’s Bollocks

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