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Caveat Emptor

The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Payment by results

How depressing that - if we can believe the Guardian - a substantial proportion of teachers are in favour of payment by results. It just proves the resilience of zombie ideas - this one was last interred in 1897 - but it is up and running again.

If it proves to be a runner here is what you should do. Try to avoid teaching the naughty children in 3Z but also try to avoid the super bright kids in 3A. In both cases you will be on to a loser because the average marginal improvement in their scores per unit of your effort will probably be quite small compared to the impact you will have on the middle range kids in 3M.

More seriously, even if it could be shown that payment by results had, ceteris paribus, a positive effect, that is not what you want to know. All other things are not even. Payment by results also affects levels of corruption and cheating; crowds out all non assessed activities  from the curriculum; narrows the focus of education to just those skills that are tested;  affects the character and motivation of the people who are attracted into the profession; is detrimental to collegiality - who is willingly going to  teach 3A when the reward is a kick in the teeth and a good spanking for not producing enough improvement.

Come on Wayne, I know you have a reading age of 9 but that nice Mr Gove says it will be good for you to read Middlemarch. So get to it lad and remember that whether or not Mrs Smith can take her family to Corfu this year depends on how many pages you have read.


Anonymous said...

Could I enquire if you have an alternative that would provide a clear incentive to teachers to improve?

Colin said...

Anonymous, you can certainly enquire even though you beg the question a bit and therefore you'll have to forgive me for not answering quite within the framework you seem to envisage.

I don't have any very deep insights into how we can make our schools or our teachers better. But I think there are a few clues that are worth chasing.

I was very struck a few years ago when a colleague mentioned that they had been using the British cohort surveys to look at the childhood cognitive ability scores of people who subsequently became teachers.

What he noticed was a decline in those scores over time, particularly in the scores relating to math ability.

If this is true then my suggestion is that it would be better to get smarter people into teaching rather than to introduce the distortions which come from pbr.

How do we get smarter people? Pay those who have the right skills a salary that is competitive with what they can get elsewhere. Treat them as professionals. Restore to teaching the status that it used to have.

These would all be a good start.

Anonymous said...

Same anon here.

Thanks for your answer Colin. I accept that there was a small amount of question begging and as such do not hold you to any framework.

I posted the question because, while I agree with the original post that some methods of assessing teacher performance are bad that doesn't mean that there aren't good solutions to the problem.

But since I couldn't see any, I thought I'd ask...

Unfortunately it's been so long since my last interaction with the education system I can't identify a good solution.

Possibly linking all teachers pay to the average improvement in pupils performance? But again, this focuses effort on the middle...

Anonymous said...

By that I mean, all teachers within a school. It's a tricky problem.