Sunday, October 27, 2013

Principals, Pay and Politics - An Uneasy Tale from Across the Ditch

I was busy digitally dancing through the web (I would say surfing but its a bit overused these days) when I came across an article posted by someone on Linked In.  'Principals in Catch-22 over pay'.  

Suffice to say, it grabbed my attention straight away.

"PRINCIPALS claim to have been told their own pay rises will be on the line unless they fail up to 40 per cent of teachers eligible to move up the salary scale."

Initially I was concerned it was from here and I had missed an important memo.  When did performance pay hit our shores, I wondered?  I read on.  I hadn't missed a memo - it wasn't us.

It was our collegial neighbours across the ditch.  

  "One principal, who wouldn't be named, said school leaders were told they would not get a pay rise unless they failed 20 to 40 per cent of staff - including administration workers and librarians - in their annual performance and development assessments."

Could this be true, I asked myself?  Surely this seemed a little far fetched.  Then I reflected on the 'stories' I had heard where certain industries gave employees incentives for denying a particular amount of claims.  I just never thought it would be an issue Education would face.  It seemed ludicrous to even contemplate such a thing.  But, I stand to be corrected.

I read on.

"In a typical school, the Government expects 60-80 per cent of teachers to achieve a successful performance assessment, leading to progression for eligible teachers, under a rigorous new assessment process. It stresses the figures are indicative and can be challenged by principals believe their workforce is over or under the range."

Surely not, I continued to wonder.  I continued with my reading, despite being a bit sceptical and incredulous. 

"Principals have discretion within their school and, where performance assessment outcomes differ from the expected average, they will have the opportunity to discuss their rationale with their senior adviser.'' (From a Ministry Source)

Wow.  Still incredulous and wondering if it was a hoax or some kind of bad joke, I let my fingers do the walking and went looking for more information.  It really does astound me that a Government would suggest something like that - and it astounds me that the public and schools would accept such a preposterous idea.

A quick google search, and alas the original article was backed up by recent media reports from Australia.
stressed principals feel the pressure

mixed blessings as principals get power to sack teachers

principals in catch 22 over pay

And so the articles went on.

In a nutshell, heres why the concept concerns me.

  1. The goal should be 100% of teachers doing well - saying you expect 20% - 40% to fail is unacceptable to me and our communities deserve higher aspirations than that.  Where is the plan for lifting underperformance that will actually work?  Ten dollars says they did not ask the profession - and I can guarantee you now - if you were to ask us we would give you the solutions and they would be effective.  It is my experience that Principals are a smart group of people with good ideas.  
  2. I have no issues with not paying performance bonuses to those who do not measure up ASSUMING the measuring stick is accurate, transparent and fair.  For example if it was in NZ, it would be based on the Teachers Registered Criteria.  (which we do here already)
  3. Asking schools to fail a percentage or lose your own bonus is a disgusting abuse of ministerial power and nothing short of holding Principals over a barrel.  How is that different to extortion?  Any Government official that has the audacity to suggest such an appalling thing should be ashamed.  
  4. It is a rediculous way to save money.  Instead of blackmailing Principals to 'fail' a teacher, they should be upfront with the Educational community and tell them they either don't have (I suspect this is not the case just a neo liberal agenda driving home to break the backs of educators) the money or they need to save a particular percentage and all bonus's will be off the table.  That approach however, takes couragous leadership and requires transparency.  Both of which appear to be missing.
There are alarming trends facing education systems all around the world.  From untrained teachers and bizarre practices based on the business world, to experiments like 'free/charter' schools.   All of which do little to lift student achievement, strengthen underperformance and lift educational systems to reach success.  Instead, these cost cutting experiments do nothing but undermine and tear down the very fabric of what good educational practice is.

This ludicrous pay debacle is just another example of how politicians with ill informed agendas are systematically rendering educational systems to the level of stagnation and ruin.  If you are not concerned about this - then you should, as educational success is a key determinator of a societies success.  

Let us hope this madness does not cross the ditch.  


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