Why I’m against Performance-Related PayApril 17, 2013
There is no shortage of reasons to be against performance related-pay for teachers. The video which I have shared here is a good starting point. Another might be the brief summary of its history and general ineffectiveness as a method of raising results given here by Diane Ravitch or an evaluation of the research can be found here.
However, my opposition to performance related-pay for teachers is not based on whether it can be empirically established if it would raise grades or not. I object to it for more fundamental reasons.
1) I do not want to compete with my colleagues.
If the best teachers are to be rewarded with extra cash, particularly if it is to be distributed by schools, then it would be foolish to try to help your colleagues get better at teaching. A teacher who did so would risk losing money to those they helped. It would be better to surround yourself with weak and inexperienced teachers and let them flounder.
2) I do not want to be formally judged.
Attempts to assess teachers through observations, results, performance management interviews, inspections or student feedback are already a nightmare. Rarely do they actually judge the right things. SMT or OFSTED are not better teachers than those who stay in the classroom. There is little reason to think they are good at judging teachers or interpreting data. All they are good at is generating tick-lists for teachers to comply with. This creates more work for teachers and actually reduces their effectiveness. Why make a bad situation worse by making money depend on it?
3) I do not want to chase money.
If I cared about the cash that much then I wouldn’t be a teacher in the first place. The only people who are in teaching for the cash are usually those who are too incompetent to have ever made a career in a more lucrative profession. This will not reward the competent, it will reward the greedy. The system will be gamed like every other system in education by those who have the time and the inclination to do so, meanwhile those of us who just want to get on with the job will stay out of it.
4) It’s insulting.
Seriously. I really want my students to learn. That’s my motivation. Giving me a cash prize when that happens would actually make me feel like it was an added extra, like doing a lunch duty or private tuition, not the reason I joined the profession in the first place. Being paid for what you do out of love (here I refer to the extra effort to make sure students do well, not the whole job) can only diminish it. If a teacher lacks the motivation to do the job then they are better off leaving the profession than having money thrown at them until they reacquire it. I find it rude to suggest I need to be offered money to work as hard as I do. It’s not that I don’t want teachers to get what they deserve, it’s that a cash bonus is not it. In teaching, respect for being good at your job is in short supply, but it is not the lack of rewards that damages motivation. The real problem is the way the system obstructs good work and good teaching. That is what needs to change. It’s the disincentives that are the problem for teacher motivation, not a lack of incentives.
Ultimately, performance-related pay is the technocratic outsider’s solution to poor teaching. Those of us in the system know that the solution to poor teaching is to stop encouraging it. Classroom teachers are still a better judge of good teaching than anyone else in the system, any attempt to manipulate them from far away will undermine, rather than improve, their effectiveness.
Update 20/4/2013: This post also appears on the Labour Teachers website.