Thursday, June 9, 2011

Performance based pay

I was recently reading an article about teachers in Australia being paid extra if they comply to certain standards that classify them as a 'highly accomplished teacher'. This relates in some way to the school that I currently work at as they are considering bringing in a type of performance based pay scheme.

I'm not sure how I feel about it all, to be honest. As with most things, the extent to which it will work will depend on how it is managed. A lot of the staff seem concerned that they are being backed into a corner and won't be able to enjoy the yearly pay rise that is currently offered. I'm sure that's probably part of the plan too! I'm not too worried about having to 'prove my worth'. I can understand that people may be concerned, but if you're a hard worker who constantly looks for ways to improve your performance then I can't see there being too much of an issue.

One of the key elements that needs to be well-handled is that of trust. If the staff can't trust that the system will reward teachers who achieve high standards then it simply won't work. The process has to be clear and achievable. As the article states, it's no small task to appraise and evaluate a staff body and if there are questions of rigour then suspicions will be aroused. Also, if the staff are forced into an environment of competition, then the collaborative nature that is so important in our daily practice will suffer.

One of the potential benefits of a well managed performance analysis system is that good teachers will be more likely to remain in the classroom. This will serve to raise standards, which surely has to be the key focus of any such system.

I'm sure I'll have more to say on this topic once a decision has been made as to whether our school will employ a system of this type. Watch this space!


  1. I have never worked in a school that had performance-related pay, but I once worked in a school that tried to bring in Knowledge and Skills Based Pay (KSBP). The idea was that you could only move up a certain number of steps before having to go through a "threshold" which led to a large hike in salary upto the next level. To go through the threshold you had to have demonstrated an improvement in your knowledge and skills in 5 clearly defined areas which included IT, Understanding by Design, ESL in the Mainstream, an IB workshop and a course in intercultural communications. It was not based on evaluation of performance, but on acquiring more knowledge and skills that you could use in the classroom.

    As you mention, the biggest stumbling block is always trust. Even in this system, where there were no limits as to how many could reach the top level, teachers were suspicious that the system would be used to keep them "stuck" on the top step of any particular level and not allow them to advance onto the next.

    Last year I was lucky enough to do a workshop with Daniel Pink on motivation. He stated that money is not a motivator, but it can be a demotivator. People are happy if they see their salaries are fair, both externally, with others in the same profession in other schools and countries, and internally, with others with the same level of knowledge and experience in their own school. If the salary system is not seen as being fair, then the money is a demotivator.

    Our salary scale rewards longevity. The longer you stay, the more you earn. The school does not reward knowledge and experience gained in other schools as there is a cap to where you can enter the scale. This is making a statement about what the school values and what it does not value.

    The real issue with a change in the compensation structure is fairness. If everyone has the opportunity to advance to the top of the scale it might be accepted. If, as we were told, the top level is reserved for just 20% of the "top" teachers, then it could become extremely divisive. That too is a management strategy used in some places - divide and rule! If you know that there are already 20% of "top" teachers in the top level and that you have to wait it out until someone leaves before you have the opportunity of a salary increase, then this will not lead to a retention of good teachers in the classroom - it will lead to an exodus of good teachers to schools that don't have such a system.

  2. The motivator/demotivator comment is an interesting one. Personally, I don't think we're 'there' yet with our salaries. I quite like the criteria that you mention early on in your reply, but not so much the 20% comment later on. I would have like to have been involved with the consultant about salaries, it would have been interesting.