Pay report sparks row

JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 05/03/2014
performance pay teachers
CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ
TEACHING SUCCESS: Naenae College English teacher Lia Lautusi, left, and head of English and languages Cornelios Floratos say paying teachers based on their performance is difficult to measure.

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Performance pay for teachers has been put back on the agenda in a new report - and has immediately prompted calls for the resignation of its author because of a perceived conflict of interest.

The New Zealand Initiative, a business-led think tank, contracted former Auckland Grammar School headmaster John Morris to write three reports on the state of the education system, with the final release today recommending that teachers be paid according to performance rather than experience.

The report proposes teachers apply for promotion for each step up the pay scale, instead of 99 per cent of teachers moving up the pay scale automatically.

It also recommends the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand (Educanz), the soon-to-be formed replacement of the Teachers Council, reform and extend the pay scale based on performance factors.

Yet Mr Morris is the chairman of a transition board tasked with creating Educanz, and was appointed to the role in November by Education Minister Hekia Parata.

The transition board is responsible for recruiting a chief executive and creating a vision, mission and strategic plan for Educanz.

Yesterday Post-Primary Teachers' Association president Angela Roberts wrote to Ms Parata asking her to remove Mr Morris from the board if he refused to resign.

"Given the politically-charged nature of the Teachers Council changes, and his role as the chair of the transition board, it was most unwise for Mr Morris to have made any comment at all involving Educanz, far less to describe, in such detail, a pre-ordained agenda," she said.

She believed Mr Morris had made it impossible for the profession to have any confidence in him doing the job in an unbiased way.

Mr Morris said he was surprised by the PPTA's reaction and disputed that there was a conflict of interest.

Ms Parata was aware he was contracted to write the New Zealand Initiative report, and there had never been any discussion about conflicts of interest, he said.

Ms Parata said he was one of 11 people on the board and she was "confident that any potential conflicts of interest can be managed".

The report rightly pointed out that the appraisal and feedback of teachers' performance needed to be "consistent and rigorous", she said.

Educational Institute national secretary Paul Goulter also questioned Mr Morris's motives and the intentions of Educanz.

He said the report had missed the mark and there was no evidence that performance pay would lift teacher quality and achievement.

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"These statements aren't addressing big shifters in education success. We're becoming one of the most unequal countries in the OECD and these ideas are as if schools exist in isolation."

He said 78 per cent of the variance in student performance came down to their socio-economic conditions. "That's the issue that the profession struggles with."

RAPPORT MORE IMPORTANT THAN PERFORMANCE PAY

Success for some students is getting to school each day - which makes a mockery of introducing performance pay for teachers, a Naenae College head of department says.

In eight years of teaching, Cornelios Floratos, head of English and languages, said money had never been a motivation.

He said teaching was a job he took home with him at night and, if he wanted to make a decent living, he would have studied to be an engineer.

Performance pay has been suggested by the New Zealand Initiative in a new report as an effective way to lift teacher quality and improve student achievement.

Mr Floratos said there was too much variance between schools, making it impossible to compare teachers and student achievement.

"Until we fix inequality, we're not going to have any drastic shifts in achievement, and giving teachers more money is not going to fix that either."

Performance pay has long been criticised by teachers, and third-year Naenae College English teacher Lia Lautusi said it was impossible to compare teachers when the "external factors" students brought to school with them were so varied.

"The thing that makes a difference is the relationship the teacher has with the kids. If they don't like you they're not going to learn, especially in low-decile schools with Maori and Pacific Island children."

 

- The Dominion Post

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