Improving teacher quality key to lifting student performance

The new OECD report showing Australia’s educational performance is slipping has gained a lot of media attention this morning (e.g. Queensland students lag behind national average in maths, science and literacy) and should inspire policy makers to push for further reforms to our education systems. The most important thing we can do to lift our educational performance is to improve the quality of our teachers, a point that has been consistently made over the years by former ANU Professor, now Canberra Labor MP Andrew Leigh, and which I’ve discussed in an earlier post:

Performance pay for teachers

Given the strong link between teacher quality and educational outcomes, I was pleased to read on Monday that the Queensland Government is considering teacher performance pay:

Teacher pay revamp long overdue

Better pay for the best teachers would go a long way to retaining the best ones in the education system rather than losing them to higher paying jobs elsewhere. Over the years I’ve consistently come across very capable, inspirational ex-teachers who unfortunately had to leave the profession to take up higher paying jobs in the education bureaucracy. Introducing performance pay for teachers would undoubtedly improve the overall quality of our teachers. While it would come at a cost, it would yield large benefits through improved educational outcomes, and there would be some offsetting savings from holding back pay rises from teachers who don’t meet the standard required for the next level of pay.

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2 Responses to Improving teacher quality key to lifting student performance

  1. Katrina Drake says:

    I think you may have missed the point on the problems with our education system. Root cause analysis would indicate the real problem with the education system is often with the quality of parents and poor parenting. Much valuable teaching time is wasted maintaining discipline and teaching respect.

    Performance pay has not been shown to boost performance, and in fact could make things worse. Contrary to what economists believe, offering rewards, particularly in jobs that people do for love as well as money, can actually undermine the motivation of workers.

    Raising the professionalism of teaching statewide is the critical factor.

    • Gene Tunny says:

      Katrina, I agree the evidence regarding the impact of performance pay on outcomes hasn’t been encouraging, but I’m unsure we’ve run the the right studies or looked at it over a long enough timeframe. Rather than bonus schemes I think the best thing would be to make teaching a more attractive profession to the top students by lifting salaries for the top teachers and restoring some of the prestige the profession has lost in recent decades. Research has shown the quality of students applying for teaching courses has declined over the last few decades and I have no doubt this is due to the declining relative salary/prestige of teaching.

      I completely agree that many of the problems teachers face come from poor parenting, but that raises questions about a much wider range of policy settings. Thanks for your comment.

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