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Australian Education Union, Victorian Branch

Australian Education Union, Victorian Branch

campaign A cynical

campaign A cynical performance Ted Baillieu reveals new levels of political cynicism in trying to impose payment by results on Victoria’s public school teachers. John Graham reports. TED Baillieu has attempted to weasel out of his broken salary promise to Victoria’s teachers by claiming that he will make the “best performing” ones the best paid in Australia — not every teacher as he actually said in his infamous election pledge. His Government’s mechanism for rewarding those teachers combines a competitive paymentby-results bonus scheme with arbitrary limits on salary progression and a heavier teaching load for secondary teachers. Ignoring the overwhelming weight of research that links improvements in student outcomes to effective teamwork across a whole school, teachers would be required to compete against each other for bonuses. The “best” 10% would get a 10% bonus, the next 20% would get 6% and a further 40% a 1.4% bonus. The remaining 30% would get only the 2.5% across-the-board pay rise. At the same time an 80% limit would be imposed on the number of eligible teachers gaining a pay increment in any one year. The money freed up by denying 20% of teachers their due increment, combined with the reduction of staff needed in secondary schools by increasing average teaching hours, would fund the bonus scheme for the rest. The proposal is a jumble of ideas. It derives from the so-called “Teacher Rewards” performance pay trials initiated with federal money by the previous Brumby Labor government. Those trials were a flop. Despite heavy pressure from the Education Department, only a handful of schools were willing to take part. The marginally less offensive school-based model in which a whole staff work together to compete against other schools — also trialled by the previous government — is not on the negotiating table. It appears to be contrary to the Baillieu view of work and society as atomised places where the individual is everything and the team a dangerous union-influenced construct. The Liberal Party origins of Baillieu’s performance bonus model are the Julie Bishop proposals (as education minister in 2007 in the Howard government) and the Professional Recognition Program (PRP) introduced in Victoria during the 1990s under Jeff Kennett. The Bishop scheme offered a payment-by-results bonus financed by some teachers missing out on their annual increments. If Tony Abbott’s Liberals come to power there is little doubt they would try to resurrect something like this and apply it to the whole country. The bonus part of the Kennett government’s PRP scheme consisted of performance pay for leading teachers and principals linked to a set of targets. It was another lemon. Research by Rod Chadbourne and Lawrence Ingvarson found it did nothing to improve the quality or status of teaching. Even the Education Department’s contracted evaluators (KPMG) concluded: “Best practice is still some way off.” Principals and teachers generally viewed the PRP bonus process as divisive and onerous; it was an additional task with inconsistent and unfair outcomes. It was compared to a complex (and time-consuming) game — with shonky rules and a biased umpire. The PRP scheme also offered some hard lessons about the difference between pay rises and bonuses. In 1995 the average bonus received by principals was 10.5%; in 1996 this fell to 8.3% and in 1997 to 8%. In effect the bonus system became an underhand means of reducing salary costs. The research on the sort of teacher performance pay scheme the Baillieu Government wants to introduce is fairly damning. 14 aeu news | june 2012

A 2007 report into pay by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) commissioned by the Federal Government concluded: “Few merit-based pay schemes have survived when applied to teaching.” It found that they led to staff dissatisfaction and dissension and that there was no evidence that they improved student performance. The report dismissed the idea that financial incentives can improve what teachers know or can do, or lead them to teach more effectively. A growing number of recent American studies (New York, Nashville, Houston, Iowa, Texas, Denver and Chicago) of schemes very similar to the Victorian Government’s proposal have found that they have either no effect on student achievement or a negative effect. They also highlight the statistical invalidity and educational and professional distortions required in using student results to measure teacher performance. Further, they have found no significant impact on outcomes such as teacher motivation and retention. The New York bonus program, which influenced the make-up of the Victorian Teacher Rewards scheme, was recently abandoned by New York City authorities as a complete failure. Among other things it illustrated the perils of substituting a bonus system for an enforceable salary agreement. In the 2008–9 school year, more than 80% of participating NY schools won bonuses, costing the city $31 million. In 2009–10, that fell below 15% and cost $4m, after the state made its school tests harder. Closer to home, in a press release on May 2 Premier Baillieu announced that the bonus scheme operating in his Department of Premier and Cabinet was to be “phased out”. You would never guess from the State Government’s proposals that Victorian teachers (as evidenced by the superior achievement of the state’s students nationally and internationally) are among the nation’s best. This success has been built through a system which values collaboration rather than competition between teachers. The clear evidence from recent evaluations and surveys of teacher opinion is that they do not want a competitive performance-based pay system. They do not want a system where bonuses to one group of teachers come from downgrading the salaries of another group. They do want salaries that are competitive with similar professional occupations and commensurate with the value of their social and economic contribution to the community. They also want Ted Baillieu and his Government to demonstrate that their election commitment to make teachers the best paid in Australia was not what it looks like now — a cynical con job. ◆ John Graham is a research officer at the AEU Victorian branch. Ian Willson, a maths teacher at Fitzroy High School, said the Government’s conditional pay offer “sends a chill through us. To talk about decreasing preparation time and adding more teaching time shows the Government has no understanding of what we do on a day-to-day basis.” Joanne Heyman, a Deaf teacher of the Deaf at Pearcedale Primary near Frankston, said funding cuts meant deaf students’ access to school transport at her school had been restricted, as was her access to professional development . State Government funding cuts leading to the demise of the Auslan course at Kangan Institute also angered her. History teacher Tim Lambert from Bundoora Secondary College stopped work because he is sick of being treated “as being at the bottom of the food pile”. He said the Baillieu Government was making the performance of its Labor predecessor “look good”. The Baillieu Government’s treatment of the profession was “death by disdain and it won’t end here today. Kids who need the most from the education system are getting the least.” Principal Sue Muscat said the Government had gone “too far” in removing schools’ component of the Education Maintenance Allowance. She said that 45% of Years 7 to 10 students at Bundoora received the EMA. Bundoora’s component of this funding — amounting to “tens of thousands of dollars” — was used to help many students attend excursions and camps and pay for breakfast and lunch clubs, uniforms and learning resources. Losing this money “will have a direct, significant impact on low SES kids”. Bundoora will lose its VCAL coordinator next year as a result of the Government’s VCAL funding cuts. “I’ve done all I can to keep the coordinator’s position this year but I can’t keep finding $50,000 from somewhere to pay for her,” Muscat said. campaign www.aeuvic.asn.au 15

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