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Getting quality teachers into difficult schools

31 March 2004, 11:23 AM in Teacher Quality

John Roskam analyses Mark Latham's plan to increase pay for teachers in difficult schools. Roskam supports this idea, because he believes that

The main reason students from bad schools perform poorly compared with students from good schools is not because of students' background. It is because of the qualities of the school, particularly the standard of teaching and educational leadership offered by the principal.

This is an understanding that is supported by studies into the success of schools, for example the CIS report "The Importance of Teacher Quality" states

When all other sources of variation are taken into account, including gender, social backgrounds of students and differences between schools, the largest differences in student achievement are between classes. That is, by far the most important source of variation in student achievement is teacher quality.

Terence Lovat, Professor of Education at the University of Newcastle (NSW) said that Teacher quality is the single greatest quality in explaining student achievement., and the NSW Quality Teaching Program said the quality of student learning outcomes is directly dependent on the quality of the teacher.

Knowing this, it is critical to get quality teachers into schools that are underperforming. And, the way to do this is with incentives. This is Australia, not Soviet Russia, we can't just order teachers to go somewhere and expect them to do it. By offering financial incentives and professional advancement in return for going to more difficult schools the situation could be improved. As Roskam states in his article, the maximum a teacher can be paid in a government school in NSW is around $59,000 ($58,692 to be exact). That is after four years of university study (with the corresponding HECS debt) and with 8 years of teaching experience.

There already are incentives in place to encourage teachers to teach in remote and rural schools, which includes a $5000 annual benefit for teaching in one of 40 specific schools in remote NSW. Why can we not do the same for underperforming schools anywhere in that state? Is it because that would mean actually admitting that the schools were underperforming? Why is that a bad thing? How does pretending that there isn't a problem help the kids at the schools? Sticking our heads in the sand and hoping that it all goes away is not a good strategy.

The students of NSW schools deserve better. They deserve for their teachers to be held to performance standards just like most other professions are. I have no problem with my teaching being assessed once I'm out in schools. For the first year I'll be closely watched anyway. What is wrong with teachers having annual performance reviews like most other professions, especially when that review could lead to more pay?



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