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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Are you a "Top Performing Teacher"?

Back in May, the Australian Federal Government Budget 2011 announced the funding for $425 million over four years to reward top performing teachers.

I applaud the intent to improve teaching and learning. But if you have a scheme that rewards teachers individually, how do you measure that? How do you assess a teachers performance?

Do you reward Year 12 teachers for the marks their students get? What about the teachers that taught the students in the years before and the hard yards that they did with learning difficulties and individualised learning plans in order to get the kids to Year 12?

Do you also reward the people who work in student services for the mentoring they provide for the students or the library staff who help to improve the research skills of the students? What about the teachers that work in pastoral care, the ones that help to support good organisational habits or that encourage students to bounce back from an unsatisfactory result on a test or assignment?

How do you assess a teachers performance individually? What performance indicators can we quantitatively measure? Because comparing "Year 7 2011" with "Year 7 2012" is quite hard ...

So do you measure the top performing teachers on their ability to turn up to school on time, submit reports on time, publish articles in journals or on the more qualitative characteristics of the job such as their ability to conduct a parent teacher interview?

I am interested as to how the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership might identify a "top performing teacher". On their web site they have National Professional Standards for Teachers. But how do you then reward teachers, in some cases upto 10% of a teachers earning, based on this. Will it create a compeditiveness within a school which is counter productive to good teaching and learning?

Teaching for 16 years has taught me that teaching is a team sport. That without the pastoral care, library staff, technicians and support staff, my ability to deliver my curriculum is diminished.

If you speak to teachers about what impacts on their ability to provide an excellent teaching and learning environment, many will talk about the access to resources, clean and healthy teaching spaces and the time to design and delivery quality curriculum.


  1. I agree wholeheartedly with you Margaret on the contributions of many staff in the school community and the difficulty in measuring and rewarding but you forgot to mention how much bearing a student's family and their attitude to education as well as access to adequate nutrition, shelter and support have on a student's success in school.

  2. It also depends on when the assessment takes place.

    At high school, the teachers I cared most about (in terms of performance) were my maths and science teachers. (I did not have that level of sophistication at that time, but in retrospect that's what it was).

    As I moved though life after school, after university, it became clear that there were some other teachers who had had a profound influence on me. Such as my old history teacher. Some of his comments, perspectives, and the way in which he approached certain things -- from a history perspective -- influence me today from the way in which I view MSM cynically, to the manner in which I approach certain client recommendations. I can't say that calculus or complex arithmetic has ever come into it.

    I was fortunate to be able to catch up with him a couple of years ago for a boozy evening. And I still learned stuff that night (like how to ensure you get very full wine glasses in expensive wine bars).

    The key point I am trying to make: at what point do you measure the effectiveness of a teacher? (I think it's basically Margaret's point about foundation work, but from the opposite end of the life dimension)