Friday, October 18, 2013

What Comes First, the Support or the Criticism?

The Victorian government seemingly stepped up their efforts this week to move a step closer 'performance pay' this week. Principals across the state have been briefed by the government about a series of changes to current system. The government have been arguing that if you look at overall student results that they form a bell curve with roughly 30% not making the grade. The belief then is that, even though it is often impossible to 'measure' effectiveness and success, that the same distribution can be applied to teachers, with the suggestion that, just like students, 30% of teachers are not performing at the adequate standard and should therefore not be simply moved up to the next increment.

The whole scenario is best summed up in an extract from a bulletin published by the AEU today, in which they state:
The DEECD Secretary replied to the AEU this morning, asserting that "no changes to the existing performance and development guidelines have been implemented or proposed for the 2013/14 performance cycle." The Secretary cited "reasons of good public administration" for advising principals to "apply appropriate rigour in assessing the performance of staff in their school". (18/10/13)
There are two aspects that stand out to me in this statement. Firstly, the reference to 'good public administration', and secondly the use of the word 'rigour'. The notion of 'good public administration' puts down the current administration, implying that things are being done poorly. While the word rigour, suggests that the processes in place could or should be more thorough. 

What concerns me most about both of these ideas is what the government is doing to support administrators and teachers? Maybe I don't really know, but it would seem that the since coming to power, the Liberal government has frozen funding, collapsed the number of regions and basically gotten rid of much of the support that was previously available to schools. Much of this is done with some sort of effort to provide schools with more autonomy. It makes me wonder though whether this is what is meant be 'good public administration' and 'rigour'. Many of the changes that have been made feel like an effort to apply more scrutiny and pressure on individual schools, rather than actually provide thorough support.

What disappoints me the most is that I do not necessarily disagree that the whole performance and development process could not in fact be improved. However, don't you endeavour to put in place a better structure first, before making the threats? For example, AITSL provide some really good support for teachers. They are progressively making the process more explicit with the use of various videos and resources, but how many teachers know this or a shown this? Time and assistance is still required to help move towards this supposed 'rigour'.

In the end, surely the government should be encouraging staff to see themselves as life-long learners, I just don't see how they are doing this?