A Step Back: Pay for Performance in Schools

The artificial competition being created by the State’s Superintendent of Public Instruction (Tony Bennett) is a non-starter.  This approach is a first step down a bad path . . . backwards.  Now more than ever, we need cooperation amongst schools in search of better methods to educate our children.  Additionally, this has started a feud between two folks that need to work together . . . the State Superintendent and the Indiana State Teacher’s Association.

Innovation in education comes from the folks working together in a system that for a long time has been broken.  The teachers are in the best position to understand the effects of new methods that will improve results and not results that will give them new methods.  Administrators need to be understanding their systems and improving them rather than being wrapped up with new targets of increasing graduation or “No Child Left Behind” programs (see my blog The Waste of Targets in No Child left Behind).

The focus of results and rewards is a command and control mentality born from scientific management theory.  The words of W. Edwards Deming ring true, “The management of results only makes things worse.”  In service industry I have always found results and rewards to get less rather than more.  New thinking is in order . . . systems thinking.  Where government management is working on the system of education and constantly asking the question “By what method?” and not pounding the table for results.  No  matter how hard the pounding for results with “carrots and sticks”, it will always be reliant on method.

I do commend Dr. Bennett on bringing a group of school superintendents together  to discuss ideas.  It would prudent to see a more diverse group of superintendents, principals, teachers and businesses working together to find new methods that will give our children education in professions that will be needed coming out of this economic crisis.  This would be an improvement over the “pay for performance” and target riddled approach.  Cooperation over competition will liberate method and lead us to a better way.

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