This clipping is from the February 14 issue of The Sydney Morning Herald Digital Edition. To subscribe for $4.50 a week, visit

Fears reward scheme for teachers is being rushed
SMH – Tuesday, 14 Feb 2012 – Page 4

PLANS for a national teacher bonus scheme are set to fail according to a leading education authority who fears they are being rushed through without proper development.

The federal government plans to provide one-off bonus payments to 8000 teachers who will need to be assessed next year. Those accredited as ‘‘ highly accomplished’ ’ will receive $7500 and those classified as ‘‘ lead teachers’ ’ will receive $10,000 from 2014.

However, Dr Lawrence Ingvarson from the Australian Council for Educational Research says there is not enough time for national teaching standards to be properly developed and tested by next year. Similar criticisms have been made about the federal government’s rushed approach to the new national curriculum.

‘‘ Major challenges remain before we will have an effective certification scheme for promoting professional learning and linking pay to performance ,’’ he said. ‘‘ The scale and complexity of the research and development that will be required is formidable, particularly when it is widely recognised that methods typically used for performance management in schools are not suitable for professional certification.

‘‘ New methods will be needed, for example, for assessing the standards for teacher knowledge, particularly knowledge about teaching different kinds of content.’’

NSW has a system of recognising teacher standards based on a range of measures including classroom performance, peer review, student class work and test results. But teachers who volunteer for accreditation at the higher levels are not rewarded with extra funding.

Writing in the latest issue of the Australian College of Educators publication, Professional Educator, Dr Ingvarson said more time was needed to properly develop the scheme.

‘‘ This will leave only 2012 for development, which is unlikely to be enough time to develop and trial assessment methods for their validity and feasibility, or to check reliability and fairness in the systems for scoring the evidence,’’ he said.

‘‘ It would be risky to go to scale with a certification system without strong evidence that its methods are feasible and that it can, for example, distinguish teachers who meet the standards from those who do not.

‘‘ Without rigour, certification schemes lose respect and waste money; or worse, are distorted and lead to a loss of credibility in the profession.’’

The NSW Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, said NSW teachers were already being accredited at higher levels of ‘‘ professional accomplishment’ ’ and ‘‘ professional leadership’ ’ through a scheme developed by the NSW Institute of Teachers.

However, extra funding to reward teachers who achieve those standards has not been provided at state or federal level.

‘‘ NSW is the only jurisdiction with a valid and reliable assessment system already in place,’’ Mr Piccoli said. ‘‘ NSW has argued that any reward system should act as an incentive for continuous improvement and better educational outcomes for all students rather than providing a ‘bonus’ payment based on one-off student test results.’’

A spokeswoman for the federal Education Minister, Peter Garrett , said the government was committed to rewarding top teachers and was ‘‘ confident there is enough time for the scheme to be developed and implemented in time for the first teachers to receive … payments in 2014’’ .

After consultations the new system would be trialled in the second half of the year.

Copyright © 2012 The Sydney Morning Herald