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Performance-related pay in schools ‘may fuel exam fraud’

Performance Pay, Quality, Teacher performance


26 April, 2013

A new system of performance-related pay in schools risks fueling a rise in fraud as teachers attempt to falsify pupils’ results to win salary rises, lawyers warned today.

Teachers could be tempted to “over-egg” children’s work to prove they are doing a good job, it was claimed.

The proposals will also lead to major employment disputes within schools as teachers lodge official discrimination claims after failing to receive higher pay.

The comments came after the publication of Government guidance last week that suggested teachers should be denied pay rises for failing to improve pupils’ exam results, keep order in the classroom or take part in extra-curricular activities.

Schools were also told to get the views of pupils and parents before making decisions over teachers’ performance.

The advice was made after the Government approved controversial plans to abolish annual pay rises based on length of service.

From September, heads will be given complete freedom to pay the best teachers more money within a minimum and maximum threshold.

But on Friday it was claimed that the move could lead to a rise in teachers attempting to cheat to earn more money.

Mark Leach, employment partner at law firm Weightmans, told the Times Educational Supplement: “There is the potential for fraud, particularly if there is lots of classroom-based work. There has to be the potential for that to increase.

“Where you link performance to reward, there is the potential for performance to be over-egged.”

Last year, 130 penalties were issued to schools and colleges for cheating in GCSEs and A-levels – more than double the number just 12 months earlier.

Five institutions were stripped of the power to run their own exams altogether and one school had its exam entries suspended.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the new pay system was “almost asking for trouble”.

“With any major change, there will be a rise in people testing the edges of [what is permitted],” he said.

In separate comments, Mr Leach said the performance-related pay system had the potential to fuel discrimination claims.

Schools must be careful to ensure they impose a completely transparent method of calculating pay awards, he said, adding: “Where that is not seen to be in place, that is when complaints will be made; allegations such as: he only got a rise because he’s white, heterosexual or not too old.

“I can see a real administrative nightmare for schools.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said pay policies “must set out in detail how all pay decisions will be made, including how appraisal outcomes are linked to these decisions.”


Time to Depoliticise Education: Hamid Ansari

Performance Pay, Quality, Teacher performance

Vice-President Hamid Ansari today sought quick steps to rebuild professional identity and skills of teachers and to depoliticise education to improve the quality of teaching.

“The key to improving quality of education system is to bring the focus back on teachers. It is a matter of concern that our society and polity today does not accord that primacy and reverence to teachers,” Ansari said in his address to the 44th Convocation of Utkal University here.

Recalling that people in ancient India believed that the guru was Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara, he said “we are inheritors of a civilisational legacy that accords the highest place and respect to teachers.”

Seeking concrete steps to depoliticise education and cease to view teacher appointments as patronage or largesse, Ansari said politically empowering teachers, while professionally dis-empowering them, was a disservice to the cause of education.

He said the current system of teacher recruitment, teaching methods, performance assessment, incentive and reward pattern and way of accountability raised many questions.

“Far too often the focus, regrettably, is on completing the syllabus rather than on cultivating critical thinking skills and competencies. This needs to be corrected,” the vice-president said.

The need of the hour was to painstakingly rebuild the professional identity of teachers, nurture their skills and professional competence through continuing education, he said adding it must be ensured that their work reflected Constitutional values and society needed to recognise their work and reward them appropriately.

Referring to Yashpal Committee tasked to suggest measures for rejuvenation of higher education, Ansari said its report pointed out that universities remained under-managed and badly governed with constricted autonomy, internal subversion within academia and multiple and opaque regulatory systems.

Describing education as an important instrument for social and economic transformation, Ansari said it was the key to enhance competitiveness in the global economy.

Ensuring equity in access to quality education for all, particularly the marginalized, was central to economic and social development in the country.

He said that it was in April 2000 the World Education Forum at Dakar adopted the Dakar Framework for Action which recognized that education was a fundamental human right and was the key to sustainable development and peace and stability within and among countries.

Stating that quality lay at the heart of the goal of ‘Education for All’, Ansari said “we have achieved considerable progress in universalizing elementary education through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan during past decade.”

The passing of the Right to Education Act and its implementation had transformed a human right into a fundamental right for all children to demand 8 years of quality elementary education, he said.

However, a critical element of Eleventh Plan strategy in education was to have a paradigm shift from access to quality, which was yet to be achieved, Ansari said.

Quoting the Approach Paper to the 12th Five Year Plan, he said “Despite improvement in access and retention, the learning outcomes for a majority of children continue to be an area of serious concern … Quality as mandated under the RTE shall have to be realized in tangible terms, failing which it will be difficult to wean students away from private tuitions that are prohibited under the RTE.” he said.

The situation was not significantly different in case of higher education, he said, adding that the Yashpal Committee Report had noted that ‘we have followed policies of fragmenting our educational enterprises into cubicles’ and that ‘most instrumentalities of our education harm the potential of human mind for constructing and creating new knowledge’.

Thus higher education in India suffered the pincer effect of low enrollment and poor quality. The Approach Paper to 12th Five Year Plan called for “a strategic shift from mere expansion to improvement in quality higher education” for which “the focus should be not only on larger enrollment, but also on the quality of the expansion.”

In order to improve quality of education, Ansari said “we must shift focus to learning outcomes from the current emphasis on input indicators such as infrastructure, teaching faculty and staff employed and resources made available.”

Poor quality of education, especially in public sector, would negate fundamental and human rights of citizens and deny them equal opportunity to fully realize their potential and lead fulfilling and rewarding lives, Ansari said.

“There is also an urgent need to move away from the lure of branding and elitist education. The average institution must improve for overall institutional improvement in the human resource development sector. The enormous resources deployed for education in the last decade in terms of human and material resources must be justified by vastly improved learning outcomes,” the vice-president said.

Government schools must deliver educational outcome that were commensurate if not superior to those in the private sector, he said adding the booming tuition and coaching industry that stood as a monumental reflection of the institutional and systemic failure of education must be reversed so that centrality was accorded to classroom learning.

State universities, and the 30,000 strong college system, which were the backbone and represent the bulk of enrollment, must obtain greater funds, create new infrastructure and enrich their existing academic programmes.

“We must create avenues for skills training and vocational education so that entering universities does not become a default choice for the sake of employment, particularly for those who might not have interest in the subject or desire for higher education.”

Outlook, 02 March 2012


Research Paper: Incentives Work: Getting Teachers to Come to School

Performance Pay, Teacher performance

Esther Duflo, Rema Hanna, and Stephen P. Ryan


We use a randomized experiment and a structural model to test whether monitoring and financial incentives can reduce teacher absence and increase learning in rural India. In treatment schools, teachers’ attendance was monitored daily using cameras, and their salaries were made a nonlinear function of attendance. Absenteeism by teachers fell by 21 percentage points relative to the control group, and children’s test scores increased by 0.17 standard deviations. We estimate a structural dynamic labor supply model and find that teachers responded strongly to the financial incentives, and that this alone can explain the difference between the two groups. Our model is used to compute cost-minimizing compensation policies.

For more read this


Michelle Rhee’s Cheating Scandal

Performance Pay

The education reform superstar presided over substantial test score irregularities during her term as D.C. schools chancellor, an investigation has found—but Dana Goldstein says the findings are no surprise. Plus, Diane Ravitch blasts Michelle Rhee.

Bad education policy is no excuse for cheating—especially cheating from principals and teachers, whom we hope will serve as role models for our kids. But the sad truth is that we shouldn’t be surprised by USA Today’s disheartening findings on test score irregularities in the Washington, D.C., public schools during the reign of Michelle Rhee, the firebrand former chancellor best known for firing teachers, closing underperforming schools, and linking teacher and principal pay to student test scores. Such irregularities are, in part, the unintended consequence of a spate of popular education reform policies that over-rationalize teaching and learning—both of which are creative processes—by measuring them almost exclusively through the results of multiple-choice standardized tests.

Reporters Jack Gillum and Marisol Bello found that from 2008 to 2010, D.C.’s testing company, CTB/McGraw-Hill, recommended that the school district investigate higher than typical answer sheet erasure rates at 103 of its 168 schools—possible evidence that adults had corrected students’ mistakes. Even D.C.’s own superintendent of education, Deborah Gist, recommended that Rhee’s administration launch an investigation of erasures at eight schools, those that displayed a consistent pattern of wrong answers being replaced by correct ones.

Rhee stepped down last year after D.C. voters booted her patron, Mayor Adrian Fenty, from office—in part because of dissatisfaction with his education agenda. Since then, however, Rhee’s national influence has only grown. Though she identifies as a Democrat, she is advising rising-star Republicans such as Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. In December, she appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show to announce that her new advocacy organization, StudentsFirst, would raise $1 billion to promote education reform policies like the ones she pursued as chancellor.

USA Today reports that Rhee at first resisted Gist’s suggestion that she look into the irregularities, but eventually, in 2009, hired an outside consulting company to conduct a cursory investigation, which ended up absolving every school of wrongdoing. Meanwhile, under Rhee’s controversial merit pay program, principals of eight schools with high erasure rates received annual bonuses of up to $10,000 for boosting student test score averages by as much as 48 points. Classroom teachers at the schools were eligible for an additional $8,000 in pay each year.

Rhee deserves credit for recruiting more middle-class families into the Washington, D.C., public schools, and for streamlining the system’s once-corrupt and dysfunctional bureaucracy. But the USA Today exposé raises serious questions about the wisdom of the more controversial aspects of her reform agenda.

The USA Today exposé raises serious questions about the wisdom of the more controversial aspects of Michelle Rhee’s reform agenda.

In the social sciences, there is an oft-repeated maxim called Campbell’s Law, named after Donald Campbell, a psychologist who studied human creativity. Campbell’s Law states that incentives corrupt. In other words, the more punishments and rewards—such as merit pay—are associated with the results of any given test, the more likely it is that the test’s results will be rendered meaningless, either through outright cheating or through teaching to the test in a way that narrows the curriculum and renders real learning obsolete.

In the era of No Child Left Behind, Campbell’s Law has proved true again and again. When the federal government began threatening to restructure or shut-down schools that did not achieve across-the-board student “proficiency” on state reading and math exams, states responded by creating standardized tests that were easier and easier to pass. Alabama, for example, reported that 85 percent of its fourth-graders were proficient in reading in 2005, even though only 22 percent of the state’s students demonstrated proficiency on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the gold standard, no-stakes exam administered by the federal government.

Simultaneously, instances of outright cheating were rising nationwide. The USA Today investigation on the probable cheating in Washington, D.C. is just one article in a must-read series based on student achievement data culled from 24,000 public schools across the country. The paper found 1,610 instances in which test score gains from year to year exceeded three standard deviations—a jump greater than that of 99.7 percent of all test-takers annually in any given state, the threshold at which statisticians agree that test results may be suspect.

The good news is that Campbell’s Law does not mean we should give up on assessing students and holding school systems accountable for their academic success. Research shows that certain kinds of exams—those that require essay writing on broad themes, for example—enhance student learning of key concepts. We can also assess students by requiring them to give oral presentations, or by looking for growth in portfolios of their work over the course of a year. Effective teachers produce students who excel when held to these more sophisticated standards, which are difficult to fudge or cheat.

Of course, creating better testing systems will be expensive, and implementing them will demand significant expertise on the part of school administrators. But as the Obama administration and national education reformers—Michelle Rhee chief among them—ask states and school districts nationwide to tie teacher evaluation scores and pay to student performance, it is crucial that we measure student academic growth in nuanced ways that encourage deep learning, not in over-simplified ways that create perverse incentives to dumb-down the curriculum and cheat.

Dana Goldstein is a Spencer Education Journalism Fellow at Columbia University, and a former associate editor at The Daily Beast. Her writing on politics, women’s issues, and education has also appeared in The American Prospect, The Nation, The New Republic, BusinessWeek, and Slate. You can follow her work at www.danagoldstein.net.

The Daily Beast, March 29, 2011


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