Teaching Reflections

Arguments for Teacher Performance Pay in Ontario

The topic of teacher performance pay  is one that has piqued my interest since I began in the profession over 15 years ago. As a new teacher who was driven to improve my pedagogy, participate in school life and coach/run extra curricular programming, it seriously irked me that I was being paid far less than other teachers who had simply been employed at an earlier date than I was.

As I moved through the ranks, I thought I’d be able to let go of the inequity in work, but it’s only bothered me more. At times I became disillusioned  – why  was I working so hard when I saw other teachers coasting along pleasantly while doing far less than I was?

My husband (also a teacher with a growth mindset and full participant in school life ) and I had many philosophical discussions about this and came to the conclusion that we had pride in our work which led us feel accomplished and proud of our students – we didn’t need more money or acknowledgement. These talks would quell my frustration for a while, but never extinguished them entirely.

Last year, during Premier Ford’s discussion of education job reductions in Ontario, and the ensuing discussion of new teachers losing their jobs, my desire for teacher performance pay and a restructuring of teacher ‘seniority’ was ignited once more.  I even wrote a blog about it: Why Are ‘Veteran’ Teachers Inherently More Valuable To The Education System?.

The aforementioned post explored a valid question given the political situation in Ontario at the time. Not surprisingly, since our teacher unions choose to ignore the fact that seniority has little to do with teacher performance, I was told to remove the post from our board email system. God forbid someone could point out that ‘all teachers are not made equally’ and that they should be ranked and paid based on their job performance rather than the year they were hired.

Now, as Ontario educators face yet another contract negotiation with the province, I can’t help but think this is the time to reintroduce the discussion of teacher performance pay and a restructuring of the seniority system in Ontario.

I’m not naive enough to believe teacher unions would bring up the topic of teacher performance pay  – it really would be up to the provincial government to request it. Considering the Ford government’s conservative perspective, it wouldn’t surprise me if it appeared on the table.

It is my opinion, AS A TEACHER, that teacher performance pay and rank can only improve our teaching profession in Ontario. We require an effective method for vetting poor teachers, providing incentives for teacher growth and performance and creating a system of teacher ranking  that reflects teacher performance rather than their arbitrary hiring date.

Teacher Performance Pay will support retention of effective teachers

Like employees in any profession, teachers deserve to be recognized for exemplary work in their field, regardless of their hiring date. Teacher performance pay could reward new and veteran teachers who are working at or above their job expectations to remain in the profession, rather than becoming disillusioned and seeking greener pastures where their expertise and hard work is recognized appropriately.

Teacher Performance Pay will improve teacher performance

Employees in any profession need performance incentives; teachers are no different. They should be financially rewarded for professional development they undertake independently as well as for applying innovative and effective practices in their classroom. If their students demonstrate growth due to their diligent and effective teaching practices, they should be rewarded for this. It’s basic logic to acknowledge that teachers will want payment incentives, therefore will be encouraged to be at their best and continue growing in their profession.

Teacher Performance Pay will positively impact student learning

When teachers are performing at their best, their students reap the rewards. Teacher performance pay would improve teacher pedagogy which would mean that students are impacted by teachers who are at their best and continually looking to improve. If teachers are at their best, so are their students – it’s a symbiotic relationship.

Teacher Performance Pay will improve the public perception of teacher professionalism

As a student, what do you remember about your teachers? Like any other memories, they are probably focused on the extremes – the best and the worst. If teacher performance pay is in place, ideally students and parents would have more interactions and memories of our best Ontario educators, rather than those in our profession who are simply existing or coasting along, doing as little as possible. If we want public respect as teachers, we need to vet our profession of those who destroy our credibility. Teacher performance pay would be one method of achieving this end.

Teacher Performance Pay will vet poor teachers from the teaching profession

I’m a realist. I’ve been in this profession for close to two decades. Like every other profession there are those who excel in their careers, exist in their careers or take advantage of their employers. Teacher performance pay would hopefully identify poor teachers and support them in either improving their practice for increased salary or encourage them to move on to another career due to poor renumeration.

Now, the Question of HOW…..

Although I know many teachers and administrators who agree with the philosophical idea of teacher performance pay, the big question in this situation remains…how.

How can the province create a system of teacher performance pay that effectively reflects exemplary practice and job dedication?

Moreover, the fundamental principal of acknowledging some teachers are more effective and hardworking than others will be a serious problem for teacher unions. Since all teachers in Ontario are forced to be part of unions to become employed by a school board in our province, this creates a very tricky political situation.

The question of ‘how’ in relation of teacher performance pay is one that I know I’ll continue to grapple with. I may even write about it sometime in the future. Stay tuned!

What are your thoughts about teacher performance pay? Comment below!

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