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Reward staff according to pupil results, say parents

CANADA

Eight out of 10 parents would scrap the existing teacher salary structure and replace it with merit pay, a new university study has found. But only 38 per cent of teachers favour the change, with their unions unanimously opposed to it.

Most teachers support the current system, which rewards seniority and credentials, while parents want to bring teaching more in line with other professional salary scales, says University of British Columbia sociologist, Neil Guppy.

He was principal author of the study, in which more than 4,000 parents and teachers across Canada were polled by telephone.

Professor Guppy thinks the system should be replaced with one more focused on skills rather than credentials, with pay linked to pupil performance.

But Mary-Lou Donnelly, president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, says this fails to take into consideration the reality of today's classrooms.

"There are so many factors that are out of the hands of schools and teachers which influence the performance of students. Teachers in schools in poor areas will always have greater challenges than those in more affluent places.

"Special needs teachers also face different challenges and their students'

grades are almost certainly going to be lower.

"To hold them to a rigid system based on student scores is as unfair as paying a GP more than a doctor who deals with terminally ill patients, because the GP's patients have a better recovery rate. Even if you have two students of equal ability and one gets more support at home than the other, in all probability they will not achieve at the same rate.

"In the business world you are dealing with producing a product. We are dealing with individuals."

Winston Carter, president of the Canadian Teachers' Federation, said that far from motivating teachers, merit pay would set up unhealthy competition and open the door to favouritism.

Administrators would be able to favour a teacher they liked by giving him or her classes that performed better on standardised tests, he added.

Parent and Teacher Views on Education: A Policymaker's Guide, see www.aceresearch.ca

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