GOOD teaching matters, but the brightest graduates don't go into teaching and the best of those who do soon leave. To make matters worse, teachers' pay has been going down compared with other jobs. The story sounds familiar, but the country in question is the United States, not Britain.
New teachers in the US are supposed to be aiming at higher standards than were achieved by their older colleagues. But poorly qualified teachers are getting in by the back door.
More teachers are also teaching outside their own areas of expertise, but even those with bare-minimum qualifications go without regular professional development.
These claims are made in the fourth annual report on the state of US education in "America's online newspaper of record",
The report asks: "What are states doing to attract, screen, and keep good teachers?", and flatly concludes, with extensive evidence from 50 states, "Not enough".
The full report is accessible from Education Week's front page at www.edweek.orgsreports
The failure of performance-related pay normally results from ambiguous or inconsistent standards, remote or authortarian planning, arbitrary decision-making or from unforeseen administrative complexities and budget limitations.
The US which tries most things before us, has some hard evidence about what works and what doesn't. A research review on PRP that was completed as long ago as 1984 by Thomas Ellis can still be downloaded from: www.ed.govdatabasesERICDigests
Ellis notes that the success of "merit pay" schemes depends on the support of "all who will participate or be affected". He also warns that budgets must allow for the possibility that "a greater number of teachers will qualify for merit increases than originally predicted".
Many will be hoping that his caution is fully justified by the staff assessment exercise that is about to get under way.
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Saunders at J.P.Saunders@leeds.ac.uk
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