Teachers' performance pay 'does not raise standards'

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education correspondent

image captionBalancing act: Half of OECD countries use some form of pay flexibility for teachers, says a report

There is no clear link between performance pay for teachers and raising standards in schools, says an international survey.

The OECD has examined data from its Pisa tests to find whether targeting pay improves pupil achievement.

Previous studies have identified the importance of high-quality teaching.

But the OECD's Andreas Schleicher says the international evidence reveals "no relationship" between pupils' test results and the use of performance pay.

Researchers have already established that top-performing school systems are likely to have teachers who are well-paid or with high social status.

Stretched budgets

The quality of teaching has been identified as central to the outcomes for pupils.

A previous OECD report advised that raising achievement in schools depended on attracting the best students into teaching with "status, pay and professional autonomy".

But raising the pay for all teachers becomes difficult when public spending is under such pressure in many countries.

The OECD report says many countries facing financial constraints want to see whether they can increase the rewards for the most effective teachers.

The OECD's membership includes more than 30 of the world's industrialised countries - and about half of these already use some kind of extra pay incentives for specific teachers.

As such, the OECD has examined whether such a targeted, performance-related approach delivers better results.

Professional status

The findings are that there is no clear pattern.

"In other words, some high-performing education systems use performance-based pay while others don't," writes Mr Schleicher.

South Korea, often applauded as an education success story, does not use performance pay. But Finland, often commended for an equitable system, does use an element of performance-based pay.

England has a performance threshold linked to higher pay - while France and Germany do not use performance pay.

But within this bigger picture of ambiguity there are some identifiable and contradictory trends.

In economies where teachers are relatively poorly paid, performance-related pay can be associated with improved student performance.

The report says this might suggest that for countries that cannot afford good pay for teachers, such a strategy could have value.

But in countries where teachers' pay is relatively good, the use of performance pay is linked to poorer performance.

Measuring results

The report also emphasises that performance pay comes in many forms and raises many difficult questions:

How is performance to be reliably and fairly measured? How can an individual teacher's impact be separated from the contribution of other staff? Should rewards be shared among staff reflecting their collective effort?

And it says that many successful school systems have a wider approach to attracting and rewarding staff.

This can include ensuring the public status of teachers, providing career development and giving teachers professional responsibility.

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