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Spinning education policy: Accounting for the historical past of performance pay for teachers

Thompson, G. and Price, A. (2012) Spinning education policy: Accounting for the historical past of performance pay for teachers. Critical Studies in Education . Under Review.

Abstract

In May 2011, the Australian Federal Education Minister announced there would be a unique, innovative and new policy of performance pay for teachers, Rewards for Great Teachers (Garrett, 2011a). In response, this paper uses critical policy historiography to argue that the unintended consequences of performance pay for teachers makes it unlikely it will deliver improved quality or efficiency in Australian schools. What is new, in the Australian context, is that performance pay is one of a raft of education policies being driven by the federal government within a system that constitutionally and historically has placed the responsibility for schooling with the states and territories. Since 2008, a key platform of the Australian federal Labor government has been a commitment to an Education Revolution that would promote quality, equity and accountability in Australian schools. This commitment has resulted in new national initiatives impacting on Australian schools including a high-stakes testing regime— National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) —a mandated national curriculum (the Australian Curriculum), professional standards for teachers and teacher accreditation—Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL)—and the idea of rewarding excellent teachers through performance pay (Garrett, 2011b).

These reforms demonstrate the increased influence of the federal government in education policy processes and the growth of a “coercive federalism” that pits the state and federal governments against each other (Harris-Hart, 2010). Central to these initiatives is the measuring, or auditing, of educational practices and relationships. While this shift in education policy hegemony from state to federal governments has been occurring in Australia at least since the 1970s, it has escalated and been transformed in more recent times with a greater emphasis on national human capital agendas which link education and training to Australia’s international economic competitiveness (Lingard & Sellar, in press).

This paper uses historically informed critical analysis to critique claims about the effects of such policies. We argue that performance pay has a detailed and complex historical trajectory both internationally and within Australian states. Using Gale’s (2001) critical policy historiography, we illuminate some of the effects that performance pay policies have had on education internationally and in particular within Australia. This critical historical lens also provides opportunities to highlight how teachers have, in the past, tactically engaged with such policies

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Education
Publisher: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/9834
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