Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Rewarding the best?

In a previous school I did a workshop with John Littleford about different methods of remunerating teachers.  He gave examples of pay scales from different schools and showed us how to "read" them to know what the schools valued.  Some schools wanted to reward advanced degrees, others wanted to reward experience at different schools, others again wanted to reward experience at their own school.  I thought about this workshop again this week when I read a BBC article about how schools in the UK don't reward the best head teachers.  The interesting thing about this was the way the author divided up the head teachers based on 5 leadership types:
  • The Philosophers - these are the largest group of head teachers in the UK who see themselves as senior teachers.  Their focus is pedagogy and they don't change much about the student body or the staffroom.  Generally they are seen as inspirational, though they have only a marginal impact on exam results.
  • The Surgeons - these head teachers try to turn around (failing) schools by excluding students and driving resources from the youngest into the oldest students.  These head teachers make improvements by firing around 10% of their staff.  They have an immediate and dramatic impact in the short term (around a 10% improvement per year in exam results).
  • The Architects - these head teachers are planners who work on improving standards of behaviour first, and then on improving teaching second.  These heads focus on improving relations with parents and the community.  They also slowly replace poorly performing staff. Architects make progress on both school finances and exam results.
  • The Soldiers - these head teachers are often employed to cut costs because of budget issues.
  • The Accountants - also focus on turning around finances.  They do this by increasing enrolment in order to improve the financial balance of the school.
Now this is what is interesting - those head teachers who are seen as "Surgeons" earn the most in the UK, those who are "Philosophers" earn only about 2/3rds of the salary of the "Surgeons" with "Soldiers" and "Accountants" getting slightly less.  The head teachers who earn the least in the UK are the "Architects".  Despite this, the "Surgeons" are NOT the best for the long-term growth of the school.  They invest aggressively in those students about to take exams (so scores rise rapidly in their first 2 years) and at the same time exclude the trouble makers - about 28% of those in their final year at school - which also boost the exam results of those who do survive the year and take the exams. However these results are not sustainable.  Often the "Surgeons" do a 2 year stint in a school, and in the year they leave the school's results decline rapidly because the resources have been removed from the younger children - who are now the older children and whose education was damaged by the earlier cuts when resources were diverted away from them.   Meanwhile, it is the "Architects" schools, with the slow and steady approach, who are now continuing to improve above those with the other types of leadership.  In addition the "Architects" have been attracting students whose parents want to use them - on average they only expel 1% of all pupils.  If success is measured in GCSE results - then the architects' schools are doing the best - 5 years after these head teachers are appointed these schools are still growing and delivering a good education to a higher proportion of students.

These results are interesting - since those who bring about short-term gains are rewarded much higher than those who bring about long-term ones.  In fact the "Architects" are penalised in terms of salary.  Another interesting trend is that those head teachers who exclude the most pupils are the ones who are paid the most.  Another interesting fact I gleaned from this article is the type of people who end up in these head teacher roles:  the "Philosophers" are mostly English teachers, the "Surgeons" are mostly PE teachers, and the "Architects" are mostly history and economics teachers.

What do you think of these findings?  Does anything here resonate with you?

Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon Flickr via Compfight cc  This photo is of a school playground in New York.

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