"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Do Any Of These Performance Management Systems Really Help?

Various performance management systems are sprouting all over the world that it now seems that such practices have already been proven to be effective. In the Philippines, there is the the Results-based Performance Management System, which the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) completely opposes:

The following is a statement from the secretary general of ACT, France Castro:
"Quality of education in the country is not solely dependent upon the teachers. It is more dependent upon the learning environment, learning materials and facilities. According to the recently implemented RPMS, it is designed to squeeze us to do more beyond our limits by obliging us to have an output of 130%. Where in the world can you see a system wherein an employee is asked to have an output that is beyond 100%? This is something very inhumane and is in violation of our rights to be treated accordingly and rightfully. As a matter of fact, the present system already requires us too much. We are doing our workloads beyond the working hours. After class, we are bringing home with us our students’ academic outputs for us to evaluate and assess it. Aside from it, we are doing also a lot of class preparation at home."
The municipal administrator of Paete, Laguna, on the other hand, seems to welcome the Strategic Performance Management System (SPRM - This one is meant for government agencies) on his Facebook page:

The word from published scientific studies, however, is quite unclear. Improved transparency, increased focus on output, goal setting, and performance feedback are indeed sound objectives, but these systems unfortunately often have questionable designs and implementations. What is clear, however, is that performance management systems are often equated to managers and administrators actually doing some work, which perhaps explains why such systems seem to be sprouting everywhere.

How such a management system can help an organization perform depends on a lot of factors. One of these factors is what a manager or administrator actually does upon seeing the assessment measures. Another factor, which is obvious in why teachers in the Philippines opposes such systems, is how performance is measured. Measuring the performance of a public school teacher is not easy. Still, even with the wrong-headed notion of using test scores of students as measures of teaching performance, the more important question of what a manager (in this case, the principal) can do, is likewise a difficult issue to address. Paul Nielsen has studied this specific question in a paper published in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory:

The following is the first paragraph summarizing some of the implications of the above study:
Summing up, the findings demonstrate that a lack of managerial authority over the means of production—particularly over human resources—can cause strategic planning and careful tracking of performance developments to fail to deliver on their promises. Increases in managerial attention to and knowledge of the potential for performance improvements do not in themselves empower managers to change their organizations. The implementation of performance management systems carries with it costs in terms of time and resources, and managers might become frustrated if limited managerial authority hinders them in pursuing what they perceive to be necessary and important changes, especially if central management and politicians insist on holding them accountable to performance achievements. Similarly, a lack of decision-making authority may eventually cause managers to ignore any beneficial uses of performance information in decision making (Moynihan and Landuyt 2009; Moynihan and Pandey 2010). As the findings illustrate, this also indicates that performance management systems can be detrimental to organizational performance, even in the absence of perverse effects such as gaming and cheating (Kelman and Friedman 2009).
Schools are really different from other organizations. Where my son attends, the principal, Brian Butler, emphasizes one thing: promoting collaboration among teachers. Reading specialist Jacque Heller writes on the blog, ALLTHINGSPLC, the following to describe what is going on at Mason Crest Elementary School:
That is the reality in a highly functioning professional learning community (PLC). It has been my reality over the last eight years as I joined Principal Brian Butler on the journey of not just one, but two elementary schools in Fairfax County, Virginia, as they transformed from a traditional model of teacher isolation to a PLC. When you apply the three big ideas of a PLC to build a culture of collaboration in which all teachers ensure that every child learns at high levels by collectively focusing on the results, you leave the educational lottery behind. It is hard, and it is messy. It is a journey that takes time. It is not an educational fad that will fade away after its fifteen minutes of fame because it is a process that ensures every student and adult in your school wins. We win when we all become better teachers because we are not left in isolation to do the best we can. The students win when whole teams of teachers constantly analyze their data to improve their learning and provide the supports or extensions they need. And parents win when there is no longer anxiety over any child suffering through a miserable year with “that teacher” instead of the “good teacher.” We all need that win.
"Professional Learning Community" does sound like big words. In practice, this is how it looks. Yesterday afternoon, during the parent-teacher conference for our son, my wife and I were sitting around a table with four teachers. What should be obvious right away here is that there are six pairs of eyes watching my son grow, learn and develop. And in terms of learning, there is one child and six adults, all seven are learning.

The following is a video in which Mason Crest principals, Brian Butler and Diane Kerr, describe what a Professional Learning Community means:


Performance Management Systems, on the other hand, often build on competition, not collaboration. It usually treats a teacher as an individual isolated from all the rest. This is perhaps the real reason why such management system is inappropriate for education.

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