What’s a teacher worth?:

Paul Hampton-Smith writes: Re. “What’s a teacher worth? Pay and politics” (yesterday, item 4). Geoff Maslen’s criticism of performance-monitoring for teachers overlooks the situation right now where schools and teachers suffer subjective, unreliable and negative monitoring from students and parents. A properly designed set of performance metrics would be a useful tool to combat the parental gossip in the school yard and the emergence of teacher ratings on student internet sites. And why would principals abuse the system with cronyism? If their performance is properly linked to the performance of the school, then they will identify and select the best teachers.

Adam Rope writes: I’m just wondering if Geoff Maslen, or even federal Education Minister Julie Bishop, has ever read or heard of Freakonomics? In it economist Steven D. Levitt shows one consequence of introducing performance pay for teachers in public schools — that in at least one case, in order to reach their KPIs, teachers themselves were found to be cheating. In his research on state school teachers in Chicago, after the city introduced high-stakes testing in 1996, he discovered that 5% of the city’s teachers inflated their pupils test scores. Still, it could result in (pardon the pun), albeit temporarily, better state public school exam results, about which Ms Bishop could then gloat about proving her point.

Betsey Brister writes: I’ve been one. The frustration is/can be gigantic when the principal is a big bowl of mashed potatoes with no desire to rock the boat. I recommend that the first step be to fire all the principals, and then let the teachers/ parent body hire one. If he is answerable to the consumers he might put in a bit more effort. (And that includes helping poor teachers do better, helping poor students improve, and having a discipline policy that works).

Jenny Morris writes: Very interesting stats on teacher salaries. I agree society needs to recognise the important role of teachers, and as the saying goes you can’t spend thank you. Our appreciation should be reflected in dollars. But those starting salaries don’t look too bad to me. The salaries are higher than a law graduate commencing in the public service with two Bachelors degrees. For example, the Victorian Legal Aid Commission is advertising articles of clerkship for 2008, with a salary of $34,554 p.a. (see here). Obviously the mega sized private law firms pay a higher salary, commensurate with their kind of work and clients (big corporates). But suburban lawyers earn much less than their city cousins (see the Property and Business Services Award here — just a bit less than persons engaged in routine or repetitive work under direct supervision). And before anyone says lawyers’ salaries will go up exponentially in the early years, which certainly isn’t the case for public service lawyers, who can expect a similarly snail-like increase to that enjoyed by teachers. I don’t think there’d be too much sobbing into the weetbix on $49k a year, first year out of university with a B.Ed!

Randy Rose, associate professor (retired), University of Tasmania, writes: All teaching academics are evaluated for their teaching (at UTAS every two years at least). Teaching excellence is a major criteria for all levels of promotion including to that of Professor. Therefore, all teachers at high school have been evaluated by teachers at university who themselves have been evaluated and awarded with performance pay (or not if undeserving). Of course it could be subverted by toadying etc … But what system can’t? This is not a reason for not going ahead. I would have thought it would be relatively easy to determine a good teacher; I’ve had to do it many times!

Denis McIvor writes: What is Julie Bishop’s evidence that performance-based pay works in the professions? There is none! I have 30 years’ experience in HR-related fields and I can assure you there is no reliable evidence. Corporations talk about performance or merit-based systems but it is all spin. None of them works; they are all corrupted by poor measurement, failure to have the hard conversations or plain fear. The payments to top executives are a prime example of non-performance based pay systems. Politicians aren’t on performance-based pay! How could they be or otherwise we would have effective transport, education, health and communication systems, we would not have a crisis on the Murray-Darling, a Third-World broadband network and a depleted environment. In a high-performing workplace, tough decisions are made to ensure long-term sustainability and survival, the current Government(s) have failed on this criteria of performance. Try performance-based pay for teachers after the politicians have piloted the scheme on themselves.

Jared Pearson writes: Julie Bishop’s party believes in performance-based pay levels for teachers. Let’s see the Government show the public sector the way, with politicians accepting a low base wage supplemented by performance pay calculated on their share of the primary vote. Polling day can then become wage review day.


Mike Martin writes: Re. “Meanjin debate goes via comma to the point” (yesterday, item 8). William B E G H ‘B’ de McGuffin reports that “David Salter” claims that “Meanjin” is Aboriginal for “Take Your Hand Off It”. Quite apart from the fact that Aboriginal languages never recognised capital letters, he is obviously unaware of the 1996 report by then Meanjin editor Christina Thompson that Frank Moorhouse had previously reported that “Meanjin is Aboriginal for rejected by the New Yorker”. The latter gloss seems more consistent than McGuffin’s with the current ego crisis.

Richard Brand writes: Ian Britain’s comments about editing “petty things” like commas and semicolons was hyperbolic and ripe for parody, and David Salter’s send-up was amusing up to a point — the point when it became too long, laboured and transparently intended to hurt. Because, let’s see: David Salter (ex-exec. producer of Media Watch) — is writing The Media we Deserve — to be published by Louise Adler at MUP — which is having the stoush with Meanjin — which is edited by Ian Britain. You don’t have to be an old Media Watch cynic to join the dots: Salter’s parody has mutual benefits for himself and his publisher. But to the point, the startling one — crying to be followed up — made by Peter Craven (Age, 6 June), that ” The board has not told Britain, whose contract ends in July, whether he will be reappointed nor whether the position will be advertised.” Which goes with this: “The suggestion, which remains unconfirmed, is that MUP would actually appoint future editors of the magazine.” So here’s Meanjin, an institution whose editor (who has been receiving plaudits for his work) does not know if he is getting the boot in a couple of weeks’ time. And that MUP may become the appointer of Meanjin editors in the (very near) future. Join those dots! The old David Salter would have been on this like a rat up a drainpipe, but he’s made a smart career move — from journalism into comedy. By the way, as Media Watch would point out: in Salter’s piece he spelt the name BRITTAIN. It’s BRITAIN. If you can’t check the facts, at least check the spelling. Because you may you get the editing you deserve.

Paul Baxter writes: In all the recent articles about Meanjin not much has been said about exactly what Louise Adler’s vision is for the magazine. Online? An offshoot of MUP? An editor at her bidding? All three? Well, it is my view that nothing should be done on such vague and flimsy plans. Meanjin is a great magazine that performs an extremely important function in Australia’s arts and literary world. Its current editor, Ian Britain, has taken it to a new level with a new look and new levels of interest. Why should something as successful as Meanjin is be tampered with and altered? Power trip or empire building, Louise Adler? And all for an on-line death. If MUP wants to start an online magazine they should do so – but not at the expense of the flourishing and important Meanjin.

Jim Hart writes: The concept of a university press being reviled as the evil predator threatening the independence of a literary magazine would be laughable if it were not so tragic. I have to wonder if anyone has told Rupert Murdoch that instead of throwing untold billions at the Bancroft family, he could probably pick up Australia’s leading literary journal for slightly less than half the price of the Wall Street Journal.

Organised crime:

John Mills writes: Re. “How the police organise crime” (yesterday, item 3). I was very pleased to see Phil Dickie reappear in a measured and rational article. Organised crime would not be a systemic part of our society without patronage from law enforcement officials and key politicians and public servants. Who’s looking for them?


Noel Courtis writes: Re. “Galaxy poll: the honeymoon’s over” (yesterday, item 1). You confuse me regarding polls. When Kevin Rudd was way ahead you never seemed to question the questions asked etc etc. Now that things have got a bit closer you seem to imply that it is a dodgy poll. Quoting Malcolm Mackerras is interesting for, if my memory serves me correctly, he doesn’t have an unblemished past when it comes to predictions. You must read a different edition of the Courier Mail to the one I have delivered. You seem to indicate that it has been anti-Rudd. If anything, I would have said the other way around. Anyway it was lovely to read Julia’s quote. It is straight out of the textbooks. She didn’t mention that John Howard is “clever”. Maybe polls are saying that people are sick of that word.

Politics and cocktail parties:

Shirley Colless writes: Re. “Coming next: Howard’s hybrid?” (Yesterday, item 18). I wonder if Bunnings have gone to the trouble of measuring the diameter of the (presumably rainwater) tank, the width of the truck required to deliver it and the trafficable road width of the roundabout and one-way route to Kirribilli House. But maybe there are plans to have Bunnings do a reprise on Cheney’s visit and go up Kirribilli Avenue the wrong way — with a police escort and a full strength security guard detail on tap, too?

Michael Cordover writes: Re. “Poll wrap” (yesterday, item 18). I was astounded to see Crikey suggest that the ALP could pick up all of the Tasmanian Reps seats in 2007 on only 52-48 TPP nationwide. I’m a Franklin resident and Kevin Harkins is facing quite a battle. Sure the electorate is more left that right but everyone hates the man with no local profile — even trusted local-member-since-the-beginning-of-time Harry Quick. Vanessa Goodwin’s profile was built by almost (according to the Mercury anyway) taking out then-education minister Paula Wreidt at the state election. The Liberal Senate team has her at every government meeting in Franklin and put her in three of five photos in their latest “vote for us” mail out. Harry Quick’s continued “no comment — but vote on local issues” push could see a change despite a national swing to ALP. Having given my two cents, caveat emptor: six months in a long time in politics.

John Goldbaum writes: It’s a metsiah! A bargain! John Howard’s Kirribilli House reception and drinks function on June 1 for delegates and business observers from the Liberal Party’s federal council meeting earlier in the day was attended by 225 guests. Total function costs were $5,186.69, covering food, beverages, casual staff and associated hire charges. My cocktail parties at home are budgeted at $100 per head, which would have cost me $22,500.00, and that includes gourmet hot and cold finger food and real champagne, caterers and waiters. I don’t know how Janette manages to do it at such little cost. I wonder if she could do my next New Year’s Eve party at her place.

James, Eddie, Karl and Alan:

Graham Sheehan writes: Re. “Eddie and an icebreaker: Packer’s ‘quickie’ offshore wedding” (yesterday, item 2). Kerry always said that there was only one Alan Bond in each lifetime. Private equity seems to think that if you pay the price you get the return, no effort required. I see a time two years hence when James buys back his asset-stripped media business for a song, calls back his mates who have laid low, and says “Dad was always right about these things, and I found my Alan Bond in 2007.” Private equity retires hurt with their tax credits and James, like his father, buys back the family jewels for a pittance, and proceeds to school the next generation in the Big Secret. Greed is good but understanding the nature of the greedy is even more profitable it seems. A thought for these times anyway.

Geoff Vass writes: Glenn Dyer wrote:”Eddie McGuire has been reported expressing the view that he would make a better host for Nine’s Today than Karl Stefanovic.” …? A wet dishcloth would make a better host for Today than Karl Stefanovic.

A Paris madness:

Brian Mitchell writes: In comparing the number of broadcasts about Paris Hilton and the Iraq War, you help spread the virus. The young woman has, as far as I know, done nothing, not one single thing, worth reporting on. Yet she is everywhere and everyone talks about her. And now I’m writing about her too. Agh! Sob! Will the madness never end?

A Crikey critic:

Jon Williams writes: I was hoping Jonathan Green’s appointment as Editor would bring some real journalism standards and creativity to Crikey. Yesterday’s edition was pissweak.


Harold Thornton writes: Re. “Eddie and an icebreaker: Packer’s ‘quickie’ offshore wedding” (yesterday, item 2). Glenn Dyer wrote: “By marrying on a boat, Packer and fiance Erica Baxter will be able to avoid the French 30-day residency rule.” I take it the Baxter parents had the same ideas on naming their newborn as did Senator Erica Betz’s mum and dad. Or perhaps you meant to say “fiancée”? If not, the happy couple could perhaps have taken advantage of the new UK same-sex civil union laws, rather than going to all the trouble of nautical nuptials.

Guy Rundle writes: House pedant Charles Richardson chides me for not knowing that £400,000 is not $1.28 million (yesterday’s typos). He should know that a writer is not always responsible for copy under his name. In the original story on the London Olympics logo I suggested the logo cost “£400,000 (or $A31.28m)” — an obviously outlandish figure meant as a consoling joke from a city where a cup of coffee costs six sodding dollars. The sub recalculated it by simply knocking a number off one end of the figure. Sloppy, but nice to know the AWB boys are still getting work.

Yesterday’s typos: (House pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 2: “… somewhere off the Cote d’Azure this weekend.” That’s “Cote d’Azur”, not “d’Azure”. Item 18: “Liberal member Michael Ferguson, Barker a beneficiary of Mark Latham’s forestry policy …”. An utterly mysterious line (something to do with barking mad, perhaps?), until you note that the other Liberal MP mentioned a few sentences earlier is called Barker, which suggests there’s a missing “like”. Item 19: “… a possible full-scale invasion by Turkey or part of the northern Kurdish region”. Should be “of part”, not “or part”.

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