Institute of Education

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Hard yet Profitable

What teachers think about the performance-based contracts

Hard yet Profitable

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Researchers from the HSE Institute of Education surveyed teachers in vocational secondary schools in the Moscow Region, and compared the advantages and disadvantages brought by the new labor conditions.

How employees are remunerated in any industry always generates many questions and ambiguous decisions. And if we talk about the teaching community, then the question is complicated even more by limited funding and the various ways in which funds can be redistributed. 

In essence, the effective (performance-based) contract is just a metaphor for a detailed labor contract, which is individually tailored to the employee and is tied to the performance indicators of each employee and the organization as a whole. The authors of the idea believed that the effective contract would not just raise the teachers’ pay, but would fully relieve them from the necessity to work on the side somewhere else. The monthly payments would consist of the guaranteed part and individual incentive payments, calculated on the basis of the teacher’s work outcomes, workload, qualification and experience. This was considered as a way to increase teachers’ motivation and improve the prestige of the teaching profession in general.

Critics of the innovation mentioned that only a small portion of teachers’ salaries are guaranteed, and the regional differences in salary levels are high. In addition, salary growth is provided by an increase in certain teachers’ workload, with decreasing workload for the others.

The criteria for evaluating teachers’ performance are also causing controversy. Teaching is a creative profession, and some skeptics believe that material incentives run the risk of accomplishing nothing.

Still, the gradual transition to the effective contract system started in 2013. Over the course of a relatively short period of time most vocational secondary schools (VSS) concluded addenda to the employment contracts of their current teachers and offered new contracts to their recently hired employees.

In order to better understand how the teachers view the changes, Pavel Derkachev and Alexey Zinovyev surveyed 253 teachers from 83 VSSs in the Moscow Region. The organizations included both schools that have switched to the effective contract, as well as those that have not yet adopted the model. The schools were grouped according to the following criteria:

 Geography (distance from Moscow);

 Productivity (number of teachers per student);

 Finances (size of the average salary of teachers and vocational trainers);

 Level of educational programs (share of students who study in skilled worker training programs).

Teachers working in different payment systems were chosen from each cluster, and divided into two groups: experimental group (105 people), and control group (148).

Researchers asked questions to the teachers, such as, the correspondence between the expected salary and the real one, the need to look for additional earnings, the frequency of performance evaluation, and whether the teacher believes their profession is prestigious. The questionnaire consisted of 31 questions.

Importantly, there were no significant differences in the socio-economic status (age, number of children in the family, qualification grade, total number of years of teaching experience, and length of tenure in the current position) of the respondents in the experimental and control groups.

As a result of the survey, the researchers concluded that teachers at schools that have switched to the effective contract are quite satisfied with the innovation. They more highly assess their financial situation and have greater trust in the compensation plan. They believe that the compensation plan is more tightly connected to the quality of teaching than teachers at schools that have not transitioned to an effective contract. Furthermore, they have greater expectations of their future incomes.

At the same time, the introduction of performance-based contracts has led to increased frequency of assessments that teachers at schools have to undergo: excessive assessment procedures can reduce the amount of time that teachers have to teach.

Authors of the study:
Pavel Derkachev, Associate Professor, Leading Research Fellow at the Institute of Education
Alexey Zinovyev, Deputy Director for Student Relations, at Kolomna College (Moscow Region)