In my last blog, I wrote about a “culture of essentialness,” which is part of our design principle #7.The other half of that design principle is a culture that embraces accountability for improvement and outcomes. Unfortunately, our profession continues to move away from accountability. The “A-word” is associated with an unhealthy focus on student achievement or an environment that does not agree with an everybody-gets-a-trophy and at-least-we-tried culture. But accountability does not have to be heavy-handed nor unfair. Indeed, the degree of accountability should be accompanied by a similar or greater degree of support.
Accountability without support only breeds a culture of fear.
At the same time, the absence of accountability for performance outcomes almost always results in underperformance and other systemic dysfunctions such as the growth of meaningless reports and bureaucratic processes as leaders replace accountability for outcomes with some semblance of accountability for processes.
Perhaps the most consequential result of education’s unwillingness to hold leaders and teachers accountable for results is the chronically low salaries tied to a terribly ineffective salary schedule. In the absence of accountability, though, maybe teacher salaries are where they need to be. You see, there is a cost for job security and low accountability. The following excerpt from the TFS teacher evaluation system concept paper illustrates these tradeoffs.
In public education, there are four basic compensation plans that reflect different aspects of an employee/district value proposition: the traditional teacher salary schedule, an incentive pay system, a pay-for-performance plan, and the “hospital model” (a highly differentiated compensation plan based on the content discipline and skill set required). The benefits and challenges of each system are broadly outlined on pages 38 through 40. Fundamentally, though, each compensation plan varies distinctly from the others in three main respects:
1. The degree of accountability the system requires.
2. The degree to which desired results and outcomes are rewarded.
3. The amount of job security employees enjoy.
The key variables for the employee/district value proposition then become the degree of accountability for outcomes, the likelihood of keeping one’s job, and the amount of compensation. At the risk of oversimplifying, the value proposition for both the employee and the organization would be more aligned or “fair” if greater accountability for outcomes were matched with greater compensation. While few would argue with the last sentence, many would argue against its natural pair (the other side of the coin): employees whom the system holds less accountable should be paid less than those who are held more accountable. The diagram below reflects this relationship between accountability and compensation.