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Performance Management and Education

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Bethany Pearson
December 7, 2017

In recent years, there has been a lot of speculation about educator’s pay being attached to their school’s performances in standardized testing. Some are all for it while others are not so keen on the idea. This article is focusing on how performance management and performance measurement are similar and different. It will then turn focus on how using a both performance management and performance measurement could work for the education system.

According to ClearPoint Strategy, performance measurements deal specifically with performance measures. These measurements are the quantitative indicators you put in place to track the progress of your strategy. Examples of performance measurement strategies include financial, people, process and customer measures.

ClearPoint Strategy also stated that while performance measurement is like asking the question how do we track the strategy progress, performance management is asking the question how do you manage the strategy in order for it to become successful?

The management process requires your leadership team—in this case the state and local district leaders—meet on a regular basis and discuss the results. The team should then discuss the actions they’re going to take to improve the results. The team should also start putting together some possible strategies in order to test out their hypothesis. This process would end only when results are satisfactory.

Both performance measurement and performance management are useful tools in performance improvement. How does this help or hinder the education system? Before it can be helped the education system must first be understood. To an outsider, the education system may seem like a pretty simple system that can be easily measured and assessed. To those of us that work in the education system, things are not a simple as they may seem. To educators, there is more to the profession than testing and money. To assess the education system, one must be able to understand all aspects of the system.

Not all schools are the same. This is not a “cookie cutter” profession. Some educators face completely different obstacles than others depending on location and dynamics of each school. For example, some schools may deal with problems like gang violence, homelessness and nourishment issues whereas other schools may deal with things like over-population, entitlement and technology issues. While neither problem is lesser than the others, this just shows how not all issues are universal. Not all teachers are dealing with the same issues which means that not all strategies meant to help schools are actually helping to improve schools. In some instances, it is hindering schools.

For example, the idea of tying educator’s salary to performance measurements. In theory, this will boost test scores by enhancing incentives. If the educator wants to make money or keep their job they will exhaust all efforts to achieve the goal. It is a play on greed. While this may help some districts, it will not help all. Going back to the schools that deal with homelessness and malnourishment. If the students at these schools are dealing with things like wondering if they have a home to go to after school or wondering where and when they will get their next meal from, issues like getting a school paper done seem more trivial. In these instances, it more about survival for the students. In these instances, the performance measurements will be a moot point because no matter what the educators do as far as lessons plans it will not help put food in the bellies of students. Lesson plans cannot put a roof over a student’s head either. The problem does not lie in the technique of the educators but in the well-being of the students. The tying of salaries to test scores in those schools will end up putting more undue hardship on the district.

In the example of schools who deal with over-population and entitlement the strategy of tying salary to performance measurement may have a chance. For example, in this type of school district, there is less of a problem with nourishment and homelessness. When students are taken care of at home and have what is needed for them to survive, the chances of the students paying more attention to their studies increases.

This does not mean school districts that are more well-off should be using this strategy of tying salary to performance measurements. This is just one piece to the puzzle. Students are not all the same. Families are not all the same either. There are other issues educators deal with that have nothing to do with money, food or shelter. Some issues educators deal with everyday have to do with things like educator resources and testing environments. Special Education (SPED) and English as a Second Language (ESL) departments deal with low test scores but not due to low educator performance but since these standardized tests do not cater to all students.

In conclusion, the education system is like a puzzle. There are many different and unique pieces that fit together to complete the whole. These pieces are not interchangeable; therefore, we should not be using universal strategies. Just as all students are different, all schools are different. Instead of working to create a universal performance measurement system, we must first develop a performance management system to help figure out how each school district works and what needs developed more.


Author: Bethany Pearson is a recent graduate of the Masters in Public Administration Program at Augusta University. She has a Bachelors in Secondary Education from Drake University. Bethany lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and two dogs.

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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