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Incentives

Teacher accountability in Chile is strongly linked to incentives, while in Uruguay there is disassociation between both factors. According to an important part of the research in Chile, most of the incentive policies are related to the national system of evaluation of teachers created after a long process of negotiations with the unions. We identified two types of incentives for teachers: the incentives that result from student achievements and those that result from teachers’ knowledge and abilities. As for Uruguay, teacher incentives associated with merits are in existence.

It is important to point out that we did not find robust evidence of an association between educational performance and the incentives’ variables in PISA in any of the two countries (see Table5.15 that reports the full sample). In the case of Chile, this quantitative evidence is reinforced by interviewees who expressed that teachers’ incentives do not have major effects on student achievements. For Uruguay, the qualitative evidence confirms the virtual non-existence of incentives with an effect on educational quality, except for two incentives based on formal aspects: attendance and punctuality. Additionally, some teachers pointed to the existence of an incentive for working in vulnerable areas.

In Chile, the interviews show that there are many differences within public schools that should be considered when it comes to incentives. Municipal schools located in privileged contexts can afford to give teachers more and better monetary incentives; thus, they attract teachers with better qualifications in their teacher evaluations. Teachers working in vulnerable contexts said that the monetary bonuses given to teachers for working in difficult areas do not compensate for the effort required. Good teachers who take up the challenge are driven by other motivations, such as vocation or, in some cases, proximity to the school.

A: We don’t have any significant incentive, the most important thing is your vocation, it’s really difficult to work in these contexts. You get paid significantly less than in other schools, the salary is very low.

Q: It’s not the same in all municipal schools?

A: No. I mean, there is a basic salary that is national but the municipalities that have more resources, give teachers a manifold of incentives, such as incentives for assistance, for student assistance, for SIMCE results, for this and that____(Chile, teacher, public, bad SIMCE, big)

Table 5.15. Relationship between tests scores and teacher incentives—full sample, after controlling by individual characteristics and school input

Full sample

Science

Maths

Reading

Science

Maths

Reading

Science

Maths

Reading

Achievement data are used in evaluation of the

5.483

4.868

7.861

6.822

6.164

9.267

2.785

1.235

4.783

principal’s performance Achievement data

-5.463

0.150

-6.289

-5.909

-0.293

-6.760

-11.33*

-5.491

-14.00**

are used in evaluation of teachers’ performance Proportion of full-time teachers

1.366

-4.284

5.201

3.832

-2.357

7.704

2.687

-3.435

3.824

Individual

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

controls

Grade

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

school controls

No

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Private-public

No

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Private subsidized

No

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Country FE

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Source: Elaborated by authors

Another relative advantage of working for the public system—in comparison to the private subsidized sector—is job stability and protective labor laws that sometimes operate as non-material incentives (see quote that follows). This was also the case of Uruguay when teachers compared the relative advantages of working for the public system in relation to working in the private one (see second quote below).

In private subsidized schools, the rules are different, you have a contract, if you did not do your work this year, you will not stay with us next year. You have the possibility of changing your staff and of training the one you have as you want, taking into account the vision and mission of the school. (Chile/principal/public/bad SIMCE, small)

In Uruguay teachers have a series of rights, specially effective teachers that have labor stability, and this is very important, they can never remove you from your job, unless you commit a dangerous offence. (Uruguay/ principal/public/bad results, medium)

However, because remunerations tend to be higher in private schools, many good teachers decide to sacrifice job stability in favor of better paying jobs. These material incentives affect the choices made by teachers at the time of entry to the system. These incentives are not measured by PISA, but interviews would suggest that they matter.

Since most teacher incentives in Chile are dependent upon teacher evaluation (in the case of direct teacher incentives) and the SIMCE results (in the case of school incentives), many of the flaws underlying the incentives system are attributed to problems in accountability measures. An informant explains:

I would say that many of the policies of incentives related to teacher evaluations have not given any results. The mechanisms of teacher evaluation for distributing incentives have weaknesses that have been clearly proven. It’s a great ‘Truman Show’, where teachers prepare classes to be filmed and they receive plenty of help in their portfolios. (Chile, key informant)

The case of Uruguay is significantly different because teachers do not get incentives for their educational achievements. This difference between the two countries became evident in the interviews with teachers, heads of schools, and key informants who had difficulty in talking about this issue which is practically non-existent in the Uruguayan educational public agenda. As one teacher states:

A lot of the literature talks about incentives but here, it is all the same, no one really cares if you are any good or not. (Uruguay/teacher/public/ good/big school)

Both in Uruguay and Chile, teachers emphasized the lack of symbolic incentives in the current scenario. According to the interviewees, the teaching profession does not have the same prestige that it used to have and the system does not really make a difference between teachers seeking to make constant improvements and those who carry out their work as “educational bureaucrats”. He explains:

We have to recognize that there’s a lot in this that has to do with the administration, with colleagues, with parents, with anyone, recognizing your work. This is very important because we need to remember the human aspect of all this. I think that schools should give some type of recognition at the end of the year to teachers that try to self-train themselves, that work with projects, stimulating students____If the state would promote something like this,

it would generate contagion. (Uruguay/teacher/public/good/big school)

In Uruguay, the system of evaluation is related to principals’ and inspection reports that take place to provide teachers with a score. The supervisor’s role was mostly associated with control, and interviewees emphasized their inability to provide any important meaningful formative feedback that would allow for improvement. Discipline inspectors have to carry out several administrative tasks and they are oftentimes overloaded with work, making systematic evaluation very difficult.

In Uruguay, we are evaluated by the subject inspector, who shows up one day without warning and observes our class for 45 minutes....I’m not in favor of this type of evaluation because I think that the idea that you can evaluate what a teacher does an entire year with what they see in 45 minutes is deeply flawed. Maybe you had a bad day and that evaluation has an effect for an entire year, or until you have a new inspection. I have colleagues that haven’t been evaluated in over five years. (Uruguay/teacher/public school)

There is a wide-held consensus in the literature on educational policies that incentives matter, and they matter a lot. As we have seen, research has shown the importance of material and symbolic incentives on educational results. However, interviewees have problematized the unidirectional views sometimes offered by economic studies (that associate incentives to better educational results). The cases illustrate that there are covert mechanisms at play that affect the relationship between incentives and results.

 
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