16 July 2005

On performance-based teacher incentives

LAST month, I twice wrote the editors of Bicol Mail, Naga’s leading newsweekly, on the controversial performance-based incentive scheme for public school teachers being pushed by the Naga city government.

The letters were impelled by two emails by Manuel Collao to Bicol Mail on the issue. Our conversation might interest other school boards which are giving a cost-of-living allowance to public school teachers in their annual budget, so I am posting them here.

On the alleged missing COLA of Naga teachers
June 15, 2005

This refers to an email from Manuel A. Collao on the alleged missing COLA of Naga teachers, which appeared on your June 9, 2005 issue. To set the record straight, allow me to point out the following:

1. The COLA is neither missing nor misspent, as Collao alleges and adverts to. The funds, both coming from the Special Education Fund (SEF) collected locally and internal revenue allotments released by the national government, are intact and available for release — once the proposed reform of the COLA scheme is finalized and approved.

2. Since 2002, when the effort to reinvent the School Board begun, we have already advocated a change in the way public school teachers in the city get their allowance. Under the COLA scheme, every teacher gets P400 from the School Board budget and P350 from the General Fund of the city government per month regardless of whether he or she performed well or not.

3. Precisely because it is given across the board, this scheme, as it stands, does not encourage good teachers to continually improve their craft. To the contrary, it has fostered a false sense of entitlement that reinforces the attitude of just muddling along — which we cannot afford given the crisis facing our public school system.

4. This year, in spite of its inherent unpopularity among teachers, we are finally effecting a shift towards “performance-based” incentives. This was pointed by Mayor Robredo himself during the local education planning workshop on February 21, 2005, before some 250 stakeholders of the public school system — including representatives of the Naga City Teachers and Employees Association (NACITEA). In spite of the clamor to maintain status quo, he stood his ground and committed to do away with the across-the-board COLA and replace it with a scheme that rewards good teacher performance.

5. The original proposal was to apply that scheme to the P750 monthly COLA being given to public school teachers. But in the Board meeting that same month, it was agreed that NACITEA itself will come up with a formula that would implement such a performance-based incentive scheme.

6. In its meeting last June 15, the Board agreed in principle to adopt the following:

The performance-based scheme will apply only to the P350 component being funded out of the General Fund. This means that payment of the P400 being funded out of the School Board budget can already be processed.

For public school teachers, allocation of the General Fund-supported component will follow a two-step process: (1) high-performing schools, reckoned through results of the recently released achievement tests, will get more than low-performing ones; and (2) high performing teachers — reckoned through application of the formula prepared by the NACITEA, with help of Supt. Nenita Ramos — will get more than low performing ones. Supervisory, administrative and non-teaching staff will individually get an equal share, to be pegged to the average incentive divisionwide.

Guided by the above, the School Board staff will prepare alternative sharing schemes because of the need to balance absolute academic performance (reflected by the final school ranking in the achievement test) and academic improvements made (reflected by the difference between pre-test and post-test during the school year). These schemes will be presented to the NACITEA Board and school level representatives on June 27, 2005.7. In this context, the COLA payrolls and SPAs prepared and signed by teachers, if indeed true, were therefore based on the expectation that it will be “business as usual.”

Fortunately, that is no longer the case.

The School Board is on track
July 6, 2005

This pertains to Manuel Collao’s email entitled “Teacher oppression!” which appeared in the June 30 issue of Bicol Mail, especially the last two paragraphs that directly concern the City School Board.

Firstly, allow me to clarify, as I have explained before the NACITEA representatives in our meeting last June 27, that the P400 monthly COLA for the four quarters of 2004 (which is being funded out of the School Board budget) were released in full, contrary to Mr. Collao’s claim. The unreleased amount corresponds to the P350 monthly additional allowance sourced out of the General Fund — mainly because of the city government’s own financial difficulties last year. In that meeting, NACITEA secretary Ma. Angela Karandang, revealed that the vouchers for these transactions are in her safekeeping. A school level representative suggested that they be returned to their respective schools to finally dispel allegations of improprieties involving them.

Secondly, I presented the Board’s proposed performance-based incentive scheme for the P350 monthly component sourced out of the city government’s General Fund during the same meeting. We have yet to receive NACITEA’s official stand in regard to the scheme. But I have been informed by its president, Solomon Sales, that the organization is in favor of our proposal. I have requested its secretary to furnish us with a resolution stating its official position on the matter so that it can be discussed in the next Board meeting scheduled later this month. This will also pave the way for the passage of a supplemental budget by the Sangguniang Panlungsod allocating funds in support of the scheme.

Finally, please be informed that the P400 monthly cost of living allowance for public school teachers in Naga for the first two quarters of 2005 will be released by next week, if not within the week.

In my previous letter, I have explained what the Board has set out to do in regard to teacher benefits: (1) release the SEF-funded COLA for the first two quarters of 2005; and (2) implement a performance-based incentive scheme for the General Fund-supported component. These developments only show that the Board honors its commitments to public school teachers in Naga, the presence of non-believers like Mr. Collao notwithstanding.


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