Two examples of payment by results in the current “education reform” strategy that is promoted by the Obama administration: basing teacher evaluation on test scores and merit pay.
The article calls payment by results in “dangerous idiocy” and explains why:
“Payment by results is a simple idea: people and organisations should only get paid for what they deliver. Who could argue with that? If your job is to get people back to work, then find them a job dammit.
“Plenty of people working in local government and public services are already starting to realise this is nonsense, and a pernicious, damaging nonsense at that. The evidence is very clear: if you pay (or otherwise manage performance) based on a set of pre-defined results, it creates poorer services for those most in need. It is the vulnerable, the marginalised, the disadvantaged who suffer most from payment by results.
“Here’s why: payment by results does not reward organisations for supporting people to achieve what they need; it rewards organisations for producing data about targets; it rewards organisations for the fictions their staff are able to invent about what they have achieved; it pays people for porkies.
“We know that common things happen when people use payment by results, and other outcomes-based performance management systems. There have been numerous studies that show that such systems distort organisational priorities and make organisations focus on doing the wrong things – and they make people lie.
“This lying takes all sorts of different forms. Some of them are subtle forms of deception: teachers who teach to the test or who only enter pupils for exams they know they are going to pass; employment support that helps only those likely to get a job and ignores those most in need; or hospitals that reclassify trolleys as beds, and keep people waiting in ambulances on the hospital doorstep until they know they can be seen within a target time. In the literature, this is known as gaming the system…..
“Sadly, the distortion of practice by payment by results doesn’t just stop with managers. The evidence shows that it also undermines the practice of frontline workers. It turns the relationship between support worker and client upside down. When payment-by-results practices are introduced, workers who used to ask their clients “How can I help you to achieve what you need?” instead think “How can you help me to produce the data I need?”
The article was written by Toby Lowe, a visiting fellow at Newcastle University business school and chief executive of Helix Arts, a charity that transforms lives through art. He is collecting stories from people who have been forced to lie by payment for results. you can reach him at Twitter: @tobyjlowe