In the IT field, everyone hates dabblers - people who know a little about computers and therefore feel free to make changes they heard would improve performance, only to have to log a job when the changes actually make things a lot worse. It's a handy metaphor for Ministers of Education in National-led govts, except that in this case the dabbler is actually in charge of all the metaphorical computers.
Latest dabbling from a Nat Min of Ed is performance pay for teachers. She's heard (from noted education expert David Farrar, for example) that this would bring about improvements in the education system. The admonishment from actual experts "That's working OK right now, don't fuck with it" is of course water off the dabbler's back.
Parata knows that the experts are actually wrong:
"Typically, you get a response that it's not possible to design something like that, because this is so difficult. Well, I don't agree," Ms Parata said.
Here we have the major problem with dabbling - you know so little about the subject that you can easily dismiss the experts' concerns simply because you have no fucking idea what they're talking about.
For the record, it's not difficult to design a performance pay system for teachers, and many have done so - that isn't the basis for the experts' response at all. What is difficult is to design a performance pay system for teachers that can't be gamed by the teachers to the detriment of the students, and won't destroy the benefits of our current system (which, also for the record, is not broken but is actually one of the best-performing education systems in the world).
The first problem is obvious: measure teachers' performance according to students' achievement in standardised tests, and what you get is students trained to pass a particular test, and teachers at high-decile schools apparently the best-performing by an astonishing amount. Mess around with it all you like, your system can be gamed. That doesn't matter so much when your business is selling fridges and washing machines, but if your business is running the country's education system? Yeah, it matters.
The second one is what Parata simply lacks the knowledge to understand. Ian Leckie attempts to explain it to a Fairfax journo:
Rewarding teachers differently creates too much high stakes stuff that actually stops collaboration, stops people working together and that is counter-productive to trying to make a better education system doing more for more kids.
That's the education dabbler's downfall - they're convinced the system performance will be improved by increasing competition between teachers, unaware that it's the current system's promotion of co-operation between teachers that's delivering the high performance we have now. Fuck with that, and before long you'll be calling the help desk.
As usual, there are probably some gains that could be made out of a few tweaks:
Teachers Council director Peter Lind said there was a "tension" between building a collegial team and recognising success.
But there's a big difference between addressing that and mistaking teachers in the public education system for sales staff in the private sector, which is what Parata seems to be doing.