The Perils of Merit Pay
The article “2, 4, 6, 8, How Should We Compensate?” (January/February 2010) brings to light that I, a teacher with 27 years of experience, would be paid less [than other teachers] because mine are the students distracted from learning. Mine are the students who experience empty bellies, ear infections, homelessness, or gunshots echoing in the night. I would be the one paid less because I do not have a class full of native English speakers with college-educated parents. Neither my Master of Science degree nor 27 years of experience can, in one school year, make students learn English faster, catch up to the rest, or have experiences in the world like children from more affluent areas. Let the children of our President and his Administration “walk a mile on our side of the tracks.”
Port Hueneme, California
Readers Respond to Arne Duncan
I wholeheartedly support and expect our schools to service the needs of all (“Elevating the Teaching Profession,” NEA Today Action insert, January/February 2010). One segment of our school population—gifted students—has been seriously and increasingly underserved. Many excuses are offered: they will get it on their own; they should be sprinkled through classes as rewards to teachers; they should be paired with struggling students as unpaid TAs to raise test scores. That is not their job. That is not meeting their needs. If our society values education, then it must value education for all students.
While Mr. Duncan decries the factory model of viewing teachers as interchangeable widgets, he seems to favor evaluating and rewarding teachers as if they are interchangeable parts. He implies that teachers are to blame for student underperformance and that replacing or fixing these “broken parts” would solve the problem. While not denying the power of an individual teacher or the need for accountability, education is a system that encompasses many times, places, and people. Why is there so much emphasis on rewarding or punishing one piece of the machine?
In the NEA Today Action insert, numerous members of Congress espouse how to cure the ills of public education. Good luck! All we will end up with is a hailstorm of worthless public policies to replace policies already deemed worthless. Listen to my old bones when I say that the heart of a good school system is its people. School employees need dignity and respect, and to be allowed to move public education off the assembly line mentality.
Peter Jay Lucas
Note: Readers can offer feedback to Arne Duncan and congressional leaders at www.neatodayaction.org.
The success of the Ohio School for the Blind’s marching band (“Six Miles in Pasadena” January/February) is an example of how a residential school program designed for students with a disability can provide these special students with real life opportunities often denied in regular public schools. Students who go to residential schools such as mine (Governor Morehead School for the Blind) also participate in music festivals, art shows, dance and theatre productions, team and individual sports, student government, community fund-raising, and photography clubs, as well as earn state and national awards for excellence in arts and education.
Stand Up for Better Pay
I was angered and offended to learn that entry-level computer programmers with essentially the same training as teachers earn on average $20,000+ more per year than comparably trained teachers (“The Guide to Money” November/ December). Despite the rhetoric, society proves what it values by what it is willing to pay for goods and services.
I’ll wager that teachers make more of an impact on society than computer programmers. The time for educators to stand up as highly trained professionals worthy of commensurate salaries is long overdue.
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