Letters to the Editor
Letters To The Editor: Merit Pay For Teachers
By Leon Lewandowski
Mar 20, 2005 - 7:12:00 PM


     Telling teachers that their pay is largely based on their students' academic achievement is like telling chefs that they get paid only if their customers clean their plates.

     The chef may have the most extensive culinary education. He may make the most delectable dishes with only the finest of ingredients, and may take time to create his own dishes, style and presentation. The chef may have learned from the best and may be an excellent mentor, teaching other extraordinary chefs.

     But, when it comes right down to it, the chef has only minimal control over what the patron eats. Maybe the patron doesn't appreciate fine dining. Maybe the patron has come to the restaurant having recently eaten. Maybe the patron was brought up in a family that always taught to leave at least one morsel on your plate.

     When push comes to shove, no matter how good the chef is, and how wonderful the meal he prepares, it's really all in the hands of the patron. And, the chef has no control over who his patron will be, nor how hungry she will be, nor what kinds of taste she will have.

     Like the teacher, no matter how well she teaches, how extensive her education, how creative the lessons, how many hours she puts in on holidays, weekends, before and after school. No matter how good a teacher she is, she has no control over who her students will be, nor how hungry they'll be for an education.

     Sure, like the chef, she can present an appetizing product that will hopefully inspire many to partake, but she has no control over home life, nutrition, nor past life or educational experiences. She can only serve her best dish and hope her student will eat.

     To pay a chef based on how well his customers eat is as ludicrous as paying a teacher based largely on how well her students perform on an end-of-the-year test.

     If the Governor wants to pay based on merit, the bulk of that should be on the merit of the teacher, not the results of the children. Look at education, school activities, recommendations from colleagues, administration observations, creativity of lessons, covering the state curriculum standards. This would of course be more costly than looking at one test a year, but wouldn't it be more comprehensive, and paint a truer
picture of the employee.

     Great teachers will start leaving the profession if they are judged by their students, and not their, achievements in the field of education, leaving the profession in the hands of inexperienced young teachers with no role models from whom to learn. It will be like going to a five-star restaurant and finding your meal was prepared by a McDonald's cook.

     Leon Lewandowski is an elementary school teacher in California.

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