My Latest Letter in the Review Journal

Yesterday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal ran a letter I wrote about merit pay for teachers, but which was really about celebrating the achievements of hardworking students.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that they took the opportunity to insult us by giving the letter the heading “Teachers Irrelevant.” 

Geez.  I simply said that students deserve the credit for their own success, not that teachers don’t matter at all.  At any rate, here’s the letter:

As the new school year settles in, there’s increasingly more talk about starting merit pay for teachers here. Many teachers have responded by explaining that they have no control over whether or not their mostly apathetic students focus, do homework or even show up at all.

I’ll offer another perspective.

I teach more than 200 honors English students. It’s a foregone conclusion that most of them will develop larger vocabularies, broaden their literacy, and improve their writing skills this year. Most of them will get an “A” in my class. Do I deserve any special reward because of this major, consistent success?

Absolutely not.

The credit for the success of these students lies entirely with the students themselves. Just as the blame for the epidemic of failure in our state lies with those students and their parents who fail, the success of those who excel is exclusively due to their own choice to care.

I’ve never met a teacher who feels any other way.

One comment on “My Latest Letter in the Review Journal

  1. Well, from my high school years I could say, that I have seen that teachers can make a difference in the lives of those, who are not totally lost by the time they get the students in their hands.

    But yes, when they did make a difference, they usually did it by giving motivation, not by being “good teachers” — which most of them were despite being quite unmotivating.

    I think apathetic and insulting teachers do share a blame in finally destroying the motivation of their students — again the ones, who were not too far gone already.

    OTOH, merit pay for teachers may mean even more teacher-falsified test scores for failing students. Money, however, is not the only incentive that people have (well, shouldn’t be!).

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