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A Personal Letter which I wrote to The NY Times RE the editorial "Pay Teachers More"

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RE: Pay Teachers More By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF  March 12, 2011

To: The editors of the NY Times, and Nicholas Kristof who I think has been duped by so-called 'reformers'.

Susan Lee Schwartz
Susan Lee Schwartz
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1998 NYS English Council "Educator of Excellence" 
for outstanding teacher- practice and  
 teacher-based research, as a cohort for THE National Standards--The Pew funded, Harvard research;
Four times included in  Who's Who Among American Teacher s,
Dear Sirs,
I thought that  Nicholas Kristof was sincere in his    column: "Pay Teacher More." but then he quoted Amy Wilkins and Jeanne Allen and thus should have titled his column:  How to Pay Teachers Less. 
I did not know about the actual agenda of Allen and Wilkins, until Diane Ravitch read my 'praise' of Mr Kristof in an email, and wrote to me: "Susan, do you know what these women actually support?"  I wanted to cry when I did some research. I hate to be bamboozled! Just when I was telling people that the journalists at   The NY Times  were trustworthy and finally telling the truth about the war on our profession I got blind-sided!.

 I am just an ordinary person, a writer and former teacher, not a reformer, academic or activist, and  I depend on journalists I admire as I do Mr.  Kristof,  to accomplish due diligence and know the truth before recommending policy in the disguise of a 'feel-good article'.  

"We're not going to get better teachers unless we pay them more,"    Kristof quotes Amy Wilkins of the  Education Trust.
WOW. What teacher would disagree with that! But the devil lies in Ms. Wilkins' methodology for determining who gets more!  Did Mr. Kristof  (or editors at your paper) know that Amy Wilkins is a strong supporter of NCLB?
Likewise, Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform says, "We're the first people to say, throw them $100,000, throw them whatever it takes."
Really? Jeanne Allen is a proponent of vouchers and charters and closing schools with low scores.  They  indeed recommend merit pay, but  they also support  using standardized  test scores to  evaluate teachers so as to identify those  "bad" teachers, and  firing 5-10% of all teachers every year, based on test scores.   
This is the same old 'blame the teachers,' and the same bogus evaluation criteria  pushed by Klein and Rhee -- policies that emptied our schools of the top, experienced professionals. 
Thus, public school teachers will be quickly unemployed, so how, Mr. Kristof, will they get the pay they deserve for the job that is impossible in schools which are run by corrupt and incompetent administrations?
Mr. Kristof says  that:  " both Ms. Wilkins and Ms. Allen add in the next breath that pay should be for performance, with more  rigorous evaluation."
 Was Mr. Kristof  unaware of the special definition of "Evaluation" that these two ladies are pushing?  "That makes sense to me,"  he says next,  because he does not grasp how they define 'RIGOROUS EVALUATION" and thus,  he does not grasp the truth anymore than the people who will read his column,  and who trust him!   
Rigorous evaluation makes sense to everyone,  if it  is genuine and replaces the subjective slander of principals, but judging teacher performance on the basis of standardized tests of the kids who come into the schools today, unprepared to learn or do work, is outrageous!  Evaluation policies such as those approved by Allen and Wilkins  will not lead to merit pay , but are just another attempt to label teachers as 'bad' and make sure that few teachers get to stay long enough to get pay raises due with  longevity, let alone merit pay!.

Mr. Kristof reports that  the  Education Trust is  " an education reform organization! " 
WOW! That sounds so, hmmmm, important? All it is missing is weighted  words like 'American' or 'Democracy'. 
This name makes   it sound  as if  Wilkins'   conclusions on 'reform'  is  based on  genuine third level 'research,' but it is actually no more than slanted opinion.  

The National Standards research was  third level research (the kind of research done before a drug is approved!).  It carefully studied the criteria for successful learning (not  for evaluating teachers). Genuine reform would be based on this authentic research conducted in 12 districts across the nation, not the data from studies interpreted by a 'reform' organization and labeled as 'rigorous'... by them!
'Evaluating teachers' is the national 'rant of those who have declared war on the teaching profession (pedagogy), and have already caused massive failure of public schools because it does not reform learning.   The New York Times  is clueless about that Pew funded research on the Harvard thesis that is the genuine " National Standards Research" about the  criteria for learning  --  which includes four crucial principles  for the administration of a school !

Teacher evaluation has never been a problem in decades of public school education, but now it is a hot topic because it opens up the possibility of ridding the system of  teacher tenure,  and (ironically) leads to teachers on a much lower pay grade!   Supporting such "opinions" as tying the performance of a professional to the performance of our present population of learners on a test of memory, will end public education!  Schools will be emptied of those 'bad' teachers, and replaced by novice practitioners who  will fail too, and  be gone in a few years,  caught in a  revolving door;  their hard work and dedication, their education and expertise  will mean nothing.
 Maybe, Mr Kristof, you should teach students in NYC or LAUSD for a while, with your salary  based upon the results of their performance on a test, or perhaps your salary should be based on the  comprehension of the readers in Patagonia or Afghanistan, as long as we are assessing performance on bogus criteria. YOU would be fired soon enough, no matter your worth or merit. 
Mr Kristof should write about genuine reform which would be to evaluate the administrations to see if they are supporting LEARNING! Maybe he needs to read The American Educator, and  hear some of the voices who wish  to see a Renaissance in our education, before this country is left in the global dust!
Susan Lee Schwartz

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I began teaching in 1963,; Ba and BS in Education -Brooklyn College. I have the equivalent of 2 additional Master's, mainly in Literacy Studies and Graphic Design. I was the only seventh grade teacher of English from 1990 -1999 at East Side (more...)

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