Outcome-based pay for teachers may hurt poorer...


Outcome-based pay for teachers may hurt poorer school districts

The state plans to judge and pay teachers across the state based on how their students perform on the same achievement tests ("Success carries teacher reward," Oct. 10).

That's like taking 1,000 dressmakers, randomly supplying them with different cloth from burlap to silk, and different caliber sewing machines, then judging them on the garments they produce.

If one were applying for a teaching job in a job-seekers' market, and knew you'd be paid more if your students could perform well on some achievement test, where would you agree to teach?

In a neighborhood of prosperous, educated people who take their kids places, read to them, check their homework, speak grammatical English, go to school functions and feed their kids well?

Or in an unsafe neighborhood where kids go home to no one in the afternoon, don't have many books at home and have no clear idea of living differently?

Teaching is a tough job in any case. Even with students who have support at home, a teacher must devote much time, skill and patience to help a young person become his or her best.

But the same teacher, working just as hard, in a school with less privileged kids (which is likely to be a a shabbier place with less up-to-date equipment) cannot produce students whose performance rivals those of the wealthier area.

In deciding which teachers deserve merit pay, we had better think about how to compare student performance levels .

Otherwise, we may not have anybody willing to teach in the tougher schools.

Marie B. Armstrong, Pasadena

Merit pay is imperfect, but our schools need it

Congratulations to Prince George's county school Superintendent Iris Metts and Maryland Superintendent Nancy Grasmick for their stand on performance pay for teachers ("Success carries teacher reward," Oct. 10).

This idea is long past due. A system that makes a teachers' academic record the criteria for who can teach, and gets better pay, is doomed to mediocrity.

Businesses found long ago that those who make the marks in school often cannot make the grade in life.

The proposed reward system for teachers who can motivate students to learn cannot be close to perfect.

Excellent facilitators of learning can, for example, be severely hampered in schools where behavior problems and lack of parental support are the norm.

But, as Ms. Grasmick implied, if long-used reasons for mediocrity are allowed to stop progress, we will never have accountable school systems.

Richard Berman, Baltimore

Angelos has backed educational trust

My statement in Wednesday's Opinion Commentary section should have read: "I would ask Mr. Angelos to continue funding for poor children to go to private schools" ("Challenges for Angelos," Oct. 14).

Mr. Angelos is a supporter of the Baltimore Educational Scholarship Trust. He understands in a very real way the issues of economically disadvantaged children.

I salute him for sharing his time, talent and resources with countless children who were born with less than enough.

Karen Bond, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Baltimore Educational Scholarship Trust.

Private school parents subsidize public education

In his recent letter, Tony Buechner claimed that "the voucher system would sap money from the public schools . . ." ("Tufaro's voucher proposal would hurt public schools," Oct. 8).

At present, parents who send children to Catholic and other private schools are the ones who lose money. They, in effect, donate money to the public schools.

These parents pay the same taxes as everyone else to support public education, but their children derive very little benefit from these taxes. And they also pay private school tuition, which is not tax-deductible.

Has anyone ever calculated what it would cost the public if every private school suddenly closed?

Perhaps opponents of vouchers should stop and say thanks once in a while to private school parents, for the funds that they pay into the public system.

Elaine Hanus, Cambridge

A gulf does separate the rich from the poor

I was disheartened to read Robert Rector and Rea Hederman's argument in The Sun that the gap between the rich and poor is "exaggerated" ("Census report exaggerates gulf between poor and rich," Opinion Commentary, Oct. 12).

They even suggested that income discrepancies are the natural result of differences in behavior and ability.

Anyone using statistics to show how the poor aren't as bad off as they think are is doing two things: manipulating statistics and not seeing the big picture.

If these people actually noticed how people live, they would feel ridiculous explaining how similar the incomes of rich and poor people are.

And, by adding that the rich are of the most productive segments of society, the authors further the myth that high income means high productivity.

Until the poor actually have concrete reasons to believe that they can benefit by playing the educational and political game the rich have created, the wealthy need to stop telling ordinary Americans how hard-working and understanding upper-income people are.

Zachariah Blott, Abingdon

Religious groups have no corner on morality

It is always amusing to me how many religious people feel they can say whatever they wish about non-believers and people of other faiths. But when somebody makes a derogatory comment about organized religion, they can't handle it.

Tony Snow's column about Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura is a prime example of this hypersensitivity ("Ventura pinned to mat by religion remarks," Oct. 13).

Mr. Snow argues that without organized religion, we'd have no moral conscience and society would degenerate into chaos.

But morality, such as it is, exists in spite of religion, not because of it.

Many people use organized religion to provide a mantle of respectability. But for every Mother Theresa, there are 10 Jim and Tammy Faye Bakkers.

For every person who actually uses religious guidelines to live a virtuous life, a hundred or more use it as a platform to judge others or make money.

People seem to forget that freedom of religion also means freedom from religion.

Millions of decent, moral people feel the way Mr. Ventura does, but are afraid to state their views for fear of the sort of retribution that Mr. Ventura is getting.

He only spoke his mind. We are still allowed to do that, aren't we?

But to suggest that religious people have cornered the market on morality is nonsense.

David Ruppkey, Baltimore

Where's the outrage when atheists are defamed?

Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura is being castigated for saying "organized religion is a sham and a crutch for the weak-minded."

He has been called a bigot and accused of being anti-religious.

But where was the nation's moral outrage when George Bush stated during the 1988 presidential campaign, "I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots"?

If Mr. Ventura is a bigot and anti-religious, then Mr. Bush is an bigot and anti-American.

Do people speak out when they hear such bigoted, but common, statements as "there are no atheists in foxholes"?

I am an atheist and I have faced imminent danger without doubting my beliefs.

Mr. Ventura's comment was hurtful and poorly phrased. This is the kind of hurtful statement atheists face every day.

Frederick E. Green, Bowie

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