Opinion
Education Letter to the Editor

The Wrong Picture

April 14, 2006 1 min read

Presumably, a magazine titled Teacher would represent the views of teachers rather than some conservative think tank. Two articles [“Picket Fencing” and “The Big Picture,” January/February] looked like thinly veiled attempts to get professional educators to accept the notion that we can improve education without spending. “Picket Fencing” [Current Events] blames teacher advocacy for a living wage on a decline in public opinion, and “The Big Picture” [Comment] draws a false line between the need for smaller class sizes and teacher compensation.

It is true that attracting quality teachers requires activism at the state, rather than local, level. We’re frequently told in my district, “Our salaries are competitive.” I would ask, “With what? Other underpaid teachers?” When are politicians going to figure out that we’re not going to attract the best and the brightest without salaries that compete with those of other professionals? Merit pay is a cute idea, but what if we offered salaries that allowed districts to be selective in hiring? Consider this: Does any district give the slightest thought as to where their teaching candidates completed their education? Of course not—they can’t afford to. Ivy League students, for some reason, just aren’t applying.

Likewise, “The Big Picture” supports the idea that class size competes against fair compensation. Teaching in a class-size-reduction classroom, I’ve seen the difference firsthand. I also see the consequences in my daughter’s overcrowded high school classes. No teacher in their right mind is going to assign the amount of writing and authentic work students really need when it means trading every spare minute grading it. My daughter may complete enough worksheets to pass the next standardized test, but how will she do in the real world, which is not multiple choice?

“Teacher” magazine? Sounds more like “Naïve Politicians and Demagogues Quarterly” to me.

Mike Chivers

Louis Bohn Elementary

Tracy, California

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