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letters | a different kind of career ladder for teachers?

Her best teaching came late in career, with experience and training

In praising the merit-pay plan for Lawrence Public Schools, Lawrence Harmon writes, “It requires four or five years of experience — usually no more —for a good teacher to develop a solid expertise” (“The ladder lesson,” Op-ed, April 1). How does he know this? Even it were true, one with “solid expertise” can easily switch to auto-pilot teaching to the comprehensive test, upon whose results merit pay will rest.

During the last years of my 38-year career teaching in an urban public school, course work was designed and taught to fit the mold of questions on MCAS. This relegated to almost inconsequential such student gains as creativity, self-confidence, and responsibility — gains that are effected by teachers of merit.

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As for elevating the practice of colleagues, the other basis for merit pay, how can this be meaningfully quantified?

Harmon also writes, “The attainment of a master’s degree in education does little to improve a teacher’s skills.” Then why has the state mandated that teachers acquire said degree in order for full licensure and accrue sufficient credits every five years for the privilege of paying for license renewal?

After five years as a teacher, I knew what I was doing, but was far from owning a “solid expertise.” The students who received my best teaching were those I served later in my career, because the more experience and education I had, the better I became. Teaching and learning are about so much more than statistics, and unless we find a teacher evaluation system that adequately addresses this, we must continue to value seniority and education thresholds in determining teacher pay.

Cheryl Okun


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