letters | a different kind of career ladder for teachers?

Merit pay system throws up roadblocks to success

RE “The ladder lesson” (Lawrence Harmon, Op-ed, April 1): I am a college student studying to become a Massachusetts public school teacher. The Lawrence Public Schools’ new compensation plan discourages me from entering the classroom, and would force me to reject many of the teaching strategies that I am learning from my undergraduate coursework.

In the profession of teaching, collaboration and training are essential to ensuring the success of every educator. Merit pay compensation plans for teachers, such as that proposed by Seth Racine, chief redesign officer for the Lawrence schools, ignore the importance of these two components. Under a uniform pay scale, teachers are encouraged to deepen their understanding of pedagogy and their respective subject matter through pay incentives for completing graduate-level coursework. In addition, a uniform pay scale protects teachers so that they can share and model effective instructional strategies with their peers without the prospect of losing their position on the career ladder.

Finally, this compensation plan — which the state education commissioner calls “revolutionary” — ignores the diversity of students and the inequitable distribution of resources available to students and teachers. Until every teacher has equal access to professional development, support staff, and classroom resources, evaluation-based pay will be a discriminatory reform.

Grant Conway