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Good teaching can be hard to measure

Teachers' income doesn't reflect results | Sept. 13, story

Good teaching can be hard to measure I often wonder why some people are so bent on assessing teachers' salaries based solely on their students' performance.

Do people have any idea how many students we get at school who not only have self-esteem issues, but are also dealing with situations at home many of us could not imagine? Not only do we become counselors and mentors, but often we also have to take very misguided young minds and try to help them make sense of things they are dealing with outside of the classroom.

Often, a particular teacher may be the only reason a child comes to school every day, and it may be simply because that child knows his teacher cares about him and really wants to help him achieve some of his life goals.

Let's start celebrating the fact that many of our children are so deeply influenced in a positive way by some of their teachers that they go on to live lives they might possibly have missed out on because of their experiences outside of the classroom.

If you must evaluate us, talk to our students along with all the other assessment techniques you use. The one teacher who may not have increased her students' test scores may be the one teacher who helped her students learn how to live a successful and peaceful life. How do we put a price tag on that?

Janet Whedon, Clearwater

Teachers' income doesn't reflect results Sept. 13, story

Quality of learning begins in the home

I am so disgusted by the ongoing debate regarding merit pay. I have a master's degree in multicultural/bilingual education and I have taught at the elementary school level for 10 years. I go in early, I bring work home, and I do my best to help every student in my room achieve academic success. What logic is there in basing my pay on whether or not my students do well?

Consider doctors and dentists. Should a doctor's pay be based on the health of his patients? Should a dentist's pay be based on how many cavities his patients have? Doctors and dentists cannot control what their patients do outside of their offices. A doctor may encourage his patient to eat well, avoid smoking, and take up exercise, but that patient may go home and continue to eat junk, smoke cigarettes, and sit on the couch. Is it the doctor's fault?

I have no control over what my students may experience outside of my classroom: poor diet, insufficient sleep, hours of TV watching and video game playing, inadequate discipline, misguided values, and a lack of instruction in manners. When those same students perform poorly on tests, should my pay be determined from those results?

I am not only a teacher; I am also a parent of a Pinellas County student. My child is successful in school because I know where academic success begins: in the home! Until all children come to school ready to learn, good teachers will continue to see poor test results in some students, despite all the efforts of those teachers in the classroom. Place the responsibility for achievement where it must start: with the parents.

Jana Bailey, St. Petersburg

Teachers' income doesn't reflect results Sept. 13, story

A flawed measure

While it is no surprise that a master's degree or years of experience do not correlate precisely with the quality of a teacher, this article's analysis is still faulty. This article could more accurately have been titled "Students' test scores don't reflect teacher quality."

The fatal mistake is equating merit bonuses with teacher quality. These bonuses are based on test scores and evaluations. Evaluations are very subjective, and test scores, as we all should know by now, reflect the socioeconomic status of the students more than anything else. This year, Hillsborough school officials had to separate Title I teachers from the rest when considering the bonuses because noticeably fewer teachers in high-poverty schools got the bonuses.

I would like to see another analysis after the bonuses are distributed this year: How many teachers who got the merit bonus last year got it again? Was there a strong continuity, or was it, as many of us suspect, merely a crapshoot?

John Perry, Tampa

Hurricane Ike's effect on the price of gas

Opportunistic sellers

It never ceases to amaze me how the possibility of any natural disaster raises the price of gasoline.

The gas station I go to raised prices on gas 25 cents per gallon in one day. I can understand any increase had a tanker truck delivered gas at a cost higher than the previous shipment. However this apparently was not the case.

How does the price of gasoline previously delivered and in the underground tanks jump 25 cents a gallon when no new gasoline has been received? To me this is a retailer who is being opportunistic and price gouging the public.

Such businesses should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Douglas Robb, Tampa

Campaign of lies disgraces McCain | Sept. 14, editorial

Obama's distortions

In its recent editorial, the St. Petersburg Times conveniently omitted the egregious distortions and inflations made by the Barack Obama campaign.

The Obama camp shamefully and incorrectly asserted that John McCain wanted to continue the Iraq war for 100 years. It was patently clear (to anyone who cared to read the statement in context) that McCain meant he would accept some type of military presence in Iraq — similar to what we have in Kuwait, Korea or Germany — so long as American troops are not being attacked, injured or killed.

What about the Obama campaign advertisements distorting McCain's statement that the economy is "fundamentally sound"? The ads again take his words out of context, and they omit McCain's repeated acknowledgement that hard-working American families are hurting and that times are indeed very tough.

Michael Sierra, Tampa

Campaign of lies disgraces McCain | Sept. 14, editorial

McCain out of control

I've always believed McCain to be an honorable man, but that is not enough. When he says "This is John McCain and I approve this ad," don't believe it.

He seems incapable of controlling his campaign. By contrast, Barack Obama's ads are relatively accurate, and Obama is quick to take responsibility for — and fix — mistakes.

How a candidate runs a national political campaign is an indicator of how he/she would run the office of the president, if elected. We all must understand that when we vote.

John Chase, Palm Harbor

Immigrants are welcome if they come here legally | Sept. 10, letter

Immigration and McCain

The letter writer claims that Justin Akers Chacon, the author of a Sept. 8 column, Stop the workplace raids, "must be a little left of Hillary Clinton," because of his attitudes toward illegal immigrants.

I'd like to remind the letter writer that John McCain was one of the co-sponsors of a recent bill that among other things would have granted amnesty and given 12-million illegal immigrants a way to become U.S. citizens. How far left of Hillary Clinton is John McCain?

A.T. Barnard, Beverly Hills

All about gender | Sept. 14, letter

Wrong comparison

Let's face it, if Barack Obama weren't an articulate, young, good-looking black male he wouldn't be running as the Democratic candidate for president. Comparing him to Sarah Palin for their potential leadership roles is like night and day. The presidency is not a training job.

Obama has been an Illinois state senator for eight years and a U.S. senator for less than three years. In Washington he has basically done nothing and voted in absentia more than not. He's run not one form of government large or small for any length of time.

Oh, I'll admit, he's a great, charismatic, ambassador of peace and good will, a "chicken in every pot" kind of guy.

But we need to stop comparing Obama to Palin and compare him to John McCain, someone who has put it all on the line. The Obama folks aren't willing to do that because they know they'd lose.

James Fitzpatrick, Clearwater

Unappealing politics

In one of his many speeches, Lyndon Johnson said, "Don't spit in your soup. We've all got to eat."

The public statements of both candidates for president in the current election cycle are so overloaded with vitriol and hostility, it's enough to cause most Americans to lose their appetite entirely.

Morison Buck, Tampa

Good teaching can be hard to measure 09/15/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 17, 2008 2:17pm]
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