Sara Stevenson, librarian at the O. Henry School in Austin and tireless defender of public schools and teachers, wrote this article, which was published in the Austin American-Statesman. Unfortunately, it is behind a pay wall. However, Sara solved that problem by posting it on her personal blog. Sara writes a letter to the editor of The Wall Street Journal whenever it bashes public schools or teachers and whenever it extols the virtues of vouchers; many of them get published. She is a one-woman truth squad for the WSJ.

She writes:

“If teachers are the most important school factor in student achievement, how do our current policies and national conversation help us to grow and retain better teachers? Tenured Stanford University professor Eric Hanushek wants us to fire “bad teachers,” but we should worry more about keeping the good ones. This year my public middle school lost a wave of talent.
To those, such as Wendy Kopp of Teach For America, who believe that experience doesn’t matter, why are our new teachers cautioned, before Back to School Night, not to tell the parents they’re a first-year teacher? Studies cited in Dana Goldstein’s “The Teacher Wars” show that first-year teachers underperform experienced teachers. Hardly surprising. Can you think of any profession in which experience is not an asset?…?

“While teaching may be a respectable starter job for young college graduates, teachers pay dearly over time for their career choice. As Goldstein cites, the median teacher pay in this country is $54,000 while the median pay for a dental hygienist is $70,000. After teaching for 22 years in Texas with a master’s degree, I haven’t even hit the median. I worked for ten years in a Catholic high school where, when I quit in 1999, you could work for thirty years and not break $30,000. None of my salary was pensionable. I cite this for those who think private school vouchers are the answer….

“What worries me most about the current fads of education reform is that they are so demotivating for our most talented teachers. While Daniel Pink reminds us in “Drive” that carrots and sticks are so last century when it comes to motivation, merit pay and punishment for students’ test scores seem to be the preferred reforms….

“Let’s abandon the latest fads for reform and find a way to build and nourish better teachers, the ones we already have. Dana Goldstein’s No. 1 recommendation for improving our schools? Pay teachers more.”

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