What teachers want

Seth Kahn’s brilliant response to Thomas Friedman’s “Teaching for America” perfectly captures what the teachers I know want and puts the whole “merit pay” thing into perspective:

To the Editor:

I agree with Thomas L. Friedman that we need to elevate the status of teaching in our country in order to recruit quality teachers consistently.

All the talk about merit pay misses what motivates the best teachers. We — including those of us who teach at the college level — care about support for our work, some of which is pay, but also facilities, resources, equipment, reasonable class sizes and so on.

If Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, wants to recruit the best teachers, he needs to make schools better places to work. He needs to convince anti-education and antigovernment conservatives that school budgets and curriculums aren’t appropriate places to fight the culture wars.

And he needs to stop antagonizing teachers’ unions just to show that he is willing to.

Seth Kahn
West Chester, Pa., Nov. 21, 2010