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[Susan notes: The writer, a long time teacher, is on target in calling pay for performance a gimmick.]

Published in Sacramento Bee

To the editor

Re "Education chief wants a transformation" (Forum, Sept. 20):

Imagine if driving schools were paid according to the scores their students achieved on a written exam.

Would an exclusive emphasis on test scores improve the quality of drivers graduating from these schools?

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has launched a misguided campaign to base school improvement nationwide on "performance pay" tied to test scores. This foolishness echoes the so-called No Child Left Behind Act, which left no child untested but did almost nothing to actually improve education.

In fact, paying teachers to concentrate on test scores lowers overall student achievement.

Nearly all the gap in test scores between middle-income and

lower-income students develops between June and September, when more

advantaged students typically participate in family activities

such as camping, visiting museums and taking gymnastics lessons. To

foster achievement of low-income students, we must educate the whole

person by restoring arts, field trips and shop classes.

Test preparation and a multiple-choice curriculum cannot prepare students for success at university or highly skilled jobs. Equal opportunity for all students requires a broad curriculum for all.

We'll never achieve real, widespread improvement in student achievement if we are distracted by gimmicks such as "performance pay."

George Sheridan

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