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[Susan notes: A longtime teacher points out that the Chicago Plan now being pushed onto our schools failed in Chicago.]

Published in Louisville Courier-Journal

To the editor

Ask a teacher what works in education

As an educator of 26 years, I am saddened by the recent legislation created by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and supported by the President. The recent "Race to the Top" education grants create a competition (much like a basketball game) and award points for programs such as merit pay, charter schools and other programs that are detrimental to the success of students. This plan failed miserably in the Chicago Public Schools, of which Duncan was superintendent.

We know competition creates winners and losers. Do we want to encourage a system for education that promotes losers? Should teachers be held responsible for the test scores of students who were not in their classrooms for the first four or more years of their lives (kind of like being held accountable for the eight years of a previous administration) ΓΆ€” students who may have been born addicted to drugs, abused and/or neglected, as well as a whole gamut of influences that affect learning that we have no control over?

Could I have influence over the test scores of a student who reported sexual abuse to me on the first day of CATS testing or those of the student who soils himself daily because of previous abuse? Should my merit as a teacher be based on this?

Isn't it sad to live in a country that rewards its athletes with million-/billion-dollar contracts but provides salaries to its teachers equal to the poverty level in many cases, forcing those teachers to take on second and summer jobs in order to provide for their families?

It is truly shameful that we value our children the least in a country of such progress. Until the people who make decisions about education are educators and until we can place a dollar value on our children equal to our athletes, while holding parents accountable for their child's success as much as their teachers, we will not have an education system that produces citizens who can compete with the nations that surpass us now. Only when we provide programs that encourage teachers to do their best and not penalize them for situations beyond their control will we create a future teaching force second to none.

If you want to know what works in education, ask an educator.

Jennifer Alexander

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