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[Susan notes: George Sheridan makes a good point about the actual effect of mass teacher layoffs.]

Submitted to Washington Post but not published

To the editor

Re Bill Gates Plan

Declaring a substantial number of teachers "unsatisfactory" is not an effective way to improve American public education. Regardless of the methods or criteria used for teacher evaluation, evaluation will not benefit students if its primary purpose is to seek out and identify "unsatisfactory" teachers.

What schools need most is more resources: more teachers, librarians, counselors and books, even more technology.

"Satisfactory" is a slippery word. Many excellent teachers are not "satisfied" with their professional practice, thinking that there is always some way to improve. But these dedicated professionals are not "unsatisfactory" in the sense of being failures. And there is no easy way to replace them with others who would be more "satisfactory."

In fact the actual effect of mass teacher layoffs has been to expose students to under prepared and less effective substitutes.

For the few teachers currently working in public schools who are clearly unsatisfactory, we don't need a new way to identify them. We need more competent administrators who will motivate and assist them to become effective or will terminate them.

George Sheridan

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