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[Susan notes: The writer, a teacher, asks the crucial question about merit pay.]

Published in USA Today
02/05/2004

To the editor



Exams tell only part of story



USA TODAY claims that school administrators can quantify how much knowledge a teacher imparts to students by using the students' exam results. As a teacher, I can assure you that this is far from the case.



A few years ago, my students achieved the highest average score of any public school on the New York statewide eighth-grade math test. The following year, the results were in the middle. Did I become a poorer teacher during one year? Actually, it can be harder to teach students who do not get great scores than it is to work with high achievers.



It would be great to reward excellent instructors by increasing their salaries, but teachers are right to fear that merit pay would not be fairly distributed, especially if students' test scores become a decisive measurement of their teachers' effectiveness.



David Denison


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