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[Susan notes: This is a great letter, revealing the cynicism of bonus-pay schemes, which are one more way to insist that teachers are lousy.]

Published in Newsday

To the editor

Arthur Levine and Darlyne Bailey's article, "The time is right to improve our worst schools" [Opinion, Sept. 13], states that "vast numbers" of children in high-poverty areas of New York City suffer a limitation of their possibilities because of the teachers who serve them. They say teachers in ghetto schools have neither high skills nor sufficient experience and need to be replaced by teachers who are more able (just not willing to do the job at current levels of pay).

In promising to "dramatically improve" schools through a bonus-pay scheme, the writers echo a business-model assumption that wisdom and talent always follow money. They also suggest that no one is currently working in a poor neighborhood by choice. From my 10 years teaching in high-poverty schools, I find both assumptions unwarranted.

An attempt to resolve deep-rooted problems with a new pay scheme is apt to spread the cynicism further. It's not hard to imagine dismay on the part of parents who learn that their conditions of poverty have become a bonanza for the local school staff. Newly arriving teachers are likely to enjoy less trust from the families they serve. They can say they like the challenge, but who will believe them?

Parents in poor areas need a more meaningful role in their schools and a real voice in their school districts more than they need miracle workers.

Editor's note: The writer is a teacher at Samuel J. Tilden High School in Brooklyn.

John Lawhead

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