Monday, November 20, 2006

Letter to the editor

I had to try again. Here is a letter to the editor of the editorial pages complaining:

Dear Mr. Williams;

You printed part of a letter from me today. You gave it a headline that I did not write and which changed the point of the letter in a subtle but significant way. This is what I wrote:

As long as the Observer looks at our school system's problems in a vacuum we will get editorials like Education Essentials, Observer 11/16/06. Teachers leave schools where it is unpleasant to work and try and move to schools where there is a better work environment. We have a teacher shortage and your idea is to pay the new ones poorly and make the experienced ones work in unpleasant environments. I bet the woman with the high-risk pregnancy really enjoys the Observer piling on as she is pilloried for trying to work through a difficult problem. As you ought to know she is protected by the ADA. Every time I see “highly effective” in the paper I wonder whose kids deserve to get the highly ineffective teachers? When you can answer that question, and explain how to make high poverty schools attractive places to work, you may be getting close to a solution.

A bit scattered but I was trying to get my point into 150 words. You printed the first sentence and the last two sentences under the headline "Who wants to work in a high poverty school" Had you chosen to leave the second sentence in the published version that part of my intent would have survived the edit. The question is not "Who wants to work in a high poverty school," it is why, despite higher pay, do experienced teachers transfer out of them as fast as they can.

What is really going on here is that I was criticizing the Observer, not the school system. The world is balanced, if there are great teachers then there must be terrible ones. You never address whose kids should get the poor quality teachers. Your parroting of the complaints about the woman with the high risk pregnancy was inexcusable. She might be great, she might have chosen to work at that school to try and make a difference. From your description every teacher, and most of the students, at Harding know who she is. You beat up on her publicly and you know nothing about her. Read the big article in the NYTimes today about student performance. Teachers did not create the problems with achievement gaps or behavior that curse our schools. Mom and dad did that. Teachers do the best they can to fix these problems they did not cause with inadequate resources. The should be inspiring excellence and they spend their days on discipline and achievement gaps. The Observer's editorial board, just like the parents of the kid with a bad grade, blames the teachers. I think you should support our teachers, not beat them up at every opportunity.

Garry Ballenger


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