November 2009 Your Turn

What’s the key to getting better teachers? When asked to weigh two strategies -- improving working conditions and/or enacting market-based reforms in areas like salaries and bonuses -- most of you favored both options but put more emphasis on working conditions.

“Teachers are not given the respect they should have for all that they do as they change the world each day in educating every child,” said Louise Carlton, a Virginia board member. “Raising the pay, providing better working conditions and a better supply of materials, and fixing our school buildings in the small rural areas and in the inner city would all go a long way to lifting the profession. We do the most important job of all: touch lives.”

For the record, 18 percent of respondents picked better working conditions, and 9 percent chose market-based reforms. Among the 73 percent who favored both strategies, 56 percent put more weight on improving working conditions, and 44 percent emphasized market-based reforms.

Some readers said their opinions didn’t match the choices provided.

“Actually, a good teacher is one who is continually learning, has deep content knowledge, can teach relevant skills, and develop good relationships,” wrote Minnesota board member Kristine Thompson. “Your question sets up a false dichotomy.”

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