Teacher's salaries: What's fair?

Regarding your Dec. 4 editorial "Merit pay for teachers": The general public is not well informed as to why many teachers and teachers unions oppose it.

The problem is how and what determines merit. One frequently mentioned option is to tie pay to student scores on standardized tests. In poorer neighborhoods, populations tend to be much more mobile as parents move to find work or a place to live. Absenteeism is a chronic problem. How can teachers be accountable for a student's learning when that child may have been in that teacher's class only a few weeks at most?

Some way needs to be found to evaluate how well a teacher delivers instruction and interacts with students without weighing factors outside the classroom and outside the teacher's control.

Susan Palmer Albuquerque, N.M.

I was surprised by a letter in response to your editorial on merit pay for teachers ("Double the salary of all teachers," Readers write Dec. 11).

Having been married to a teacher, I know the amount of free time that career offers: three months in the summer, two weeks during Christmas, and one week in the spring for teachers-in-service days. Not to mention early retirement and full medical and dental benefits for the entire family. These should be included as salary. Who would pay double that?

Afke L. Doran Silverton, Ore.

Y'all listen up now

Your Dec. 18 article "Pegged by an accent" mentions a "Georgia" accent. There is no one Georgia accent. As someone who has lived and worked in different parts of Georgia for almost 30 years, I have identified at least three accents. They are more a function of geographic location than state boundaries.

There is the accent of the "mountains," which is probably what most would think of as a hillbilly accent; this accent permeates the southeastern mountain regions from northeast Alabama through eastern Tennessee and Kentucky and into southwestern Virginia and southern West Virginia. There is the "piedmont" accent, where "toe" becomes "two" and "show" becomes "shoo," shared by northeastern Georgia and the Carolina "midlands." And there is the syrupy-sweet, lilting, "r"-dropping, Southern accent of Scarlett O'Hara, indigenous to natives (not transplants) of the arc of the coastal plains from southern Mississippi to Tidewater Virginia, and including middle and south Georgia.

As a native Alabamian with a "natural" accent most like the "mountain" accent mentioned above, I have no trouble imitating any of these. Each of these three contrived categories has myriad variations, which points up the folly of pigeon-holing accents.

Alan Hull Framingham, Mass.

Lithuania top candidate for NATO

I appreciated your Dec. 20 article on the Baltic states membership in NATO, "Baltics look longingly at NATO."

As your article pointed out, Lithuania is widely considered today to be one of the best- prepared candidate countries. Nevertheless, the ultimate outcome will depend on the political will of NATO and the willingness of its member countries to extend stability and security to a part of Europe where stability and security were never taken for granted.

Just over a year ago, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary became members of NATO. This was a major step toward a permanently stable, peaceful, and prosperous Euro-Atlantic community. The United States and other allies should not stop there.

Rolandas Kacinskas Washington Press Secretary, Embassy of Lithuania

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Due to the volume of mail, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number.

Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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