California needs to look beyond its initiative on teacher tenure

Your Oct. 25 editorial "Weeding out bad teachers" supported California's controversial Proposition 74, which would increase the probationary period for new teachers from two to five years. As a future California teacher currently gaining experience abroad, I strongly object to this proposition.

Before we deny job security to some of the hardest working, most important, and least appreciated public employees, I'd like to see some hard data proving that the probationary period is the right course of action. That the idea "makes intuitive sense" is not enough.

The way to get rid of bad teachers is to make the job more desirable to good teachers. Increased pay; less standardized testing; less state control of classrooms; and increased funding for supplies, school improvements, and extracurricular activities will all help recruit young people to the teaching profession, which will in turn enable schools to select only the best applicants and improve the quality of California schools.

Decreasing teachers' job security and stigmatizing them by implicitly blaming them for the problems with our school system will only shrink the pool of applicants, forcing schools to hire teachers regardless of age, experience, or ability. Proposition 74 won't get rid of bad teachers; it will force school districts to hire more of them.
Morgan Agnew
Shantou, China

The California proposal to increase the probationary period of teachers is no panacea for improving teaching, but it is a tool for school administrators to use when supervising and evaluating the relatively inexperienced. As in any profession, there will be some who perform better than others. The process of trying to help weaker teachers is a long and complicated one. It involves identifying strengths and weaknesses, offering strategies to build on strengths and reduce weaknesses, and, finally, to decide on a teacher's worthiness to continue in the profession. This process is "rocket science," and it usually can't be completed in a year or two.
Michael McCaffrey
Yarmouthport, Mass.

Education is the key to gun safety

I am writing in response to Susan DeMersseman's Oct. 27 Opinion piece, "One family's effort to make guns safer." Firearms are a very simple tool, and like other tools should be treated with respect and with a high regard to safety. While I feel for the loss of a young child, I find it hard to find a company liable for the misuse of their product.

Anyone who has any firearms experience can tell you that the first lesson one learns is "Every firearm is always loaded." There is no gray area here. The fact that the 15-year-old boy didn't know this lesson and that he had unsupervised access to a firearm that resulted in the accidental death of his friend is neither the fault nor the responsibility of anyone besides the guardians of this child.

Additional "safety" features are neither necessary nor advisable. Safety features such as gun locks or keyed locks on the firearm decrease the ability of someone to use it defensively and unnecessarily increase the cost of firearms. In addition, these features become ineffective if the owners don't understand firearms safety in the first place.

Responsible owners have myriad options for gun safety ranging from the most mundane and effective method of education to other methods such as gun safes, locked closets, or disassembly. Education is the ultimate gun-safety feature.
Ken Orce Jr.

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