Josh Patashnik's recent article, "Reform School" (March 26), is disappointingly inaccurate. He misquotes my interview in the Concord Monitor, in which I distinguished Obama's innovative teacher compensation proposal from the kind of old-style merit-pay plans that have failed in the past. Also, Patashnik worries that Obama is insufficiently bold on education reform without, apparently, having read Obama's education plan. Patashnik cites favorably the kind of teacher-led compensation reform developed in Denver but seems to be unaware that this plan is one of several cited in Obama's platform as an example of the kind of innovative approach his career ladder plan would seek to support. The plan also promotes a range of incentives to teach in high-need schools, including high-quality alternative approaches to teacher recruitment and preparation and extended time for student learning--all things that Patashnik paints as absent from the debate. Obama's advisers, who hold a wide range of views, agree that new approaches to education reform are essential to create both the incentives and supports for the serious changes needed to upgrade urban schools, transform the teaching profession, and dramatically improve educational achievement. Next time Patashnik wants to characterize the candidates' views, he might want to start by finding out what they are first.
Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education
Josh Patashnik responds:
In my article, I wrote that Professor Darling-Hammond had "emphasized to the Concord Monitor that [Senator Obama's] teachercompensation plan ... wasn't really a performance-pay scheme." The Concord Monitor article shows that she was explicitly contrasting a performance-pay approach with Obama's: "Usually, merit pay meant some kind of bonuses for teachers at the end of the school year, " she told the Monitor. "[Obama's plan] is more like what you would see with lawyers who move from associate to partner at a law firm." I am puzzled by her charge that I seem unaware that Obama cites the Denver teacher-compensation scheme as a model for national reform. My article noted his frequent references to Denver and explained that they are part of the reason education-reform advocates are warm to his candidacy. Finally, my article did not "[paint] as absent from the debate" the other aspects of Obama's education platform Darling- Hammond mentions. I acknowledged that the platform contains a number of innovative ideas. The reformers I interviewed for the article, though, were unanimous in their sentiment that Obama's education plan, while encouraging in places, does not go as far as they would like.
By The Editors