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Readers Write

Posted by on Monday, November 23, 2009 in Fall 2009, Read About It.

Pay for performance

Performance pay for teachers is indeed a viable way of improving the very stature of the profession. It has long been felt that undifferentiated, lock-step salary schedules serve equally well as disincentives. Highly motivated individuals who believe their growth and development will be impeded by preset pay scales are not likely to consider education as their career of choice. In providing identical salaries to all personnel with like degrees and like experience, districts simply succeed in rewarding mediocrity. Equitability may shoot for that proverbial golden mean, but in reality, the best teacher gets no more than the slacker. The process could be compared to giving everyone in class a “C.”

Master teachers need performance-based remuneration. This is why Matthew Springer’s report deserves widespread recognition. Paying teachers for their performance can also help retention.

As Springer points out regarding a study in question, “The probability of turnover increased sharply among teachers receiving no bonus. . . .”
There is no denying that past attempts to reward master teachers have met with numerous difficulties. Assessment has always been a major stumbling block. Opponents of merit pay contend there is no way to judge performance objectively or to clearly quantify the end results of teaching. How then to determine the gifted and talented among the faculty? Sustainability of effort is yet another cause for concern.

As the Springer report suggests, however, we must not let the difficulties of the task deter us from providing incentives that could attract the best minds to the profession.

Robert F. Schambier, EdD’85
Peoria, Ariz.

More research by Springer on performance pay initiatives can be found at:

Lessons Learned

As parent of a first-year student whose child will be entering Vanderbilt this fall, I am trying to get a feel of what the atmosphere and environment is like there. Reading your article makes me feel more and more comfortable each day knowing there are faculty members [like Professor Sharon Shields] who love and enjoy the students.

Caroline Fofana
Dallas, Texas

What a wonderful example of intergenerational living and learning!

Marie Hardenbrook
Assistant Professor of the Practice of Secondary Education
Peabody College

Editor’s Note: The Rev. Dr. Alan Shields, affectionately known as “Pop” to members of The Commons community, died July 28. “What a life gift to have Alan Shields as my dad—and what a wonderful gift to be able to share the inaugural year of The Commons with him. We had a wonderful time here together, and he considered this community our family,” Sharon Shields said. “I will be forever grateful to Vanderbilt for affording us the privilege to live and serve together on this campus.”

On a mission

Thank you for the article about Jackie Page. I attended Peabody with her as well as being a friend in a local church group. She was so bright and an inspiration to all around her. What a wonderful mind and heart in a limited physical body!

Pam Cravens Hackleman
BS’63, MA’64
Houston, Texas

reflections-thumbWhat a whirl

The photograph “Spring Whirl” by John Russell was striking and brought back vivid memories of my time at Peabody. The magazine is top quality; please keep up the good work!

Joan C. Fingon, EdD’90
Los Angeles, Calif.

Please extend my compliments to John Russell for this outstanding photograph. My daughter graduated from Vanderbilt in 2003 with a degree in human and organizational development, and I remember visiting on a day similar to the one pictured here, sharing lunch on one of the benches and thinking what a magnificent view it was. Now I have a photograph to view to help remind me of that pleasant day. If ever there would be a copy available to purchase, please let me know.

Kathleen Harlan
Terre Haute, Ind.

Editor’s Note: This photo, among many other Vanderbilt shots, is available for sale from Replay Photos at


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