The middle-school improvements cited ("U.S. education secretary praises school improvement efforts at Northwest Middle," Dec. 5) do not certify that emphasis on performance pay is beneficial. If a similar grant were given to a similar school situation elsewhere in Utah or in the country and given with the direction that administration and staff agree on how to spend that grant, it would result in a far more accurate portrayal of results.

In the instance of the middle school cited, it proves nothing. As one who taught for 30 years in high school (history and political science) and 10 years at the University of Missouri-St Louis, I have some insight in these matters. Our secretary of education should not offer the experience at the middle school cited to suggest that merit pay is a good thing. If I had a child enrolled in a school district which announced implementation of merit pay, I would be in the principal’s office wanting to know if my child gets the merit teacher or just a plain teacher.

Merit pay divides the community of patrons and it divides the staff. It causes perceptive students to wonder why a classmate other than himself/herself gets the merit-pay teacher if he/she did not. If the secretary of education wants proof of an educational practice, research methods should be employed.

Ken Curtis

Valley Park, Mo.