Re: "How do we identify the good ones?" (letter, 5-4).
Having once been a student does not qualify anyone to think they know what a teacher does, unless one has taught for a while.
Being a retired teacher, I saw many changes in education. To compare U.S. education to other nations is unfair, as we have the only school system I know of that tries to educate everyone in sometimes the same classroom: disabled students, non-English speakers, and students whose parents may be poorly educated or who may not value education.
The biggest predictors of how well a student will do in school are income and the education level of parents. Up until the mid 1970s, students who did poorly in school were allowed to drop out after eighth grade.
Teachers’ jobs have become much more complex and difficult as a result. They are expected to meet all students' needs, and, with the emphasis on testing, to be graded and perhaps paid on how well students do on standardized tests.
To think any school is going to have a 100 percent success rate on any test is statistical nonsense. That is why teachers want lower class sizes and a respectful wage as they continue to go back to classes to keep up to date.