Dear President Obama,
We, the undersigned, a cross section of the nation’s parents, teachers and their supporters, wish to express our extreme displeasure with the policies implemented during your administration. We find the following four dimensions of your administration’s education initiatives to be counter productive:
- The use of federal funds to compel states and municipalities to use high-stakes tests to monitor student achievement and to use these student test scores in the evaluation of teachers and as the basis for closing low performing schools.
- The use of rhetoric which blames failing schools on “bad teachers” rather than poverty, lack of resources, and neighborhood distress.
- The exclusion of parents, students, teachers, and other education professionals in policy discussions in the U.S. Department of Education.
- Promotion of policies that result in loss of control by locally elected school boards.
Because of these policies, teachers, parents, and students throughout the nation have become discouraged and demoralized, undermining your own stated goals of improving teacher quality, upgrading the nation’s educational performance, and encouraging creative pedagogy rather than “teaching to the test.”
We therefore submit the following measures to put your administration’s education policy back on the right track and to bring teachers and parents in as full partners in this effort:
- End the use of incentives or penalties to compel states and municipalities to use test scores as a basis for evaluating students and teachers, preferring charter schools to existing public schools, and requiring closure of low performing schools.
- Remove Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education and replace him with a lifetime educator who has the confidence of the nation’s teachers.
- Create a National Commission, in which students, teachers, and parent representatives play a primary role, which explores and recommends how to best improve the quality of America’s schools.
- Incorporate parents, students, teachers, and school administrators in all policy discussion taking place in your administration, inside and outside the Department of Education.
We believe such policies will create an outpouring of good will on the part of teachers, parents and students which will promote creative teaching and educational innovation, leading to far greater improvements in the nation’s schools than policies which encourage a proliferation of student testing could ever hope to do.