Those who read Diane Ravitch’s blog already know that Diane, and some of her readers, are organizing a letter writing campaign to President Obama. The goal is to get as many letters to the President as possible on October 17th and October 18th.
The letters are a way to push back on the “education reform” changes that are being pushed at the national level and in states across the nation.
They can specifically address a particular “reform,” such as the absurd standardized testing frenzy or you can take a broader perspective on the need to promote positive developments in public education in the United States.
At the end of this email is a very thoughtful example that one teacher wrote it. Other examples can be found on Diane’s website or click http://dianeravitch.net/?s=October+17
Anthony Cody, another pro-public education blogger has offered to help coordinate the campaign. As you’ll see from the instructions, letters can be sent to Diane, Anthony or directly to the White House. Wait, What? readers are also welcome to send the letters to me or paste them into the comment section and I will format them and send them on to Diane. My email is [email protected]
Here is Diane’s latest blog post on the October 17th effort.
Our campaign is meant to include everyone who cares about public education: students, parents, teachers, principals, school board members, and concerned citizens. We want everyone to write the President and tell him what needs to change in his education policies.
Tell your friends about the Campaign. Ask them to join us. If you have a blog, write about it. Wherever you are, spread the news. Join us.
Here are the instructions:
You can send your letter to Anthony Cody or to this blog.
Or you can send it directly to the White House, with a copy to me or Anthony.
Anthony will gather all the emails sent to him and me and forward them to the White House.
1. Email your letters to [email protected]
2. Or submit them as comments to this blog. You can respond to this post or to any other post on this blog about the October 17 Campaign for Our Public Schools.
All letters collected through these two channels will be compiled into a single document, which will be sent to the White House on Oct. 18.
In ADDITION to this,
3. You can mail copies of your letters through US mail to The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 20500
4. You can send them by email from this page: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments
If you choose to write or email the White House, please send us a copy so we can keep track of how many letters were sent to the President.
One more thought: when you write to the President, also write to your Senators and Congressman or -woman and to your state legislator and Governor. Send the same letter to them all.
Let’s raise our voices NOW against privatization, against high-stakes testing, against teacher bashing, against profiteering.
Let’s advocate for policies that are good for students, that truly improve education, that respect the education profession, and that strengthen our democratic system of public education.
Let’s act. Start here. Start now.
Join our campaign. Speak out. Enough is enough.
Here is a great example of a letter that one teacher wrote
Dear President Obama,
I am teacher and a lifelong Democrat. I have voted in every presidential election since I was old enough to vote. I’m certainly not going to vote for Mr. Romney but for the first time in my adult life I am considering not voting at all. I can not in good conscience support the educational policies espoused by you and your Secretary of education, Arne Duncan. I know many teachers who are facing the same crisis of conscience. When you ran for president four years ago, I like many of my colleagues, were full of hope that you might take measures to address the negative outcomes that were the result of the No Child Left Behind mandates. Instead, The Race to the Top, standardization, and privatization are destroying our public schools.
Although I agree that teachers should not be evaluated by test scores, this is not my principle concern. Inside the school building, there are three stakeholders. The students, the teachers and the administrators. A wise middle school principal of my acquaintance has pointed out that the students should always be considered first, the teachers second and the administrators third. When so much time is being spent on teaching the student how to do well on standardized tests, can it truly be argued that we are putting the student first? Bloom’s revised taxonomy suggests that there are six levels of learning. The bottom of the pyramid starts with remembering and then moves upwards to understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and finally creating. At best, standardized testing might measure the bottom two skills. The united States has always been recognized for its innovation and creativity. Do we really want our teachers to ignore the top four learning skills in order to conform to a “one size fits all” concept that doesn’t recognize student abilities, interests and needs. The other major stakeholder in education is our students’ parents. We are seeing more and more of them who are expressing dismay at what we have to do to keep from becoming a school in need of improvement. Many are seeking alternatives such as Waldorf Schools where students are treated as creative human beings rather than as fodder for data. I come from a long tradition of teachers and even my own grandchildren are all going to a Waldorf School. My daughters’ families are willing to make personal financial sacrifices so that their sons and daughters will not be exposed to the standardization that was mandated by the Bush Administration and now yours.
I have been fortunate to witness the outcomes of student based learning. Students who are engaged in an environment where they may pursue some of their own interests blossom into true learners. Standardized testing is alienating not only our teachers but also, more importantly, our students. NECAP test prep is about the worst possible way I can think of to engage potential learners at the start of a new school year. I actually had a student suggest to me that we should find a way to fill a bucket with what is on the tests. Then we should bore a hole in the students’ heads and pour the contents of the bucket into the hole. Is this how we want our students to see education?
The Common Core Standards may very well be useful guidelines but they do not teach the students to infer. Interpreted literally, they are fostering a mentality coming from the top down that each teacher must cover the same material at exactly the same pace and during the same time period. Most teachers don’t believe in this methodology but they are afraid to speak up in fear of losing their jobs. The top levels of the taxonomy are being lost to what appears to be an effort to make everyone be the same. 21st Century learners need to be creative problem solvers, not mindless automatons. Studies have shown that formative assessment is much more effective than summative assessment and yet we spend an inordinate amount of time on cumulative assessments that address only the lower levels of learning. As one educator has said,”Rigor is not giving the students difficult stuff, it is the quality of the feedback.” The feedback from standardized tests is not high quality. Noam Chomsky from MIT has pointed out that it is not what is covered that is important, it is what the student discovers that matters.
Mr. President and Mr. Duncan please realize that your present policies are not only demoralizing teachers, these policies are also doing our students a great disservice. Those of us who choose to teach do it not for monetary reward. it is however not unreasonable to assume that we should be able to earn a respectable professional income. We don’t work to win monetary recognition for high test scores. Doing so does not set a good example for our students. Bribing our students to do well on the tests is also not a good model for future adult behavior.
I want to support you on November 6 but I don’t know if I can. Do we really want a society where only the students who go to private schools will be the creative thinkers of the future? Education is not a basketball game. The Race To The Top only creates a few winners and many losers. The losers are also the future of our country. Please listen to those of us who have devoted our lives to helping our students become lifelong learners and thoughtful productive citizens in a free society. Diversity, not standardization is what has brought out the best in the United States of America.