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[Susan notes: Sean Black has written a number of letters to Secretary Duncan. None has provoked the courtesy of a reply, but to Sean's great credit, the letters continue.



Go forth and do likewise. ]

Submitted to U. S. Department of Education but not published
06/13/2009

You suggest that merit pay should be the norm and I read that you said, âBut to somehow suggest we should not link student achievement to teacher effectiveness is like suggesting we judge sports teams without looking at the box score.â Exactly what level of sports team do you want to look at? Sure, at the professional level, or at the elite collegiate level the score means everything. But looking at the box score of an 8th grade game tells you little. Okay, I know who won, and who scored points. But is that what is important?



Sir, I am woefully disappointed in your philosophy of education. First, it seems to me, that in your world everything must be counted, quartered, squared, and measured. But in the count, quarter, square, and measure, you fail, Secretary Duncan, to understand that the numbers you use have little or no meaning. Second you are a bully. It is clear that either things are done your way (charter schools and merit pay), or will take your stimulus money and stomp off the playground and go somewhere else where only your opinion counts. In my school, we donât tolerate bullies.



You support charter schools, but when compared to demographically similar public schools, the charters are the schools that come up on the short end, not the public schools. You want to close 5,000 "low-performing schools" and re-open them as charters schools. Who do you think inhabit those schools? They are children. They are children typically of families of poverty and often belong to minorities. So long as you continue to equate standardized test scores with achievement (and thus defining "low-performing", your plan is the one that comes up short. Woefully short. Your quest to close schools and re-open them as charters makes as much sense as having losing baseball teams to re-brand themselves as the New York Yankees and expecting themselves to be winners. Like I already said, your plan is woefully short.



At this point in the term of the Obama administration what frustrates me most is the willful refusal to acknowledge that there are alternatives to merit pay, charter schools, standardized tests, and the general corporate takeover of public schools. The same ignorance that brought us the financial meltdown of 2008 is the same ignorance that is pushing your âeducation reform.â That ignorance is demonstrated every time, you and all the sycophants utter something to the effect that "we must educate our children to compete in the global economy." Nothing is further from the truth and if you donât believe me, please read pieces by Gerald Bracey and Susan Ohanian. Many of the fellows of The Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Education Policy Research Unit at Arizona State University have written President Obama, and done so far more eloquently than I can. Again, I suggest you read what these education experts have to say because if you donât, you are doing a severe disservice to the country. My students deserve better from you.



Sincerely,

Sean Black


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