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[Susan notes: Here is an educator who refuses to remain silent.]

Submitted to The Honorable Barack Obama but not published

The Honorable Barack Obama

President of the United States of America

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I didn't think your administration practiced blackmail, but that is what Secretary Duncan’s "Race to Top" will be as it is currently proposed. I am outraged at that merit pay, charter schools, and test scores are all being hailed as saviors to public education. They aren’t.

Merit pay doesn't work. Furthermore, if the definition of merit pay rests on test scores, then you can guarantee ALL of the following: cheating, narrowed curriculum, a severe lack of teachers to teach those most in need in poverty-stricken areas, and students who can't do anything but fill in bubbles on scan sheets.

Charter schools are no better than their public school counterparts. In one recent study there were only 17% that were better, 46% the same, and 37% were worse than public schools. One recent article from the Dallas Morning News by Matthew Haag I read about Imagine Charter suggests that it is in the real estate business much more than the education business with its schools paying 40% of the received state revenues in rent. In Colorado the head of one charter school operation, Lawrence Hernandez, that has perhaps 2,000 students, was paid over $260,000 as CEO, his wife over $130,000 as COO, and the CFO over $150,000. Hernandez's pay is higher than any superintendent in Colorado. These are just two examples of what I believe is at best unethical use of public funds, and at worst, criminal use of public funds. Secretary Duncan's infatuation with charter school has no basis in proven success.

Finally, standardized tests are destroying public education. In addition to being a teacher, I am a parent. My son didn’t receive any science instruction last year prior to March when the CSAP was given. The time was spent in test preparation. I don't care how my son does on the CSAP. He is a special needs child, and I am much more concerned that he learns how to get along with his classmates, that he comes to love to read, develops a curious mind, and acts like a gentleman. Test prep doesn't give him any of these. Test prep doesn’t give any of the students anything they need.

In the book Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America’s Schools, authors Sharon Nichols and David Berliner write, "Once again the United States faces a severe crisis, once again the dangers do not seem imminent, and once again politicians and federal agencies are being alerted to the danger. This time it is not merely a few individuals but literally thousands, particularly teachers, who believe there is danger. Sadly, as in the past, the counsel of these many individuals is unheeded by those who wield political power."

Unfortunately, I expect to be ignored again as I have already written you with my concerns about the direction of the policies being implemented by the United States Department of Education. But for the Obama Administration to remain ignorant is unforgivable. But I will not be silent. I will let everyone I know of the ignorance, of the wrong-headed policies, of the arrogance that is being pushed as education reform.


Sean Michael Black, M. A., Ed. S.

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