[Susan notes: The writers have a combined 83 years experience as educators. We can hope experience counts for something in this administration.]
Published in letter to President Obama
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Barack Obama:
My wife and I hope you are receiving many requests from genuine professional educators to change your approach to education reform. Requests from professional educators are valuable since they contain the valuable information that comes from their on the job experiences of what works best in the education process.
The proposed strategies that trouble public school educators, if they were to be adopted, are the ones that you never had to face as a student. They are the ones that would have denied you an opportunity to demonstrate your own individual ability and achievement. If they are adopted then both teachers and students will be affected adversely.
Under a National Standards driven system teachers will no longer be able to encourage individuals to develop their own potentials since the curriculum will be narrowed to the confines of those standards. Teachers will in effect become uninspiring "trainers"; students will no longer participate in a wide array of curricular options that encourage the awakening of individual genius. The new standard of excellence will be the mediocrity of uniformity. You were not a product of such a system.
And a merit pay system that ties teacher pay to student scores on National Standards can at best reward only those teachers who are fortunate enough to have the most capable students in their classes. At worst, the winning teachers and students will be rewarded only once since there is no way to transcend the mastery of the required standards. Both students and teachers will become cases of arrested development; both losers in what once had been the fertile environment where genius flourished; formerly a place where you possibly dreamed of becoming president.
And school districts with low performing schools, that are being coerced to get federal money by entering the "Race to the Top" reform program with its unworkable requirements, are no more than victims of a rapacious system of corporate and political opportunists who are not genuinely interested in effective education reform. If they were really serious they would be aiming their campaign at the pockets of poverty and deprivation that are at the root of poor performing schools. They would use their capital to create and encourage programs in which deprived people can participate and that produce independence and self-sustaining behaviors. As a youngster you availed yourself of such programs as a way to improve your life and make your dreams come true.
You are a model of thoughtfulness and reflection. You have demonstrated your willingness to correct decisions you've previously made after new information has created a deeper understanding upon which to base those corrections. I'm certain your deep contemplation of the requirements for participation in the Race to the Top program will lead you to suspend such an approach.
Reflection on your own participation in the inspiring freedom of your past education opportunities will stand in stark contrast to the stagnant lack of possibilities the Race to the Top offers those in education now.
Bill Archer, Retired public educator, (39 years) M Counseling
Sandra Blackburn, Retired public educator, (44 years) M Ed
Bill Archer & Sandra Blackburn