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[Susan notes: I wonder what the answer will be. Can Obama/Duncan continue to steamroll the poverty issue? We need to keep forcing them to face it.]

Submitted to The White House but not published

Dear Mr. President:

I am outraged at your policies regarding public education. They demonstrate EXACTLY how out of touch you are with the challenges and problems that face schools that serve students of poverty. Schools labeled as "under-performing" receive this label primarily based on one measure: standardized test scores.

Your education policies demonstrate the general ignorance of the American public who believe this "tough love" will turn around failing schools. The schools are not the failure. The failure is the American Society that allows twenty-five percent of our children to grow up in poverty, then concentrate those children in certain schools. Then these schools are expected to have students perform just as well as those with high concentrations of middle- and upper-class students. DonĂ¢€™t get me wrong. I know students of poverty can learn. However, the effort to get these students all they need takes two or three times, or even more effort than students of middle- and upper income families. But the schools with high concentrations of poverty are typically under-funded, have a high teacher turnover, and have more teachers with less experience.

If you really think that firing the entire staff of a "low-performing" school is the answer, then I offer this challenge. Don't fire an entire staff, trade the entire staff with a school labeled "high-performing." This would prove whether it is the teachers or students that make the difference in performance. I know no one has the courage to take this challenge. But exactly what is the courage demonstrated by placing the blame for the failure of an American Society that allows one in four children to grow up in poverty on the teachers who work hardest to make sure they get what they deserve in the United States.

If you continue this assault on public school teachers, you will lose not only my support, but you will lose my vote, and the vote of many teachers who are tired of being the scapegoat for politicians who think public education is a political game. At least with George W. Bush, we as public educators knew we were in harm's way of wrong-headed policies. Your administration has taken the worst of those policies, and continued them, and continued to demonstrate monumental ignorance of the reality my colleagues and I face every day.


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

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