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[Susan notes: It's no surprise that Thomas Friedman and Arne Duncan sing the same song, but getting a list of the errors into the Times is good.]

Published in New York Times
01/26/2014

To the editor



Re Obama's Homework Assignment:

While I applaud Thomas L. Friedman's call for parental accountability in our nation's schools, I am surprised by his use of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as a spokesman. Mr. Duncan's own record has helped to create and perpetuate the very situation decried by the educators whom Mr. Friedman cites, in which teachers are "interrogated" and, ultimately, blamed, when students fail to succeed.



Mr. Duncan's "Race to the Top," by tying teacher evaluation to student academic performance, reinforces that climate. The secretary is an adherent of the "outcomes-based model" that also gave us No Child Left Behind. Supporters of this model don't want any student written off as "unteachable," but err in assuming that teachers, provided a big enough stick (merit-based pay reductions, threat of dismissal), can turn around any student's achievement, no matter the mitigating circumstances.



Schools and families need to work together, sharing responsibility for getting reluctant or disengaged kids to buckle down and commit to learning. If President Obama -- and Secretary Duncan -- want to start singing that tune, I, too, would welcome it.



The writer is a high school English teacher and an adjunct professor of education at Lesley University.

David Nurenberg


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