[Susan notes: What a fine, strong letter, written from the position of principled righteousness. Note that Don Perl has been there--on the front line--refusing to give a state test he knew harmed children. No longer a classroom teacher, he is still on the frontlines, working hard to dismantle that test.
I loved the way he signed himself: Citizen.
Submitted to to the governor but not published
Governor Bill Owens
136 State Capitol
Denver, Colorado 80203
Dear Governor Owens:
First I would like to offer a belated congratulations for all your hard work supporting Referenda C and D. In large part, because of your efforts, the citizens of Colorado will benefit in so many ways. Of course there are disagreements about spending priorities. However, we at last have the luxury of debate about how much and where to earmark funds.
I would also like to acknowledge that after almost five years I have finally succeeded in eliminating the demons of anger that have haunted me about the governor's office. In February of 2001, my wife received a call from a Denver radio station. The message stated that Governor Owens was encouraging "Don Perl's resignation from teaching in the public schools or would support his being fired." This, of course, was in the wake of my boycott of CSAP testing in February of 2001. So, with that history now behind me, I can now write concisely and thoughtfully to you of what my colleagues and I have observed in these past five years and what we hope to accomplish.
These colleagues: teachers, parents, and concerned citizens are witnessing powerful forces enslaving public education. These forces are sorting and labeling our next generation and, at best, turning them into test takers, and at worst further alienating them from each other and from their elders. We see schools pitting themselves against each other instead of looking for avenues of cooperation. We continue to spend millions of dollars annually on administering CSAP tests, the results of which are dependent primarily on socio-economic status. Doctoral studies by Colorado Professors David Aske, Lisa Murphy and David Rusk show strong statistical correlations between advantaged students and high test scores. Thus we continue to marginalize our society and by doing so augment the existing atmosphere of tension throughout our schools. Educators know that this kind of tension is the antithesis of meaningful learning.
On behalf of our Coalition for Better Education, I implore you, Governor, to see beyond the golden calf which is CSAP and to encourage an ambience in our public schools which dignifies the autonomy of our children and of their teachers. So many young people have become alienated from an impersonal testing regimen, a regimen which is truly failing our children. So many of our finest, brightest most nurturing teachers have left the profession or are making plans to leave. All of us yearn to be recognized. Society fluorishes when we value our unique gifts. And these attitudes of individual acceptance begin with our children's first days in school.
Jonathan Kozol in Amazing Grace writes "There are golden moments of childhool which our society has chosen not to seize. We have not nourished this part of the hearts of children...." We could work wonders by turning this present punitive system of ours into a system which encourages our young people to recognize and develop their individual talents.
I have enclosed for your perusal a copy of a flyer which our coalition uses in presentations and which we distribute to parents to alert them to the hazards of high-stakes standardized testing. I also invite you to our website and to the wewbsite of nationally known author and educator, Susan Ohanian, www.susanohanian.org, for more detailed analysis.