[Susan notes: Here's a great, heartfelt letter, a letter with a purpose.]
Submitted to Birmingham News but not published
What a wonderful piece on the World of Opportunity!
There will never be enough teachers like Steve Orel, but we can do our best to assure that those who have the heart and the understanding, as well as the training, are able to become teachers and are allowed to function at their best.
I, too, have been teaching GED (in the public libraries in Hidalgo County, in the Rio Grande Valley, sometimes funded by communities' HUD funding), since I moved from Wisconsin in 1984, after my husband died, and after we had learned of the terrible neglect of adult education and literacy in Texas (the same as all the states with the most minorities!)
With the "one-size-fits-all-standards" already at least one grade level above normal (more than that in high school), public school teachers are increasingly pressured to raise their student's "scores," to avoid the school's being labeled "low-performing" once too often, one too many students absent from the testing once too often, the school being closed, all staff fired, taken-over (with no coherent plan).
First grade teachers are forced to teach second-grade work, the teachers wiping the students' tears, mopping up their vomit, trying to calm their parents' fears.
And it gets worse as the students are older, the standards rising each year, many students angry, lashing out, landing in court, on probation.
When students say they want to be teachers, and when they're exactly the right kind of person -- except that they will have a terrible time passing the one-size-fits-all math test ("not necessary for most jobs") -- already "leaving behind" countless students -- I just feel sick. The college entrance test is even harder, of course -- with universities not meeting their enrollment goals because people aren't passing the tests.
My organization is fighting to end the "one-size-fits-all" test, to "normalize" and individualize the curriculum and teaching; we've compiled a Personal Petition to end High-Stakes Testing.
Groups or individuals can download it from Susan Ohanian.org, create their own, using some of our ideas (some from Steve Orel, some from students) adding their own, making a signature page, and e-mailing, faxing, or snail-mailing it to key leaders in their state and area.
I've added a "Compromise" that I think can help. Leaders, the U.S. Dept. of (literally, NO) Education must understand that we know what they're trying to do, we won't stand for it anymore, and that we have practical ideas about how it should be done.
There are many, many opinions, ideas, on Susan Ohanian.org every day, which many of the people already know, I'm sure. Let's thank her and use her generous "gift" of publicity to help everyone.
Good luck to all of us!
Peg Thompson Oliver, M.Ed., Coalition of Literacy Services, Edinburg, TX
Peg Thompson Oliver