Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

NCLB Outrages

Let Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole Smith speak for herself

Anne Trudeau,Portland parent, Comment: Things are heating up in Portland. We just got our test scores here in Portland Public Schools. The local NPR station did a talk show about it and it unleashed quite a dialog.

Like Peter Campbell, my husband and I pulled our child from PPS. Seeing the devastating effects of NCLB on day to day life in the classroom was a major reason. NCLB is designed to dismantle our public school system and privatize it. Consultants, textbook publishers, and testing companies are getting rich, while teachers and students and parents are struggling to salvage some kind of joyful, meaningful learning experiences out of what little time they have left after test prep and testing.

I don't think there is such a thing as being "apolitical" about NCLB. Enforcing it, not speaking out, adopting the language around it are all ways of supporting it. Multiple school boards across the country (including one in Utah, for crying out loud) have taken vocal stands against NCLB. Yet the PPS and our school board still support it, despite teachers and parents saying it is destroying our educational system. I applaud parents who won't succumb to the pressure to test, who refuse to allow their children to be pawns in this game. And my big heroes are teachers who refuse to test--like Carl Chew in Seattle, Washington. Read his letter in support of another teacher who spoke out.

by Terry Olson

Just as it's ridiculous to expect to get a straight and honest answer from the President's press secretary, why assume you'll get one from any of the many (way too many) spokespersons employed by Portland Public Schools? Their job is to put the best possible spin on policy passed down from on high -- from the desk of the district's superintendent, Carole Smith.

That's why Wednesday's Think Out Loud discussion on the impact of No Child Left Behind, with featured guest Sarah Carlin Ames, a public relations flack for PPS, was so disappointing.

Even more disappointing, however, was the response of another PPS PR employee, Robb Cowie, Carlin Ames' boss. In response to a challenge by Peter Campbell to Ames to "take leadership position(s) on this issue and inform the public about whatâs really going on in our schools," Cowie wrote:

"But itâs not appropriate for school district staff â teachers, principals, communications office staff, or even the superintendent â to express their personal views about legislation when they are speaking on behalf of the school district."

Excuse me? It's not appropriate for the superintendent to speak on behalf of the district? If not the superintendent, then who? On whose desk does Truman's "buck" stop?

Let me suggest to the district (and the school board, Smith's putative boss) that in the future, encourage Carole Smith to speak for herself on behalf of the district regarding substantive policy issues. Relegate the PR people to writing the newsletter and press releases. And responding to questions from district stakeholders about the intricacies of navigating the transfer policy, or why the restrooms in certain schools haven't been fixed or the lawns mowed.

But do not allow them to accept invitations to programs like Think Out Loud where substantive policy issues are going to be discussed. Send Carole Smith instead.

I for one would like to hear more about the actual impact of the No Child Left Behind law on district schools. Calling the law "odd" just doesn't cut it.

— Terry Olson, with comment by Anne Trudeau
Olson Online


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.