Do you really want to go down in history as the president who killed public education? If not, it is time to stop listening to your advisors, including Arne Duncan, who are busy selling what has been the greatest public education system in the history of the world, to corporate interests that have no direct connection to the children in the program. It is time for you to start listening to parents and teachers who are closest to the problem.
Sending money to the states and districts that can write the best proposal has siphoned dollars away from the children who need it most, those in schools with high rates of poverty in our most economically hard-hit school districts. Researchers have long known that the biggest obstacle to improving achievement is not teachers, but the many manifestations of poverty that affect learning. Redirect the efforts of your administration to the reduction of the effects of poverty if you really want to improve the chances of these children.
Reliance on high-stakes test scores as a measure of accountability must end. Education assessment experts have recommended from the start that the tests are not designed to make decisions about the lives of children and now your administration has pushed states and districts to use tests, that are not even useful for truly evaluating children’s achievement, to evaluate teachers. This ridiculous extension of the purpose of high-stakes tests will go down in history as a waste of time, money, and the careers of highly competent teachers. The practice must end. Many forms of real assessment are available if you really want to measure achievement. The National Assessment of Educational Progress already exists and has shown that the reform efforts of the past decade, the very ones your administration is championing, have not proven helpful and, in fact, have exacerbated the drop out problem.
To reiterate, your education policies are digging us into a deeper hole. It is time to stop digging, call in some real experts, parents and teachers, to plan a turn around and beginning climbing out of the pit NCLB and RttT have put us in.
With hope for the future of public education,
Robert J. Valiant, Ed.D.
(Robert Valiant is a retired assistant superintendent, education consultant, and curriculum specialist, and one of the founders of http://dumpduncan.org/ . He is deeply concerned about the direction of education reform and the effect it has on his grandchildren.)