Thursday, January 21, 2010

Race to the Top: Four More Years of NCLB Education Policy??? Thank You Mr. Duncan!

I have struggled immensely over the past two days over just what I could possibly say about Secretary Arne Duncan’s and the Obama administration’s new education initiative called “Race to the Top.” Honestly, as a voter and supporter both electorally and monetarily of the Obama presidency, I feel disappointment. As a veteran educator who has struggled immensely and painfully with my fellow teachers and administrators through the past eight or so years of No Child Left Behind, I feel saddened. As an individual who had hoped the new administration might set things right again through sensible education policy I feel betrayed. Betrayed to the point now that I almost regret my choices during the past election cycle.

In trying to think what I would possibly say to President Obama if I were to post an open letter like Anthony Cody does here, I think at this point I am too disappointed to make a logical argument. I am sure I would like to post more later, but right now I would like President Obama and Secretary Duncan know that I feel they have let the teachers and administrators across this nation down by blindly continuing the same primary emphasis on testing educators have been subjected to for the last eight years. Teachers are going to feel pressure even more now to “teach to test” because policy will have forced schools to tie evaluations to test scores. This same policy will have also forced administrators like myself to move test scores much higher in the educational scheme because my own evaluation will be tied to them. Ultimately, this policy has will push US schools further behind because instead of teaching 21st century skills, students will be learning how to choose the correct answer to a multiple choice test and how to make sure their bubbles are completely filled in.

I honestly think it is a shame that the Obama administration and Secretary Duncan are actually taking advantage of states in this time of need by reintroducing the same policies when states are starving for additional funding, and the only way to obtain that funding is basically sign over control of public education to the federal government by accepting their reform agenda regardless of its proven effectiveness. I know not all states can stand up to this bribery like Texas has because a billion dollar education shortfall is impossible to fill. But honestly, I sort of hoped for a little integrity out of the Department of Education specifically and President Obama generally. It is just wrong to introduce this kind of measure when states are so strapped for money. To the President and Secretary Duncan, I can only say the following right now:

“Mr. President and Secretary Duncan, I do not have a letter written yet, and I am not sure I am ready to write in a logical and entirely coherent manner because I am so disappointed. No, as an educator, my heart is breaking and I literally hurt because of the actions taken with this “Race to the Top” program. You have not made our jobs easier. You have not even made reform easier. You have actually just created “No Child Left Behind Part II” and this horror story is just as bad as part I. Yes, we all want what is best for children, and we all want them to attend schools where everyone learns. But the lesson your administration should have learned from NCLB has been lost already. I can only hope that both of you will reconsider and re-evaluate the harm you have done to public education by these actions.”

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