A Fundamental Difference

When I started this blog, my son was in school and I was swept up in the fight against excessive testing and standardization in public education. I continued this fight passionately, well after we pulled our son from school and began homeschooling, a choice that is a perfect fit for our family and one that has quite surpassed all expectations. In short, the homeschooling journey has been extraordinary.

My voice in all things public education has diminished and lately almost wholly disappeared, namely because I felt like my opinions didn’t matter anymore. I mean, who am I as a homeschooling parent to tell public school parents and teachers what their business should be? I resisted the ‘our world/ their world’ mantra for quite a while, but over time became exasperated as the tension between these two worlds became too much and I realized that clearly the allies for whom I had been fighting did not see the unity between our two worlds as much as I did.

I still believe that all children, regardless of the type of educational environment they find themselves in, deserve a meaningful education in which they play a primary role in their own discoveries. I still believe that parents have the right to be fully involved in their children’s education, and I still believe that teachers ought to have the freedom to exercise their expertise in the classroom. But for me, the fight against testing and top-down control became just a tiny part of what does not work in public education, at least not for me or my kids. And I realize that, while my opinion might not mean much to those that choose to remain committed to public education, I am still entitled to my opinions.

Even now that I linger at the sidelines when it comes to discussions of public education, they surround me everywhere I go. Sometimes I feel like I learn more about how people really feel as a fly on the wall than I ever did as an activist leader of a major Opt Out group. Whether I’m waiting outside my kids’ gymnastics or getting my hair cut, everyone seems to be complaining about education.

There are many topics of discussion but one of the most common items of complaint is homework. I watch children being proctored by their parents in between activities at my local YMCA all the time, their tired faces and sighs as they fill in blanks and erase spelling mistakes. I hear parents talk amongst themselves how every night is a battle, how their kids are so tired, how they don’t see a point to homework for a first grader. One of the parents, who happens to be a kindergarten teacher, said if that happened to her kids she would refuse the homework. Another second grade teacher spends the hour waiting for her own children in activities, correcting the homework of her second grade students. Why has homework became such a contentious topic and one where parents and teachers feel they have no choice but to simply comply? Why are so many elementary teachers assigning homework and why aren’t more parents opting out of this distraction from life when experts assert that homework in the younger grades provides no benefits to learning and all parties see the chaotic fallout of the homework trend? See here, here, here, and here, to get you started. But it’s not just this anti-establishment homeschooling mom who is complaining! Teachers have begun to stop assigning homework, and parents who see the ill-effects are refusing to engage in the homework cycle.

Last year, I had the privilege to attend a presentation by Alfie Kohn at nearby Walton Central School, where my my own pedagogical ideologies were confirmed as Kohn spoke of education without homework, without testing, and without grades. And this is where my journey, my deep philosophical beliefs about what education can and should be like for children breaks away heavily from business as usual in the classroom. It isn’t just about the excessive testing or whether Common Core math is good or bad. These issues used to be the big deal for me, and I couldn’t understand why parents did not opt out, or why teachers thought the Common Core was a good idea. I now see a more fundamental difference: whether one takes the tests or not, whether one likes close reading or not, whether addition takes two steps or ten, children are being forced out of their childhoods in an overly structured system that disallows the input of the learners themselves and sterilizes the entire process of learning.

I overheard another conversation between parents last week. The second grade teacher parent asked the other parents about registration for an activity that would structure her children’s spring break days. She then stated that after witnessing her kids “going crazy without structure” during a recent snow day, she couldn’t bear to think about an entire week of them being home “without anything to do.” Before I continue, let me state that my opinions are simply that: opinions. I make decisions that are right for my family and would never directly criticize another parent or teacher for making a different decision. We all parent differently, I realize, and the beauty of teaching is that all teachers  should be allowed to exercise their own unique teaching methods and personalities. But for me, hearing this conversation was shocking. To me it was the ultimate confirmation that the decision to homeschool is the right one for us. I don’t give tests; my kids don’t have homework; largely, they learn what they want and when, and are thriving academically, socially, and mentally in this environment! But the core of my beliefs stems from the notion that kids nowadays are being robbed from their childhoods and natural tendencies with a constant over-structuring that begins when they stagger out of bed in the morning, continues through the school hours, extends to the pre-dinner homework battles, and rolls over into any free time they might have had to themselves.

If my children were in school, I would most certainly opt out of testing, and say no to homework. That is my right as a parent. But how could I possibly preserve childhood without the freedom my children have at home to be themselves and make their own decisions?

Prepares Your Child for Standardized Tests!

I did a casual Amazon search for math curriculum that might help guide me in teaching my son at home. I wasn’t looking for anything particular, but one of the top results caught my eye. It was a DK book series called Math Made Easy. The previous link takes you to the second grade book, but all the books tout the same “benefits” of  buying this book including:

  1. Prepares your child for standardized tests
  2. Supports National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Standards
  3. Builds math confidence
  4. Includes parental notes and answers

So the number one reason to buy this book is to prepare your child for standardized tests.  It isn’t until number three that the book purports to help your child in any way! And this is a book intended to be used at home to practice skills learned in school, according to the description. That makes sense. The major skill taught in school is to do well on standardized tests. Forget curiosity. Forget the deep desire to engage in real learning. Nope, learn how to answer test questions. That’s all that matters, so why focus on anything else?

When one starts looking at curriculum products, it becomes apparent that the main selling point is that the products promise to prepare children to do better on Common Core assessments. Take the Ready New York CCLS products from Curriculum Associates. Of course their product provides “rigorous” instruction. But they go on to say “It Works!”:

In states like New York that are already using the program, Ready is already making a huge, positive impact. A recent study in New York found that schools using Ready had a significantly higher percentage of students achieving proficiency on the new 2013 Common Core state assessment than schools that did not use Ready.

There you have it folks. If your goal to to produce students with higher test scores, then Ready might be your product… at a price, of course.

Let me switch gears here for a moment and talk about one type of assessment that students are being prepared for in school. These are state-approved, third-party computer-based assessments that schools in NYS are required to use. They are often used for pre-testing, post-testing, and various benchmarking along the way. We already know that our schools have spent more to implement Race to the Top mandates than they received through the grant program. Part of the spending goes toward the purchase of a chosen assessment system. My school chose STAR, a product by Renaissance Learning. But this expenditure isn’t a one-time deal. These assessments require more computers and bandwidth, with constant maintenance and upgrades. The software itself is already becoming obsolete and Renaissance Learning is kind enough to offer current STAR customers an “affordable upgrade” to the latest STAR 360 products. Where does it stop? And when is enough simply enough? As far as corporate profiteering is concerned—never. And until the testing obsession stops, we cannot expect to stop spending for the latest technology and software to support the testing.

Read more about why I opted out of STAR assessments here.

Read more about these types of tests and the considerations about refusing them here.

And, more about these tests here.

The desire to produce successful test takers has led to various forms of celebratory dances, psyche-you-up songs (here’s another) (and another) (and yet another), the promise of special parties, and threats to take away privileges if students opt out. At my school, children in one grade were rewarded with over-sized, fake $10 bills for every ten points they raised their STAR score. The sad part was that the children were quite aware of where they stood in comparison to their peers.

New York State made history this year when approximately 200,000 students refused to take the state tests in grades 3-8. This boycott isn’t likely to subside anytime soon, but in addition to this type of opt out, we need more parents to ask serious questions about all types of testing being done in school and evaluate the so-called merits of these tests. Furthermore, we need more parents to say no to these unnecessary standardized tests and pound the nail into the coffin of corporate influence in our schools. If no one takes the tests, the assessment products are no longer needed as well as the supplemental test prep products and everything else tied to the culture where test scores currently reign supreme.

 

Give the Gift of Opt Out

It’s Christmas Eve, and like many children across the globe who celebrate the holiday, my kids are excited that their long wait is coming to an end. My son and daughter are still young, almost seven and three respectively, and it’s easy to allow the perception of magic that fills their hearts to enter my soul this time of year. While it’s hard not to get caught up in the contemporary culture of all things materials, I’d like to pause for a moment of reflection at this day’s winding down to give thanks for all the non-material fortunes in my life, namely that my children are happy and healthy, and that we as a family are bound by love, and thriving from love’s energy.

While I give thanks for all that I have, I also acknowledge the incredible disparity in the world between those who have everything and those who have virtually nothing. Luckily I fall in the middle and am humbled. If you are like my family and your children wake up tomorrow filled with Christmas excitement, think of those who are less fortunate. We must, as a society, be willing and able to do something about poverty, and the generational disadvantages that affect many demographics.

But this isn’t a post about Christmas. Christmas is merely a perfect opportunity to reiterate the damage being stricken on our schools and the children who walk down their halls by the corporate elite who wish to profit from a privatization scheme that has been pushing Common Core standards, scripted curriculum, worksheet curriculum, test preparation materials, and of course, the litany of standardized tests themselves. School reform entities have weaseled their way into prominence because somehow they convinced us of the myth that our schools were failing and our teachers were incompetent. This is not true.

Our schools have become the target of reform because of poor performance on standardized tests, and we’ve been told that we are falling behind our international counterparts. This is also false. The reformers would have you believe their lies by leaving out important information. Poverty. Child poverty in the United States is staggering, according to a Washington Post article, with one in three children living in poverty in this country. Compare that to countries like Finland who traditionally score higher on international tests and one can see that their child poverty rate is much lower. When looking at test scores within the United States, it is clear that schools within economically advantaged communities score much higher than those within communities with high levels of poverty.

povertygraphic

The fact is that our schools and our children are being shortchanged based on a myth. In most cases, our schools are thriving. Those that are not are generally located in communities without the financial resources to compete with affluent districts. Ironically, it is these “failing” districts who are punished the most, given less funding, restructuring, teacher firings, and even school closure. The real problem is not school failure. It is not teacher incompetence. And it is not a lack of “rigor” or high standards. The issue is poverty and disparity, and until policy makers are willing to face this societal dilemma head-on, our schools and children will still suffer the cyclical illusion of failure because of something entirely out of their control.

What can one do about this as an individual? You can speak out. Speak truth to power. Every voice that dispels the myths is a voice of reason tipping the tides to policies and social programs that tackle the real problems and not the illusions. If you are able to speak out, you must. When it comes to education, you can give the greatest gift of all: Opt Out. Fight back against the myth based on test scores. Remove the data that corroborates the lies. Opt your child out of standardized testing and say no to the corporate takeover of our PUBLIC education system.

This Christmas season, as you contemplate all that you are thankful for, put test refusal on that list. You are your child’s best advocate, and opting out is a gift that every parent can give. It doesn’t cost anything and the rewards are infinite. Merry Christmas! And let’s wish for a New Year where the culture of testing is denied and our children and teachers can go back to real learning.

Farewell Commissioner King

It’s already old news across New York State that John King is resigning from his post as NY’s education commissioner, effective at the end of the year, to take a position as a top advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  New Yorkers from all corners of the Empire State have been calling for Commissioner King’s resignation for over a year, so I consider the news of his departure from our state a victory.

Truth be told, I will miss Commissioner King. His innate ability to open his mouth and spew retorts that completely sideline the voices of stakeholders in education did wonders to galvanize our (activist) cause. John King simultaneously represents our anger and our resolve to fight back. He has often been photographed at forums across the state where articulate yet angry NY citizens spoke truth to power about the devastating effects they have witnessed in public schools because of the education policies King was hired to staunchly execute and defend. The face of King’s consistently smug, dispassionate, and disinterested responses has become a recognizable symbol of the infuriating and destructive reforms that have ruined public education.

NYS Commissioner of Education John King and Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch, the dynamic duo of ed. reform. We must continue to call for Tisch’s resignation as well.

Maybe it’s because I’ve seen the world of education reform just keep getting more and more bizarre over the past two years, with one unbelievable addition after another, that rarely am I surprised anymore. I have to laugh at some of the praise I’ve been reading, like Regent Bennett calling Commissioner King “the best educator I’ve ever met.” This remark by a regent makes it even more imperative that attention must be paid to the NYS Board of Regents, its members, the role they play in state ed. and the thus far lack of transparency in the process in which regents are appointed to the board.

The title of this Peter Cunningham article in Education Post is called “A Great Education Leader Joins a Great Team.” — two mind-boggling, fallacious statements in my opinion. In fact the entire article is a sugar-coated ooze of praise for the great commissioner, using phrases such as “enormous change and progress,” and this giant whopper: “John brings unparalleled credentials, experience in both traditional and nontraditional schools, and extraordinary courage and composure as a leader.” Cunningham must be referring to King’s limited classroom teaching experience in a charter school and the fact that he sends his own children to a private Montessori school. Perhaps the article should be titled “NY Education in Ruins, John King Goes National to Help Duncan Dismantle Public Ed.”

The people of New York, the real stakeholders in public education have a different story to tell, and not all news of King’s departure is filled with praise. This lohud editorial, “Commissioner King’s Tone-Deaf Legacy” is not forgiving of the commissioner’s total lack of response to concerns that have echoed through the state. In this recent statement put out by NYSUT (New York State United Teachers), citing the great disconnect between King’s vision for NY and the cries of concerns coming from public schools’ stakeholders, the teachers union joins the call of other groups such as the New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) who demand that the Board of Regents select a new commissioner who will be a true advocate for public schools and who will actually listen to public school stakeholders..

King’s legacy of “full steam ahead” education reform policies and blatant ignoring of real concerns expressed by a majority of NY parents, teachers, students, and taxpayers will not be missed. But there is concern for many that such utter incompetence is being rewarded with a promotion to a top position at the federal level. For my part, I am not concerned. United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has already menaced education at the national level with policy pushing that promotes competition between schools and teachers in a test-driven education environment filled with inappropriate standards, narrowed curriculum, ridiculous data-driven accountability measures, and drowning local involvement. While I am appalled that King is moving up, I envision his new position at Arne’s side more like one would see a loyal lapdog at the feet of his master. After all, King is aptly able to perform the role; we’ve seen time and again his inability to utter any original thought that isn’t a direct recitation of Race to the Top policy agendas and Common Core rhetoric. And isn’t that what a master really wants? An obedient servant, a loyal head nodder and yeasayer?

Perhaps King isn’t being “promoted” at all. Maybe the rumors are true that King was forced out by Governor Cuomo. After all, he failed as his primary responsibility to squash the rebellion. New Yorkers are mad as hell over education reforms inflicted on our schools. And we are not backing down. I say let John King move into the ranks of Arne Duncan and Michelle Rhee, two of the most hated individuals associated with education reform. After all, individuals like Michelle Rhee will long be held as symbols of school deform, and will help to galvanize our resolve to reclaim public education long after the so-called legacies associated with their job titles are repaired. Let the anger and uprising that John King helped to foster in New York spread further into the hearts of all Americans across the nation so that our collective purpose to save our schools becomes even more empowered.

Is an “Opt Out” Letter on Your Back-To-School List?

Is an “Opt Out” Letter on Your Back-To-School List?

 

With less than a month before a new academic year begins, it is time for parents to start preparing their children for a new classroom, a new teacher, and new learning opportunities. The back-to-school list might differ between grades, but there is one thing that should not be missing: A letter to your district opting your child out of reform-driven tests, (or at the very least a letter inquiring as to the tests your child will be facing).

Refusing to participate in state- or district-mandated testing has become a phenomenon across the United States, as more and more parents understand the harmful effects of education reform, Race to the Top mandates, and the new Common Core curriculum. This is an interrelated corporate takeover of public education that relies heavily on data and accountability. It aims to accomplish this with the use of standardized, often high-stakes, tests. Last year, record numbers of students in New York State, with the guidance of their parents, refused to participate in the grades 3-8 state tests, with opt out numbers topping 40,000. But the testing does not stop here.

Your child will most likely be tested the first week of school. These “pre-tests” are part of a system of accountability and so-called “progress-monitoring” where children are tested on materials they have yet to learn, so that they can be retested later on in the year to see how much academic growth they exhibit. Children may face “benchmark” testing throughout the year, particularly if they tested poorly on a previous assessment, or if they are special education students or students with learning disabilities. These assessments affect every grade level from prekindergarten children, who are as young as four years old, through twelfth grade. Last year, children came home after just one week in a new classroom feeling like failures because they didn’t do well on the pre-test. One mother reported that her kindergartner came home crying and said, “I guess I’m just not a good reader, Mama.”

Many parents are not aware of the intricacies of this testing culture, and by the time they realize the pointless nature of these tests, their children have already taken several. Assessments tied to teacher evaluations are being given in all subject areas including English Language Arts and math, as well as in subjects such as art, music, and physical education. NOW is the time to opt out, before your child even takes that first pre-test!

Unlike the state tests, which are given at the same time each year, to all students in grades three through eight across New York State, other tests might vary from district to district, depending on the details of a district’s APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) plan and the particular state-mandated and state-approved third-party assessment tool they’ve chosen to purchase. Many of these tests are computer-adaptive tests under names like Aimsweb, Star, Dibels, or Terra Nova.

As a parent, you have the right to know what tests your child will be facing and what those tests are used for. Many have nothing to do with a child’s grade, and do nothing to inform instruction. Many of these tests are corporate products that cost districts money, and drive instruction in a one-size-fits-all data-centric manner that reduce children to numbers, and unfairly judge teachers. With the use of computer-based testing on the increase, the cost associated with updating and maintaining computer labs alone can be staggering for many districts.

There are many questions you can ask your district such as:

  • What assessments are being used, and for what purpose?
  • Are these assessments listed as part of the district APPR plan? (You can find your district’s approved APPR plan here: http://usny.nysed.gov/rttt/teachers-leaders/plans/home.html.)
  • If there were no APPR, would you give this test?
  • How often are the assessments administered and what are the scheduled dates for administration?
  • What is the cost to the district of these assessments?
  • Does the district have a protocol for refusal of local assessments?
  • Are there any plans in place for eliminating k-2 local assessments?  Eliminating k-8 local assessments.

Be aware that some districts will require that parents FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) much of this information. Because the information has to be collected via various sources and analyzed, some districts will prompt parents to FOIL it to justify the man hours and, of course, will charge for copying fees for the records. This information is important, however, and parents have a right to know and need this information to make informed decisions about test refusal. Details on FOIL can be found here: http://www.dos.ny.gov/coog/freedomfaq.html.

Parents can also approach their Board of Education to express their concerns and to request that the BOE retrieve this information from the superintendent and building principals to be shared with the public. In this manner, one can avoid a FOIL. Board members should be made aware how important this information is and that it should be shared with stakeholder parents, whose decision-making regarding testing will benefit from all available information. These issues concern budget, curriculum, and instruction and assessment, and are clearly under the purview of a Board of Education. Parents can encourage their BOEs to become actively engaged in this discussion and actively involved wherever appropriate.

Other questions you can ask your child’s teacher (although many may not be completely truthful due to fear of potential ramifications for speaking out):

  • Do these assessments give you useful feedback to inform instruction for my child?
  • Are the assessments teacher-created?
  • Are there alternate methods you can use to evaluate my child?
  • If it were up to you, how would you choose to monitor the academic progress of your students?
  • If there were no APPR, would you give this test?

More good questions for schools, superintendents, principals, school board attorneys, and BOE members can be found here: https://optoutorlando.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/questions-every-public-school-parent-should-be-asking-now/.

The decision to opt out of local assessments can be confusing, and should not be entertained lightly. There are many factors to consider. Some assessments are integral to the course, and end of year assessments might be considered as part of your child’s grade for that course, especially at the upper grade levels. Many of these are teacher created, and not inherently bad (although they might still be used as part of your district’s APPR to evaluate your child’s teacher). Some assessments might be state-mandated progress-monitoring assessments, but not be used for APPR. Parents of young children must ask themselves how comfortable they are with their children being formally tested in the lower grade levels, where these assessments are not used for grades or promotion.

To be clear, much of the insidious nature of this testing culture is found in the elementary grades. Much of the time, in middle school and high school, the tests chosen to fulfill APPR are chosen appropriately and do indeed benefit students and their teachers. We encourage parents to become informed and ask questions. Listen to what your district administrators have to say. Administrators who are open and honest will tell you why they think a particular test is beneficial. Don’t be afraid to ask how it benefits students or how it informs instruction. Be wary of any rhetoric that cannot be backed up in plain language and confirmed by both administration and your child’s teacher.

Teachers assess their students all the time, for the benefit of the student and to inform instruction. Some tests are useful tools that help a teacher gauge the progress of both individual students and the class as a whole. Some tests are useful diagnostic tools that help to determine if your child has a learning disability or if they require extra help. Some tests are mandated for graduation, such as the Regents exams. And some tests are simply end-of-course exams that are part of your child’s grade. You should not opt out of these.

What is becoming more and more pervasive is the use of standardized forms of assessment, including the various computer-adaptive assessment tools that are not teacher-created, and provide a narrow form of assessment based on data, not your individual child’s strengths and weaknesses. Parents must be aware that the new ban on “standardized tests” in grades k-2 involves a very narrow definition of the word “standardized” and does nothing to alleviate the testing being carried out through computer administered assessments. There have been many cases where students who test poorly are automatically put in AIS (Academic Intervention Services), even if they don’t need it. Conversely, students who need the extra help might not get it if they happen to test well. Teachers are the best-equipped and most knowledgeable persons able to assess students. When a system of high-stakes testing and accountability removes teacher autonomy and decision making from the process, we must be hesitant to blindly accept the overuse and so-called merit of standardized assessments in our children’s classrooms.

Parents have been opting out of local assessments for several years, but there is no “how to” guide and the variables are too great to discuss any one approach to this decision. Many parents decide that they cannot support APPR, and refuse to participate in local assessments that are not part of an end-of-course grade. Some parents disapprove of their children being subjected to computer-adaptive corporate tests in the early elementary grades, and may opt out even though the tests have nothing to do with APPR. Parents share many of the same concerns when it comes to the proliferation of various forms of assessment that are not solely used by the classroom teacher to provide individualized instruction to their children. Their concerns include the collection of data, the age inappropriateness, the heavy-handed interference by the state, and the unreliability of standardized tests. Many parents wonder if there is anything these assessments can tell their children’s teachers that the teachers don’t already know. They also worry about the reliance on data and how that might interfere with any individualized instruction their child might need.

The best course of action that any parent can take is to ask questions, and insist on answers. Becoming informed is your best weapon when it comes to making decisions about testing and opting out. Above all else, parents must fulfill their role as their child’s greatest advocate. If something seems wrong, it most likely is. Armed with information, you will be able to make an informed decision that is in your child’s best interests, regardless of the opinion of others or the rhetoric regarding the “usefulness” of all this testing.

Parents who question testing, both state and local, are not against authentic forms of assessment that truly benefit both student and teacher. Be polite and respectful when engaging in dialogue with schools and teachers, but be resolute in your insistence on real answers to your questions. And, if you still feel that the tests your child will face are not in their best interests, you have the right to discuss an alternative.

 

Contributors:

Danielle Boudet, Oneonta Area for Public Education

Jeanette Brunelle Deutermann, Opt Out Long Island

Chris Cerrone, NYStopTesting.com

Solidarity above All Else

While I hate bringing politics into our discussions, this year’s run for NY Governor is going to be hot with educational issues. I want to urge you not to allow political differences to divide you.

Yesterday Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the candidate for governor of New York State for the Republican and Conservative parties, announced the beginning of the Stop Common Core independent nominating petitions to be circulated around the State of New York.

Astorino makes some good sound bytes in regards to his opposition to Common Core.  The Green Party’s Howie Hawkins is also opposed, as is Zephyr Teachout in her run against Cuomo in the Democratic primaries. But there is more to this debate than simply a myopic dislike of Common Core (by the way, I hate it too). As these candidates develop their platform and their detailed positions on education (some are already well on their way), we need to be critical and ask tough questions. How do they view charters? What is their position on teacher tenure and do they really understand what tenure is and why it is in place? If not Common Core, then what? How will they relieve our children of the burden of overtesting–both Common Core tests and other standardized forms of assessment. How do they plan to provide the funding so desperately needed by our public schools? What is their view on the rights of parents to opt out of testing? What is their position on the business-as-usual mentality of the NY Board of Regents? The issues are heavily nuanced and there are many questions to be asked. All we know for sure right now as that incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo has not been listening to the pleas of parents and educators across the Empire state when it comes to issues in education.

There are other things to consider as well. Many do not have the luxury of voting based on one issue. Regardless of the candidate that you believe will perform best as governor of our great state, I urge you to maintain respect for and open discourse with one another regarding educational issues. My fear is that an election, especially one loaded with a Common Core ballot line is going to open up wounds between advocates that have nothing to do with education. Vote with your mind, your moral conscience, and your philosophical beliefs in the forefront, and be respectful to those with different views. They may not vote the way you want them to or use the ballot line you believe in, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re on the reformer’s side. Let us not reduce these issues to something simplistic. They are complex, and I believe that regardless of the man or woman in office, the real power will always lie in the hands of parents and teachers who are acutely aware of their roles in education and their rights to act in the best interests of children.

My Response to Barack Obama about Education

Today, I received a typical generic rallying type email, by which I was apparently supposed to be so moved with pride that I would participate in some sort of meaningless celebration that would… go down in history?

I couldn’t help replying, though I’m sure no one at info@barackobama.com will read or pass on.

I appreciate the time you took to thank me, Barack.  And congratulations to you on the successful implementation of your health care reform plan.

However, I am no longer able to stand by your side because of the devastating policies affecting public education that have arisen during your presidency and Arne Duncan’s time as Secretary of Education.

The legacy of Race to the Top will include a drastic increase of standardized tests imposed on our children, tests that are flawed products that line the pockets of large corporations like Pearson Education and that do not measure the true abilities of our children.  The one-size-fits-all concept behind the Common Core State Standards has driven a majority of our children to hate school and forced teacher morale to an all-time low.  Scripted curriculum in the form of modules have stripped away teacher autonomy and removed the joy of learning from our classrooms.  High-stakes testing used to unfairly judge our children, their teachers, and their schools has turned our beloved schools into nothing more than test prep factories where curriculum is narrowed and valuable programs like art, music, gym, and even recess are being cut or eliminated.

The work you did is how real, devastating change gets made, and sadly we will suffer from it for years to come.

Any activists who are part of this fight can tell you—our educational leaders aren’t listening to what students, parents, teachers, and tax-payers are saying.  We can also tell you that, although it is never easy, we will continue to fight back against these dangerous, corporate-driven reforms.  This fight will not be easy, but it will always be the right thing to do.  Diane Ravitch knows it.  Susan Ohanian knows it.  Carol Burris knows it.  And many other political leaders who have actually listened to their constituents know it.

No matter how hard it gets, we will not stop pushing back against these policies until they cease to exist, until the millions of American children receive the quality and enriching public education that they deserve, like their counterparts in private institutions.

What we will achieve when we defeat destructive educational policies, and how we will do it by exercising our rights as American citizens to organize and speak out and opt out, will be the real story that should be documented for future generations.  We will be proof that real, lasting change is possible when ordinary people come together and fight for what they believe in.  We will not stop fighting until the corporate takeover of our schools is defeated!

Take a moment to let that sink in.

When I elected you to office, I thought you could be a president I could thank for your commitment to our country and all of its citizens. But I was wrong.  I cannot thank you and I do not want my name along side yours.

Devoted mother and informed citizen,

Danielle Boudet

On Apr 24, 2014, at 12:27 PM, Barack Obama <info@barackobama.com> wrote:

I had to take a moment to say thank you.

Danielle, you made history.

A long line of organizers fought for nearly 100 years to make health care reform a reality, and now we’re seeing the results. Millions of Americans have health insurance today, thanks to reform — some for the first time in their lives.

The work you did is how real, lasting change gets made, and I hope it will be remembered for years to come.

Make sure you’re included in OFA’s permanent record of the people who made health care reform happen.

Anyone who was part of this decades-long fight will tell you it was never easy, but it was always the right thing to do. Teddy Roosevelt knew it. Harry Truman knew it. Teddy Kennedy sure knew it.

No matter how hard it got, the results we’re seeing today make it all worthwhile. Millions of Americans now have coverage, and even more have better health care, thanks to the work you did.

Take a moment to let that sink in.

It’s proof that when people come together and fight for what they believe in, real, lasting change is possible.

What you achieved — and how you did it — is something that should be documented for future generations. OFA will install a permanent record of people who fought for health care at its headquarters in Chicago.

Make sure your name is added, alongside mine:

http://my.barackobama.com/You-Made-History

I can’t thank you enough,

Barack Obama

PAID FOR BY ORGANIZING FOR ACTION.

This email was sent to:
If that is not your preferred email address, you can update your information here. We believe that emails are a vital way to stay in direct contact with supporters. Click here if you’d like to unsubscribe from these messages.
Organizing for Action, P.O. Box 66732 Washington, D.C. 20035