Many of you know of my displeasure regarding President-elect Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Education and how concerned I am that there are indications that public education policy under President Barack Obama will be indistinguishable from the NCLB Days of George W. Bush.
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After swift-boating Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, there is reason to believe that the Obama Administration is going to staff the Department of Education with “get tough” ideologues to serve in the critical positions beneath Obama’s basketball buddy, Arne Duncan. The following letter comes from Dr. Monty Neill the Deputy Director of FairTest. If you do not know about the important work FairTest does, you should.
This is a call to action!
I have heard from a growing number sources in whom I have confidence that when confirmed, Education Secretary Arne Duncan will appoint to key positions in the Education Department several people whose views and stances are contrary to the building of high quality education systems. These names are apparently to be part of a larger slate likely to promote a dangerous combination of programmatic approaches: continued high-stakes testing, growing privatization via extensive private control over schooling, scripted curricula, and a revolving door of untrained teachers in urban schools that will reduce the availability of skilled professionals. This will be an educational disaster for the nation’s children, especially students from low-income backgrounds.
In particular, we at FairTest are concerned about the possible appointments of Andrew Rotherham, Education Sector, and Wendy Kopp, Teach for America. Mr. Rotherham has been a major supporter of NCLB’s test-and-punish approach, of high-stakes testing, and of aspects of privatizing education. He has also joined in incessant attacks on teacher unions and other professional associations. Similarly, Ms. Kopp’s priorities for “reform” remain on the terrain of high-stakes tests and privatization.
Our preference would be for nominees to key positions such as Deputy Secretary and Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education to be supporters of the Joint Organizational Statement on No Child Left Behind who would work to end the test-and-punish components of ESEA. (The Joint Statement, with 149 national organizations signed on, is at www.edaccountability.org.)
If they are nominated, it will be very hard to block them. President-elect Obama will not want to withdraw their names, and the Senate is unlikely to oppose them.
Therefore, the best approach is to try to dissuade Duncan and President-elect Obama from even nominating them.
We do not have a direct line to either Mr. Obama or Mr. Duncan.
Therefore, we suggest you take a few steps to help build pressure that can lead to these people not being nominated:
1) Email Jim Messina who heads personnel at the Presidential Transition Team: firstname.lastname@example.org. Email now. Feel free to use the opening portion of this letter in your letter and in your calls.
2) Call the offices of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL and Assistant Majority Leader), key members of the Senate HELP Committee (which will have to confirm nominations to Deputy and Assistant Secretary positions), and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Sen. Dick Durbin – (202) 224-2152
Sen. Harry Reid – (202) 224-3542
Sen. Ted Kennedy – (202) 224-4543
Sen. Tom Harkin – (202) 224-3254
Sen. Chris Dodd – (202) 224-2823
For your state’s senator or for others on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP), go to www.senate.gov and search using the boxes on the top of the screen.
Thanks – and please act now.
Finally, the consensus among those I have talked with is that it is better not to circulate letters like this via public listservs. Please do share it with those individuals and organizations in whom you have confidence, and ask them to act now.
Monty Neill, Ed.D.
857-350-8207 x 101; fax 857-350-8209
15 Court Square, Ste 820
Boston, MA 02108-9939
Veteran educator Gary Stager, Ph.D. is the author of Twenty Things to Do with a Computer – Forward 50, co-author of Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, publisher at Constructing Modern Knowledge Press, and the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. He led professional development in the world’s first 1:1 laptop schools thirty years ago and designed one of the oldest online graduate school programs. Gary is also the curator of The Seymour Papert archives at DailyPapert.com. Learn more about Gary here.