An Open Letter to Federal and State Legislators: sign now

Over the last decade, for all practical purposes, youve taken over American education. Convinced, as you apparently are, that education professionals lack standards, and dont want to be held accountable, this is understandable.

In your new role, there are several things you should keep in mind.

First, youve taken on an awesome responsibility. The future of about 53,000,000 students is now primarily in your hands. As adults, theyll sit in judgment on your decisions.

Second, the human brain is the most complicated thing known. That its capabilities and potential can be measured by the machine-scorable tests your policies mandate is a cruel myth.

Third, your power and influence in support of education are essential. But as Soviet-style central planning surely demonstrated, "top down" change strategies are rarely effective. Reform is tough under the best of circumstance. In education, with its myriad layers of management between you and students, "top down reform" is probably an oxymoron

Fourth, youre blaming teachers and students for educations ills. When you scapegoat, not only are you unfair, you close your mind to other, even very obvious, explanations of poor performance.

Fifth, youre assuming that market forceschoice and competition, reward and punishmentcan work the magic in schools they sometimes exhibit in the marketplace. A few days spent in a real classroom would show you that, for both teachers and students, the satisfaction of doing something worth doing, and doing it well, motivates far more effectively, for far longer, than promises of money or the shame of publication of test scores and school rankings.

Finally, you need to know about a problem which, because of its centrality, must be addressed before any other reforms can possibly make much difference

Educating is about whats taught and learnedthe curriculum. Goals 2000 and No Child Left Behind freeze in place a curriculum designed in the late 19th Century for different people, facing different problems. In the name of "accountability," youre forcing teachers and students to do the wrong thing better.

In 1984, John I. Goodlad and a team of researchers completed a massive study of American schools involving 27,000 individuals. Summing up his findings in the book, A Place Called School, Prospects for the Future, he wrote "The division into subjects and periods encourages a segmented rather than an integrated view of knowledge. Consequently, what students are asked to relate to in schooling becomes increasingly cut off from the human experiences subject matter is supposed to reflect."

Your own educations were no doubt of the "subjects and periods" sort, prompting you to think that a fragmented approach to knowledge is acceptable. Reflecting that assumption, youve demanded "standards"not standards describing the kinds of people students should be and become, but standards for each school subject.

Schools are in the knowledge business. Knowledge is "all of a piece." Humans learn seamlessly. But the thousands of state standards youve caused to be written ignore this fact. Those who wrote them for various school subjects obviously didnt talk to each other, much less recognize and take advantage of the mutually supportive nature of knowledge. The result is perpetuation of a "mile wide and inch deep" curriculum, a curriculum acceptable not because it makes sense, but because its familiarity has caused us to stop thinking about it. For evidence of its superficiality, consider how little most adults can recall of what they once "learned" at great state expense.

When, in the 1980s, the direction of K-12 education began to be set by leaders of business and industry rather than by professional educators, fresh thinking about whats taught stopped. For example, a promising approach to the study of history, science, language arts and other subjects, based on World War II-spawned general systems theory, was emerging. You've made its further development pointless because standardized tests cant measure the quality of the complex mental processes involved in systems thinking. The initiative has been abandoned.

Your "reform" legislation ignores the integrated nature of knowledge, reflects a simplistic view of how students learn, imposes measures of accountability which emphasize minimum standards rather than maximum performance, and slam the door on innovation.

Left in place, that legislation will bring not merely educational but societal disaster. Revisit the No Child Left Behind legislation. And this time, talk to educators.
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Latest Signatures

  • 08 February 20161000. Robert Ph
    Education of children is too important to be left to the political climate of the day. Title Teacher, B.M.E., M.Ed., Ed.S. Address 2536 SW 14th Dr., Gainesville, FL 32608-2056
  • 29 January 2016999. Susan H
    Repeal No Corporation Left Behind Title Principal Address Oakland, CA
  • 12 January 2016998. Bob B
    I support this petition
  • 06 January 2016997. John G
    I support this petition
  • 05 January 2016996. L G
    I support this petition
  • 02 January 2016995. J Michaelr
    I support this petition
  • 31 December 2015994. Susan F
    I support this petition
  • 30 December 2015993. Karen S
    I agree wholeheartedly Title Business owner/ RN
  • 03 December 2015992. Brenda K
  • 22 November 2015991. Corey M
    I support this petition
  • 21 November 2015990. Jacob Lg
    I support this petition
  • 18 November 2015989. Janet Ee
    I support this petition
  • 06 November 2015988. Craig Ss
    I support this petition
  • 04 November 2015987. Juliet Abaxterp
    I support this petition
  • 30 October 2015986. Kent Hamrem
    Public schools can't work like businesses- we have little to no control over the "quality" of the raw materials we are sent to teach... If Microsoft receives a batch of flawed microchips, they send them back so their computers aren't junk. Those in public
  • 25 October 2015985. Cynthia Ritag
    I support this petition
  • 04 October 2015984. Sj F
    I support this petition
  • 01 October 2015983. David M
    poignant argument
  • 28 September 2015982. Dr Patriciacm
    You must fund public education adequately, not put money into private/ religious schools Title Professor Emeritus
  • 27 September 2015981. Caroline Hg
    I support this petition
  • 18 September 2015980. Nancy B
    This legislation is taking the joy out of learning for children and the joy out of teaching for educators Title teacher Address Manteca, CA
  • 15 September 2015979. Nancy A
    I agree this is the correct approach to true education
  • 10 September 2015978. Richard W
    I support this petition
  • 20 August 2015977. Julia T
    I support this petition
  • 20 August 2015976. Sue S
    We need to think of the kid's needs first, not our pride, pocketbook or political aspirations! Title student Address 19733 SE River Rd. Apt D Gladstone OR 97027
  • 15 August 2015975. Jennifer A
    I support this petition
  • 15 August 2015974. Sandra Ag
    I support this petition

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Brenda ArroyoBy:
Justice, rights and public orderIn:
Petition target:
State and Federal Legislators


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