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President Obama: We Want for Our Children What You Want for Yours

Last week I kicked the hornet's nest by pointing out that President Obama's remarks at a town hall meeting do not align with the policies being carried out by his Department of Education. This was picked up by a number of fellow bloggers, including Valerie Strauss, Deborah Meier, Doug Noon and Ira Socol.Today, the New York Times ran an article on the imbroglio, featuring quotes from myself and our correspondent at the Department of Education, Justin Hamilton.

Let me explain why I think this is resonating so much.

The Obama campaign relied on the energy of millions of us, activated by a call to our hopes and dreams. We were exhausted by eight years of Bush, seven years of No Child Left Behind, and Obama promised a fresh start. We have not seen that fresh start in education. Instead we are seeing a deep entrenchment on the part of the Department of Education, finding ever more creative ways to pretend that making the tests more frequent will somehow make them benign. Those of us who are experiencing the effects of these policies are not deceived. We see how they are destroying schools, and stealing opportunities from children.

Three years ago, in 2008, I actively campaigned for Barack Obama during the primary. I knocked on doors in my neighborhood, and brought together more than a hundred educators to raise thousands of dollars for his campaign. About 18 months ago, deeply disappointed by the way that President Obama was continuing the test-aholic traditions of NCLB, I wrote him an open letter. I posted it here on my blog, and launched a Facebook group called Teachers' Letters to Obama in order to gather more letters, and create a forum for educators to gather and discuss how we might reshape the education debate. We gathered 107 letters, which were sent to both President Obama and Secretary Duncan. We eventually had a brief conversation with Secretary Duncan, but otherwise, our concerns have been ignored.

Last week, President Obama reminded us all why his election gave many of us so much hope. In 338 words he spoke of how he wanted his daughters, Sasha and Malia, to have their learning tested. He described a low-stakes, low pressure environment, with the results used not to punish them, their teachers or their school, but simply to find out what their strengths are, and where they might need extra support. He spoke of the need to avoid teaching to the test, and the value of engaging projects that would make students excited about learning. President Obama has made sure his daughters can learn this way. If only Department of Education policies would allow students in our public schools this same privilege!

President Obama needs to understand. Those of us who care deeply about our children and public schools cannot support his candidacy if he does not fix his education policies so they align with what he said on March 28th.

We have created a petition asking President Obama to support the Guiding Principles of the Save Our School March and National Call to Action, which are aligned with his. Please sign it here.

And we want to help him and Secretary Duncan understand how their policies must change.

If you are a student, in 338 words or less, please describe how you want to learn and have your learning tested.

If you are a parent, in 338 words or less, describe how you would want your children to learn and have their learning tested.

If you are teacher, in 338 words or less, say how you think your students will learn best, and how we should measure their learning.

We will gather these messages over the next few weeks, and on May 1, we will send them to President Obama and Secretary Duncan. We will also make the collection available for download so that everyone can understand why we need dramatic change for our schools.

President Obama, we want for America's children what you want for yours.

Please help us to Save Our Schools.

What do you think? Can you express, in 338 words or less, what you want for yourself, your children, our schools?

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