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Students, Parents and Teachers Respond to Diane Ravitch's Call: Letters to the White House!

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Diane Ravitch has issued a call for all of us - teachers, parents, students, administrators, and citizens who care about education, to write letters to our elected representatives, starting with the White House. The deadline to have your letter included is October 17.

Write from your heart about your hopes and concerns about education in America. Write about what you see happening in your school. Let President Obama know what you think, before this historic election on November 6.

You can submit your letter to this guestbook, or the comment section below, and all letters submitted by October 17 will be assembled into a document which will be made available for download. A printed and bound collection will be sent directly to the White House and Department of Education on October 18, 2012.

I volunteered to help Diane gather the letters, so I have been collecting them as they are submitted. Just as when I collected Teachers' Letters to Obama three years ago, the wisdom and experience they contain is remarkable.

From a student:

Dear President Obama,

My name is Grant Frambes and I live in Plain City, Ohio. I attend Jonathan Alder Junior High School. I'm a 7th grader there. I don't like our lunch period being as short as it is. Up until 5th grade, we had 25 minutes for lunch, and 25 for recess. Then in 5th grade and 6th grade, we had 11 minutes for lunch, and 11 for recess. I think this year in 7th grade it is a couple minutes longer.
It feels like we're always getting ready for the next test in all my academic subjects. In science we took a test on the second week of school and it was to show how much we didn't know about 7th grade science. At the end of the year we'll take a similar (or the same) test and it will show our progress. Some kids felt very bad about their scores because we didn't know what it was for! We were just told by our teacher that we were going to "totally flunk" the following test because we "know nothing".
Lastly, I don't think that my test scores should be a determining factor in how much my teachers get paid. I really wish that school was more enjoyable.
Thank you for reading,
Grant W. Frambes
From a parent:
Dear President Obama & Secretary Duncan:
I am writing as a concerned mother, tax payer, and citizen. Our public school system is under attack by corporations and right wing politicians. It is clear that profit is their motive, not our children, nor the future of our country as well as each individual state. In Texas, as I'm sure you've heard Gov. Perry and the Republican legislature have defunded public eduction to the tune of billions of dollars and laid off tens of thousands of teachers, while paying a 5-year $500 million contract to Pearson Education to write and administer the STAAR test - which was a fiasco in its first year of implementation. The free market has no place in our childrens' education and I find it obscene that a multi national corporation is profiting off my child's education, while also reducing it down to a set of test scores.
Perry and his legislature also want to offer up a private voucher system and more charters. This sounds good in theory, but only benefits those who can afford the delta between the voucher and the actual cost of the private school - while allocating public funds for private use. Charters are fine in some cases (certainly not all), but I want my neighborhood school! Why is this so difficult for politicians and Pearson to get? Families already struggle, and we don't need the added stress of searching for a new school and getting our children to that school everyday, when there is one down the street that can be great.
My only child is in first grade, and I already see the affects of the broken system of over-testing and underfunding in our public school. In Kinder (!), his class was over crowded and his teacher was under-supported, as well as under pressure to ensure that all those little boys and girls were tested (tested in Kinder!) to define readiness and milestones that many would argue are not appropriate, due to many factors related to age and maturity. Kinder has become the new first grade, and that is just one facet of this broken system that is robbing our children of the love of learning and school because they are forced into behaviors and learning that many simply are not ready for. This does not bode well for college attendance and the future job market.
You have, I'm certain, read and heard all the negative stories about the pressures of testing in the upper grades - so I won't site or recap any of them. I simply want to express my concern for the direction our once-exceptional public schools that are in rapid decline because many want to force a one-size-fits-all approach to education and teacher evaluation.
Your campaign has benefited greatly from grassroots efforts, I urge you to listen to those same folks when it comes to our children, their futures, and the future of the entire US.
Many Thanks for Reading This,
Gillian (Gilly) Harris
From a teacher:

Dear President Obama,

I am a teacher. I teach pre-k; children who are four and five. They are at a very vulnerable age and their educational lives are being compromised by your policy of Race to the Top.
I voted for you because I believed that you would make great changes in our country that were sorely needed. I didn't know the changes that you would make would help destroy our public schools.
Public education is a common good. It must be preserved for the United States to flourish. We cannot have a two tiered system of education where some children go to schools like Sidwell Friends where assessments are merely a part of the fabric of the school and students' and teachers' lives do not hang in the balance and others go to Draconian schools where a single score on a single assessment can determine one's entire life.

There are so many things wrong with Race to the Top. Your policies have pitted teachers against each other. Education is a collaborative effort, not a competition. Education is a life long journey, not a race where one sprints to the finish line and learning is over.

I teach in a pre-k through grade 8 school. I read the middle school essays posted on Bulletin Boards at the beginning of the year. Usually the theme is "My Goals". Instead of writing about becoming an astronaut, a basketball player, a doctor, or an urban ranger these children write about what they can do to become a Level 3 or 4. They no longer think of themselves as people who can aspire to great things. They think of themselves as a number; a number that is artificially created.

Sheila Schlesinger

Readers, please add your own voice to these.
Share your hard-won understanding of our schools with our President. Clearly he is in need of some better advice.

You can submit your letters to the comment section below. You can also become part of the archived letters here at the Campaign For Our Public Schools. And of course, you can also send your letters directly via US mail to: The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 20500, or send them electronically here.

What do you think of this effort to communicate with President Obama? Will you add your letter to those being sent?

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