(by Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Shared by Diane Ravitich)
Dear President Obama,
Please wake up and see that the education policies your administration is promoting are decimating our public schools, harming our children, demoralizing our teachers, and threatening the future of our democracy. Worst of all, your policies are promoting inequities in our education system and diminishing the opportunity every child in the nation should have for an excellent education
Your mandate for more charter schools is fast creating a three-tiered education system in our country. Children of the wealthy and privileged such as your daughters attend elite private or public schools. Children of less affluent families who are relatively able students with better informed parents increasingly find their way to charter schools, many of which have access to private funding and greater resources. But the third tier is left for the majority of poor or working-class children who must attend underfunded, under resourced, mostly inner-city public schools.
I am an early childhood educator and I can say with certainty that your policies are impacting the early childhood field in many negative ways, but that the greatest harm is falling on our nation’s poorest children. They are getting the worst of test-based, restrictive, standardized, rote instruction, while children in more affluent communities continue to benefit from more play and activity-based curriculum. More often the teachers in lower income communities have less training and are therefore more dependent on the standardized tests and scripted curricula that are a result of your misguided policies.
Standardized tests of any type don’t have a place in early childhood. Children develop at individual rates, learn in unique ways, and come from a wide variety of cultural and language backgrounds. It’s not possible to mandate what any young child will understand at any particular time.
Early childhood teachers are leaving the field in great numbers. They can’t teach using their professional expertise and many detest having to follow prescribed curriculum that they don’t agree with. As one teacher said recently, “I see kids with eyes glazed who are simply overwhelmed by being constantly asked to perform tasks they are not yet ready to do. I finally had to leave my classroom and retire early.” (www.deyproject.org).
Please look closely at how your education policies are impacting children, especially our youngest and poorest children. Your focus on competition and market-driven reforms is resulting in greater inequities in our education system and an undermining of our public schools. A vibrant, flourishing public education system is the cornerstone of our democracy. Please be willing to re-examine and reverse the direction of your approach to education. Please don’t be the President who abandoned our nation’s children and our public education system.