Arne Duncan’s Letter

I am not a fan of Arne Duncan’s or President Obama’s education agenda. I think both of these men are hurting education in this country, and it was evident from the beginning of their terms in office. I posted an article about this when I heard Duncan speak in San Diego at the NEA-RA; his speech was rife with dangerous language and plans to dismantle areas of success.

Now, Duncan has a letter to teachers thanking them during Teacher Appreciation Week; however, what he says and what he has done are two entirely different things. Not only has he helped turn education into a competition guaranteeing that many children lose, he claims to want to work with teachers:

So I want to work with you to change and improve federal law, to invest in teachers and strengthen the teaching profession. Together with you, I want to develop a system of evaluation that draws on meaningful observations and input from your peers, as well as a sophisticated assessment that measures individual student growth, creativity, and critical thinking.

But, he does not work with teachers; he works against teachers often. (Tom at Stories From School alludes to this idea in his post.) Duncan supports merit pay (which is not shown to work), wants to limit the power of unions (despite their track records of supporting teachers and students), and creates systems of competition for education resources and monies (ensuring that some students never get the help they need). This is not working with teachers.

Now, read this opening to an article in the New York Times:

WHEN we don’t get the results we want in our military endeavors, we don’t blame the soldiers. We don’t say, “It’s these lazy soldiers and their bloated benefits plans! That’s why we haven’t done better in Afghanistan!” No, if the results aren’t there, we blame the planners. We blame the generals, the secretary of defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff. No one contemplates blaming the men and women fighting every day in the trenches for little pay and scant recognition.

And yet in education we do just that. When we don’t like the way our students score on international standardized tests, we blame the teachers. When we don’t like the way particular schools perform, we blame the teachers and restrict their resources.

Compare this with our approach to our military: when results on the ground are not what we hoped, we think of ways to better support soldiers. We try to give them better tools, better weapons, better protection, better training. And when recruiting is down, we offer incentives.

Here is someone who understands what it will take to attract the best and keep the best in the profession. Here is someone who would work with teachers. Here is someone who could improve the profession.


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