A Letter to Arne Duncan
Dear Secretary Duncan,
- Praised the mass firing of all teachers in certain ‘failing’ schools, despite a lack of evaluation or evidence to justify such an action. This is like a doctor performing major surgery with an ax instead of a scalpel. You watched it, and applauded. How is that respectful? Did you stop to question if those teachers had been supported to be successful? How can you claim to value teachers when you praise school officials who treat us as if we’re disposable?
- Promoted questionable school reform policies embraced by powerful non-educators over the express opposition of many teachers (and public school parents, for that matter). You’ve also framed criticism of these policies as a defense of an indefensible status quo. This, instead of valuing the views of the people who work daily for America’s students, and instead of honoring divergent views for what they are: a necessary part of any productive problem-solving exercise. How is it respectful to write off the informed opinions of concerned people who have spent their lives serving students and communities? (And how is it supportive to ask said professionals to continue trying to do more with less?)
- Undermined the teaching profession by:
- frequently elevating the views of non-educators over those of educated, experienced professionals
- supporting programs and policies that continually lower entry standards into the profession
- increasing the instability of the profession (and our schools) by promoting policies that tie teachers’ evaluations and continued employment to flawed value-added measures based on flawed tests.
- Speaking of those tests, you have elevated and increased high-stakes tests that are hastily scored by temporary employees and/or machines over classroom-embedded assessments designed and evaluated by teachers. You believe such tests should account for as much as 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation–with input from principals, the teachers themselves, peer teachers, students, and parents all crammed into the remaining 50 percent. That necessarily indicates that you value teachers’ (and all public school stakeholders’) judgment much less than the opinions of test-makers… and temporary scorers, and machines. And you continue to allow schools to be closed or converted, teachers to be fired, and learning to be disrupted, on the basis of these tests. Not only is this disrespectful, it’s perplexing given that you yourself believe they are so inadequate that you’ve urged us to spend hundreds of millions of dollars–during a budget crunch!–to replace them.
All of these actions are profoundly disrespectful to teachers, to say nothing of our students.