An Open Letter to @arneduncan #edpolicy

Dear Arne Duncan,

I am honored that you (or your staff) chose to follow me on Twitter. However, I'm not sure it's going to make a difference. I have a hunch that it has more to do with a Connected Educator month than a sincere desire to listen to teachers. However, if you want to connect, I suggest you start with a horizontal, democratic conversation with teachers. Real teachers. The kind affected by your policies.

I believe that you care about kids. I believe that you think merit pay and VAM scores and PARCC assessments will help us reach the top. I don't mind the fact that we disagree. I get that. However, I am bothered by the way the Obama administration uses positive, empty rhetoric while doing little to change the failed policies of No Child Left Behind.

Here's what I mean:
  • talking up STEM while pushing policies that continue to assess science and engineering through informational text and high-stakes tests
  • pandering to the teacher's union and then promoting reformers that are openly anti-union
  • speaking in favor of the altruistic nature of teachers while supporting VAM scores and merit pay (here's a hint: we're not motivated by money. If we fight to keep our pay, it's because many of us have mouths to feed at home)
  • promoting connected learning while doing nothing to ensure universal wireless connectivity in American schools
  • criticizing standardized tests while continuing to use them to rank schools and rank teachers
If you'd ever like to connect, I'd love to have a real conversation. Twitter is great for that. Or maybe we could grab a pint or a cup of coffee. I can show you a place that brews a better IPA than anything the White House puts out. But even then, I wouldn't believe you.

I can't begin to trust you until I see the change in education policy. Right now, your policies are poison.

Sincerely,

John Spencer
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John Spencer

John Spencer is a teacher, author, speaker, and incessant doodler. He is the co-author of Wendell the World's Worst Wizard and the co-founder of Write About. He is passionate about helping students develop into better writers and deeper thinkers.

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16 comments:

  1. Is this really the best way to model the respectful discourse you claim to represent? You might disagree with him, but show some respect for the office. You're above personal attacks, John.

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    Replies
    1. How is this a personal attack? John's criticizing his policies and his ideas and his rhetoric. He's not personally insulting Mr. Duncan. Is criticism a 'personal attack?' If so, we might as well just roll over right now and give up on these ideas called 'free speech' and 'democracy' ...

      Also, it's easy for you and others to carp from anonymity. Kudos to John for being willing to put his name and reputation behind his belief system.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for standing up for me, Scott.

      And anonymous, this is the kind of hypocrisy I'm referring to:
      http://www.edsource.org/today/2013/obama-administration-makes-unprecedented-effort-to-block-state-education-legislation/38745#.UjE3smQ6Vpd

      Delete
  2. I am in total agreement, John. Money shouldn't be deciding education policy, the best interest of our nation's children and OUR FUTURE should be dictating education policy.

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  3. Thanks for the enlightening post. I agree with your view points and have the same concerns over education policy in the US right now. Keep up the great writing and know that you do have educators behind you that feel same way, but find it difficult to convey our thoughts and opinions in writing. I want to thank you for being able to do it for me.

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  4. Thanks for sharing what is a fascinating dichotomy. Can one not like the current testing system and criticize it, yet, at the same time criticize how a state transitions to a new test? There are many ways to transition and reform, just like there are many ways to personalize learning. http://www.edsource.org/today/2013/obama-administration-makes-unprecedented-effort-to-block-state-education-legislation/38745#.UjE3smQ6Vpd

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    Replies
    1. Excellent points, Mr. Darrow. (It's still too strange to call you Rob)

      In the case of Duncan, I think his rhetoric is so far away from his policies that it seems hypocritical -- or at least disingenuous.

      Delete
  5. Good post, John. As usual, your clarity of thought represents you well. If you do get to have that pint, I hope you will share the results of that meeting here as well.

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  6. I wonder why he isn't speaking out on how urban school districts are drowning in poverty and disruption while scores of schools are being closed. Relationships are key to improving economic status, yet communities continue to be unable to begin or maintain relationships between teachers, students families and staff. If he doesn't speak out against this, who will?

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  7. Hello. I’m Demetrius Hamner, a student at the University of South Alabama. I have commented on your one of your blog post before, A Rebel Without a Clue. This week for my EDM310 assignment I had to comment on your most recent blog post. As a student I have always had to abide by many policies, even if I didn't agree with them. Addressing someone in a high up position wasn't encouraged, but if I was to do it then it always had to be in a respectable way. This letter, although very controversial, was a good example of this. No one wants to hear the truth when it comes to policies created by them. New education policies are created on a regular, but everyone seems to turn their head when it fails. This is because they aren't directly affected by it. We (teachers, students, and parents) are the ones directly affected, but have to go through so much to change it. Hopefully this letter will help Mr. Duncan see that things really do need to be changed.

    My Blog

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    ReplyDelete
  8. Hello. I’m Demetrius Hamner, a student at the University of South Alabama. I have commented on your one of your blog post before, A Rebel Without a Clue. This week for my EDM310 assignment I had to comment on your most recent blog post. As a student I have always had to abide by many policies, even if I didn't agree with them. Addressing someone in a high up position wasn't encouraged, but if I was to do it then it always had to be in a respectable way. This letter, although very controversial, was a good example of this. No one wants to hear the truth when it comes to policies created by them. New education policies are created on a regular, but everyone seems to turn their head when it fails. This is because they aren't directly affected by it. We (teachers, students, and parents) are the ones directly affected, but have to go through so much to change it. Hopefully this letter will help Mr. Duncan see that things really do need to be changed.

    My Blog

    EDM310 Class Blog

    Tweet Me

    ReplyDelete
  9. It bothers me to no end when people stress the importance of being a "connected educator" but really don't know what that truly means and don't do anything to support it.

    This line made me clap out loud when I read it:

    "promoting connected learning while doing nothing to ensure universal wireless connectivity in American schools."

    I *hope* that the DOE with their involvement of connected educator month will be more actively involved and truly listen to educators that are fighting every day to improve education.

    You can count on when I work with them, I'll push them to that..

    @elanaleoni

    disclosure: opinions do not represent my employer :)

    ReplyDelete

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