Last week, you addressed a student's question concerning standardized tests. Anthony Cody pointed out that you seemed to misunderstand the policies of your own Department of Education in your response. Cody called on students, parents, and teachers to write short letters to let you know how students learn best and how learning should be assessed.
This is my short letter to you.
Last year, I taught at the student's school who asked you that question. Bell Multicultural High School is a perfect example of a school in which tests and useless data drive instruction. Students there often complain that teachers and administration don't really care about students, only about the tests.
Your daughters don't have to worry about narrowed curriculum, diminished instructional time due to standardized testing, and large class sizes. Why should students who are in desperate need of better teachers, instructional time, and resources? Let's face it. Your daughters are your daughters. Wherever they go to school, there's a tremendously high probability they'll grow up to be wildly successful in life - not so for students from underprivileged backgrounds.
Students learn best when they're well-fed, loved, and have a place to sleep. Fighting poverty should not be a pipe dream.
Students learn best when they have experienced, well-educated, well-trained teachers in classrooms with a reasonable number of peers. Alternative certification, Teach for America, and larger class sizes are not a path toward improving instructional quality.
Students learn best when they're not learning to deal with the minutia of test prep - e.g. sharpening pencils, sitting properly in rows, learning to eliminate wrong answers. Capable teams of educators who are trusted to administer their own assessments are a far better option.
Perhaps you can relate my message to Arne Duncan, or, better yet, a new Secretary of Education who actually has a background in education, not just bureaucratic management and professional Australian basketball.
I thank you for your time.