A Letter to President Obama in Under 338 Words

Dear President Obama,

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.

James Boutin
Bronx, NY


  1. What I find so amazing is how many think all of this kind of, even though completely correct, rhetoric still even matters.

    We have basketball games broadcast to over 170 countries and yet people still think we are free, or a democracy, or even a republic of any sorts.

    We are completely bought and sold. Two party dictatorship. On the path to the NWO. About to be spending only amero's. Yes yes, I'm just a conspiracy theorists, yet the TV acts as if japanese radiation doesn't exist when it will be flooding the usa for over a THOUSAND years. Enjoy all the sea food from the gulf according to BP. Don't take any pictures of the coast, but go ahead and go swimming!

    Oh yeah, wasn't obama supposed to close the black sites and gaunatanamo? Why do that when you have amazing super powers over the world? But yes, go back to watching and voting over idols because you're so free.

    Get sick and die quickly. Don't tax the rich. Invade anyone we want for oil and nwo reasons. Don't arrest the corporations that hire illegals, just the illegals themselves. Don't legalize drugs, just keep the cia/fbi planes running.

  2. Excellent letter! Thanks for representing.... reality!

  3. Amen! We need an Education Secretary who understands the real issues facing schools and we need education policy that addresses those issues!

  4. I agree that teaching is a highly skilled profession-- the best teachers are those who have dedicated themselves to perfecting their craft through rigorous study and training. But the need for reform is real. Can we engage federal education policymakers constructively?

  5. Anon at 1128: When they're willing to listen, yes.

  6. Brilliant. I thought of applying at the private school the Obamas attend for the sole purpose of whispering this very message in our President's very large ear.

  7. I agree - except for alternative certification. I became a teacher through alternative cert, however, I also got an MA in Education at the same time I was doing so - this is a viable option for some career changers, especially in the STEM fields. I would like to see the alt. license be a little bit more difficult (12 credits, plus completing more before transitioning into a full license).


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