As part of our Campaign for Our Public Schools, this teacher wrote a fine letter to the President:

Dear President Obama,

While I was and remain your supporter I respectfully disagree with many of your ideas about education policy. I have been working in education for more than ten years and I can say confidently that high stakes testing does nothing for the low-income, high-need students population I have been working with diligently.

What does matter? Strong relationships with teachers and other adults, supports at the school setting that help them figure out who they are and what they want for their life and people who encourage them to think about college and understand the steps required. Critically needed to make any kind of education possibly is wrap-around support that think about young people holistically, the way I’m sure you think about your daughters. You would never take away art and music classes for them because test prep is more important and expensive. You would never get rid of their sports because of “budget cuts.” You would never allow them to suffer through the pain of watching classmates shot and family members killed without any counseling because there is only one social worker at a school of 2,000 students. You would never tell them learning a 2nd language is a bad thing, so why would ELL students be treated as outcasts and special ed students, when they are already fluent in a second language? You would never allow them to think college isn’t for them because they didn’t know how to pay for it or had been told for years they were not good students because their test scores weren’t high enough. Just a few of my complaints about our current system of education 🙂

If I can give you one piece of advice it’s this – think about what you want for your own children. Would you want them sitting in a class with a scripted curriculum every day designed only to improve their math and reading test scores? Would you want them completing worksheet after worksheet from a stressed out teacher who has been told she will be fired if all of her students do not pass the state test or at least improve dramatically on a test she knows is not testing the right material or the right way, but has to go along with it because she’s “only a teacher.” I know I would not want my daughter in these types of situations. I panic daily thinking about the future of education for my toddler because I know what education can be and I know I can’t afford to send her to a school where she would receive the kind of education I know she needs and I believe is best for her and all students.

I know we can do better. I do. I know it’s possible. I’ve read about other countries doing the right thing. I’ve seen some schools here (many private and almost all in affluent communities, unfortunately) doing the right thing. Know that does not mean I think public schools should be privatized – I don’t think many of the of Charter School Networks are examples of schools “doing the right thing” although they may have become experts at test prep and marketing.

Thank you,
Alison Upton Lopez