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Sunday, September 9, 2012
A Speech President Obama Should Have Given at the Democratic National Convention (by Diane Ravitch)
“I want to address a few words to the nation’s hard-working teachers and principals, to its dedicated leaders and school board members. You hold the future in your hands. Your work will determine whether America is a great society, a just society and a creative society in the future.
“I know you have been disappointed in my approach to education. I know that teacher morale is at a low ebb. I know there is far too much pressure to teach to the test. That degrades the joy of learning.
“I know that most of that pressure comes from mistakes we made when we launched a ‘Race to the Top.’
“I know now we were wrong.
“Judging teachers by the test scores of their students is wrong. I understand now that this method doesn’t work. I apologize to you for letting it happen.
“You know that I have spoken out repeatedly against teaching to the test. I would not want this for my children, and you should not want it for yours or the children in your care. This is mis-education.
“Our country is now spending billions of dollars on testing and test preparation that should be spent in the classrooms of America, bringing back the 300,000 teachers who lost their jobs, reducing class sizes, restoring libraries, and providing services directly to children.
“Our nation must out-innovate the world and it won’t happen by picking a bubble on a standardized test. It will only happen if we encourage critical thinking, free inquiry, and a sense of wonder and imagination in every classroom.
“We want our students to lead the world in their love of learning. We want them to be the best in creativity. We want them to know history and foreign languages, science and mathematics, literature and geography. We want them to re-experience the liberating power of the arts. And we want them to have physical education every single day so that they are healthy and fit.
“One more thing: I realize that we were wrong to require states to allow more privately-managed schools as a condition of getting money from the Race to the Top.
“Through our mistakes, we inadvertently unleashed a movement to privatize our nation’s public schools and to turn them into for-profit centers for equity investors and technology corporations.
“This is unacceptable. Folks on the right have wanted to privatize our schools for half a century. We can’t let that happen.
“When we look around the world, we see that the top-performing nations have great public systems. We do not want to revive a dual school system in our nation’s cities, dividing up our public funds between a weakened public system and aggressive charter chains.
“And so I am directing my Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as of this day to cancel the Race to the Top. The fact is that learning is not accomplished in a “race.” Races are fine on the sports field, but not in the classroom. Learning is accomplished because of the patient effort of students, teachers, principals, parents, and communities working together.
“From this moment on, the U.S. Department of Education will dedicate its efforts to improving public education; to supporting equality of educational opportunity; to enforcing the civil rights of our students; to funding the districts where need is greatest; to strengthening the research and information that we need to upgrade our schools; and to recognizing that the primary responsibility for reform lies with the states and districts that are closest to the problems.
“Yes, we must improve public education. But we must do it in ways that make our communities and our democracy stronger. We must do it in ways that respect the dedication of our educators. And we must do it in ways that recognize that many children and families need extra help because of the burdens of poverty. We must do what we can to lift those burdens and to bring about the greatest of American goals: equality of educational opportunity."