Tuesday, July 8, 2014

An Open Letter to Lily and Randi

An open letter to Lily and Randi
(and other leaders in our state and national organizations) from a teacher.

Dear Randi and Lily,
First of all

Thanks for taking a stand against high stakes testing and for all your years of work for us
 But, right now

We often wonder why you do not take a stand against CCSS or Charters, and why you entertain ideas like “accountability” --why you even portray them as good or acceptable ideas.  It creates a real disconnect for us in the trenches suffering under the multitude of threats the various components of reform are delivering.

It is difficult for us teachers to imagine why you think these things are not a problem, and why you are not out there resisting them with us.

Here’s what we are hoping, and what allows us to continue to support you.

What we want to believe is that you have made a strategic decision  to challenge high stakes testing as the first leg of the privatization platform, perhaps because it is the easiest to explain to the public and the easiest to get support for from parents and general citizenry. 

The others (VAM, CCSS, Closures, Untrained teacher replacements, and Charters) can become complex to explain and leave teachers and schools open to accusations of protectionism and making excuses for poor performance, so perhaps you have decided to not focus your efforts there. 

Also, Charters, so far, have mostly targeted poor neighborhoods, which in today's climate, leaves other parts of the population believing it's not their problem.  Changing societal attitudes toward poverty is a big one to take on when we are in a hurry and need fast change, so we get why that might not be the first place you would choose to do full out battle.

It is true that once the testing collapses, the standards become expectations rather than detailed mandates, and there will be no scores from which to enforce VAM, or school closures. 

If we kill the testing, we may be able to seriously injure, even kill the other components of this draconian reform.

Ok, we get all that,


You cannot really expect us to give you a pass on challenging the other components of reform.

Though we can accept that you are choosing not to attack on all fronts at once, what we have real trouble with is that you actually voice support for some of the other components-- either partially or fully.  

Lily, your last blog was about the wonders of Common Core, and Randi, you regularly switch back and forth on your anti-reform stances. One day you are against an element, and the next you are getting headlines standing by the president to sign the next destructive initiative.  

So here is what we need from you to be able to wholeheartedly back you with unequivocal support.
  • We need you to wage all-out battle with us and on our behalf, using all the resources at your disposal to stop the high-stakes testing, marshalling the staffs, advocates, budgets, states apparatuses, and your own status and credibility to stop  the madness now
  •  We need you to hold off on statements and efforts to sustain, accommodate, or in any way support Common Core as currently configured or proposed, the implementation is how the reformers are driving our best teachers from the field. It is not a good thing, don't say it is. 
  • And to do the same, refraining from any position of support or acceptance, for Teach for America or other quick replacement schemes to replace the work force of trained teachers.
  • We need you to hold off on any endorsements, or positive statements related to “accountability” or “assessment” driven evaluations for schools or teachers as a possibly valid endeavor. New "accountability" schemes are not appropriate or ok right now. 
  • We need you to not endorse or support Charters, even as you support your individual members who teach in Charters. Charters are the goal and end game of privatization you cannot give them quarter.
  • We need you to reframe the conversation. The entire effort of learning and teaching has been turned on its head, away from curriculum and instruction toward assessment and standards by business schools (as opposed to education schools) across the nation.  Teaching and Learning come first, not the other way around.  Your new vision, must be accessible,clear and inspiring.
  • We also have to tackle that difficult issue of poverty, steadily and with our hearts and skills.  You have to articulate solidarity with those who have lost access to money and status in non-jargon, so that the everyday citizen can understand, empathize, and not glaze over.
  • Finally, and this is very important and very hard to do—We need you to be invulnerable:

o   To those with money
o   To those with power
o   To those with status
We need leaders who cannot be seduced with any of the things that normally attract and draw people to doing the bidding of others, not access to philanthropy, access to high office, the promise of fame and accolades, or fortune, or privilege.  That means you cannot let policy makers tell you one thing while they are doing another.

I know this is a lot to ask, but do these, and together we might just save our schools, our children and our society.  

Try this and we will have your back in ways you never imagined.

And --I really do appreciate the work you are doing.  

It’s just that there is a lot on the line right now, and we need leaders who can inspire us to follow without hesitancy or question.  

Can you do that?
One of many Third Millennium Teachers 

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