Postcards to Mrs. Obama

Postcards to Mrs. Obama:
End High-Stakes Testing

Many teachers, parents and students have watched with dismay as President Obama and Secretary Duncan pursue an approach to education whose main difference from Bush-era policies seems only one of degree. In many ways, Duncan is taking the Bush test-and-punish approach to new extremes. For example, “Race to the Top” is pushing states to link teacher evaluations and pay to student test scores, despite ample evidence that this will worsen problems like narrowed curriculum and teaching to the test.

No More TestingIt’s disappointing because we remember Obama’s strong campaign statements in which he seemed to recognize the harm done to classrooms by No Child Left Behind, as when he said, “too many teachers are forced to teach to fill-in-the-bubble tests.”

Mrs. Obama too spoke with passion about the way high-stakes tests can stifle learning and block talented students from reaching their potential. “No Child Left Behind is strangling the life out of most schools,” Mrs. Obama said. “If my future were determined by my performance on a standardized test I wouldn’t be here. I guarantee that.”

Now a network of organizations, including Citizens for Public Schools, FairTest, Time out from Testing and the Forum for Education and Democracy, have launched a postcard campaign to Mrs. Obama. The campaign started on May 28, with the groups asking that people send postcards to Mrs. Obama with this message:

Dear Mrs. Obama:

We want to provide the best high-quality education for our public school children, just as you want to provide the best for Malia and Sasha.

Our children are not test scores.

Encourage the President to end the use of high stakes standardized tests!

The point of this message is not that we expect an expensive private school education for all public school children. It’s that, like the Obama children, public school children deserve schools that offer rich, engaging and well-rounded curricula with a full menu of academic subjects as well as art, music, physical education and recess.

Many public school students are losing access to this kind of education because of the mandated high-stakes testing of NCLB – even before the budget crises made things even worse. President Obama could be doing something to address these problems. We hope that by reminding Mrs. Obama of what she said, she will talk to her husband about what needs to be changed.

For complete instructions on how to participate in this campaign, go to Time ot for Testing’s page on the postcard campaign.