The following letter was originally published in Education Week online on September 30, 2014 and in print on October 1, 2014.
To the Editor:
The Commentary by Patrick Riccards makes a welcome call for a better conversation about public education, with less “rhetorical posturing” and more reaching out to the people doing the actual work in our schools—our teachers.
The current common-core debates in places like Louisiana and Ohio immediately come to mind. Education leaders and state officials in both states approved a move to new, higher standards, and educators spent years planning and training for them, but politicians are now making campaign-season plays to pander to the common-core opposition, talking of backtracking and running roughshod over the important groundwork laid by teachers.
Thankfully, teachers and education leaders in those states are speaking out and re-focusing the conversation where it belongs—in the classroom, where the new Common Core State Standards are taking root.
When teachers are a key part of the policy conversation, they lead us to common-sense, student-focused solutions. We’re seeing that with the debate on overtesting, in places like Pittsburgh. In response to concerns raised by teachers and parents, the public schools in Pittsburgh just announced a significant reduction in the amount of classroom time that will be devoted to standardized tests.
“I think this is wonderful,” Nina Esposito-Visgitis, the president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Teachers have complained for so long. … They spend so much time testing the kids, which takes away from instructional time. It adds to the stress of the kids.”
Let’s move the conversation away from polarized extremes and more toward middle ground. Let’s focus less on political stands and more on what works in the classroom. And let’s make sure teachers’ voices are coming through loud and clear.