Dear Senator Klobuchar (9 May ’09)

The following are the notes I delivered on 9 May 2009 to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, via two of her aides, at recent hearings here in Minneapolis on upcoming changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, plagiaristically known as No Child Left Behind.


Too much emphasis on data and numbers as though they had meaning, when they can be made to mean what ever we want them to mean.

Too much emphasis on what these numbers mean to the image of Minneapolis, or Minnesota or America.

Too much emphasis on what scores are produced in school, scores that turn education into a game of Space Invaders, where bigger numbers are all that counts.

Too little emphasis to the actual lives of the students and their families. Too little emphasis on what happens for the rest of the lives of those who have been played for the scores they produce. Little or no data exists on the correlation between their scores and the next five, ten or twenty years of their lives. The numbers as just numbers.

Too much emphasis on lock-step processes geared toward locked in goals. No two children are the same. Demanding that they all leave school the same turns egalitarianism into dehumanization. No one is a failure because they are not like everyone else.

Too much emphasis on failure; too little emphasis on how much gain has been made. Declaring students failures, declaring teachers failures and declaring schools failures solves no problems, makes no progress, leaves millions of people behind and does not make America a better place to live.

Too much dependence on decision making about public education by powerful interests who have no direct connection with teaching and learning in public schools now and never have had.

Too few meetings like this to begin to find out what’s working and rewarding and celebrating it.

About Jay C Ritterson
The only failure is the failure to try.

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