Opinion Blog

Peter DeWitt's

Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Dear President Obama

By Peter DeWitt — October 17, 2012 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

In honor of my friends Diane Ravitch and Anthony Cody I am publically submitting the following letter to President Obama. Diane, Anthony and teachers, administrators, students and parents from across the nation are doing this today.


Dear President Obama:
As an elementary school principal and blogger for Education Week I am writing this letter out of concern for the education of our children. The increase in time spent on taking high stakes tests in New York State has grown exponentially over the past few years. Our students, as young as 7 years-old are subjected to hours of field tests and multiple days of ELA and Math exams. I believe this is a form of educational neglect on the part of our state and federal education department because it is taking our educational focus off of the whole child and forces us to focus on test prep.

I understand accountability. As a school principal I go into classrooms every day and work with teachers who always hold themselves accountable to their students. I take my job very seriously as do the teachers, staff and administrators I work with day in and day out. We have regular classroom observations as well as set goals through annual Danielson Goal setting meetings. We do a great job of meeting the needs of our students but continue to strive to do better.

Our present test taking environment has not only created stressful environments for our students and families but it has ruined the morale of educators across the country. In addition it is unfair to tie any high stakes testing to teacher and administrator evaluation. Since the beginning of standardized high stakes testing in the late 90’s there has been little benefit to education and it has not provided new information to students, teachers and parents. By tying state exams to teacher and administrator evaluation you are harming the relationship between students and teachers and teachers and administrators.

Many of our children are not good test takers and this puts them at a grave disadvantage in our present test-taking environment. This, however, does not make them unsuccessful. All children have different strengths and weaknesses. As an educators I am concerned that the use of standardized tests will further the focus on a weakness that some students never be able to improve.

Lastly, there are millions of public dollars spent on creating, maintaining and scoring tests, not to mention the countless hours wasted on test prep that could be better spent on creating more nurturing environments for students. I strongly believe the money spent on high stakes testing should be put toward high quality pre-k programs, high quality before and after-school programs, increasing adult education programs and lowering class sizes. As an educator I know I am accountable to my students, parents and staff and I hope that together we can all find accountability that makes sense.

Thank you for your time.
Sincerely yours,

Peter DeWitt, Ed.D.
Elementary School Principal
Education Week Blogger

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.