Opinion
Education Letter to the Editor

Negative District Cultures Thwart President’s Agenda

February 09, 2010 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

The excerpted letters in Anthony Cody’s Commentary “Teachers’ Letters to Obama”; (Jan. 20, 2010), all criticizing the president’s reforms, are disappointing. They ignore important problems with his initiatives, and distract us with problems not caused primarily by such reforms.

Unfortunately, many of the bad things these letters complain about have been prevalent in public schools for many decades, and the new problems have come mostly from school systems’ implementing reforms in negative ways. Since many schools do not perpetrate these atrocities, and instead use the reforms to improve students’ authentic learning, the real problems lie deeper.

The most important flaw in President Barack Obama’s agenda is that it doesn’t deal adequately with the negative bureaucratic school system cultures that produce these counterproductive reactions. Our focus should be on changing these negative cultures, and on reshaping national reforms so that they counteract rather than reinforce them.

Instead, these letters give the impression that teachers see nothing wrong with our present school systems that can’t be cured by making reforms go away. This only gives ammunition to those who dismiss teachers as “defenders of the status quo,” when we actually need many more teachers’ voices in building collaborative, success-oriented cultures in our schools. Such cultures can use high expectations, standards, assessment, accountability, small schools, and new teacher recruitment in positive ways.

David S. Seeley

Professor Emeritus
City University of New York
Staten Island, N.Y.

The writer was an assistant U.S. commissioner of education in the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

A version of this article appeared in the February 10, 2010 edition of Education Week as Negative District Cultures Thwart President’s Agenda

Events

Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Using Integrated Analytics To Uncover Student Needs
Overwhelmed by data? Learn how an integrated approach to data analytics can help.

Content provided by Instructure
Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Senators Put YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat on the Defensive on Kids' Online Safety
Senators questioned executives from YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat about what they’re doing to ensure young users’ safety on their platforms.
5 min read
The Youtube, left, and Snapchat apps on a mobile device in New York, on Aug. 9, 2017. The leaders of a Senate panel have called executives from YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat to face questions on what the companies are doing to ensure young users’ safety. The hearing Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, comes as the panel bears down on hugely popular social media platforms and their impact on children.
The Youtube, left, and Snapchat apps on a mobile device in New York, on Aug. 9, 2017. The leaders of a Senate panel have called executives from YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat to face questions on what the companies are doing to ensure young users’ safety. The hearing Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, comes as the panel bears down on hugely popular social media platforms and their impact on children.
Richard Drew/AP
Education Briefly Stated: October 27, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Vulnerable Students Left Behind as Schooling Disruptions Continue
The effects of unpredictable stretches at home can mirror those of chronic absenteeism and lead to long-term harm to learning.
4 min read
Students board a school bus on New York's Upper West Side on Sept. 13, 2021. Even as most students return to learning in the classroom this school year, disruptions to in-person learning, from missing one day because of a late school bus to an entire two weeks at home due to quarantine, remain inevitable as families and educators navigate the ongoing pandemic.
Students board a school bus on New York's Upper West Side on Sept. 13, 2021. Even as most students return to learning in the classroom this school year, disruptions to in-person learning, from missing one day because of a late school bus to an entire two weeks at home due to quarantine, remain inevitable as families and educators navigate the ongoing pandemic.
Richard Drew/AP
Education 'Widespread' Racial Harassment Found at Utah School District
The federal probe found hundreds of documented uses of the N-word and other racial epithets, and harsher discipline for students of color.
1 min read
A CNG, compressed natural gas, school bus is shown at the Utah State Capitol, Monday, March 4, 2013, in Salt Lake City. After a winter with back-to back episodes of severe pollution in northern Utah, lawmakers and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert will discuss clean air legislation and call for government and businesses to convert to clean fuel vehicles.
Federal civil rights investigators found widespread racial harassment of Black and Asian American students in the Davis school district north of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Rick Bowmer/AP Photo