Education Opinion

The Summer of Teacher Discontent

By Anthony Cody — May 28, 2010 3 min read

Monday we finally had our talk with Secretary Duncan. As I have written, we tried to carry the messages from the two thousand members of our group, Teachers’ Letters to Obama. We worked for hours to prepare our six topics. But in the end, we felt largely unheard, in part because the time was so short, the phone line so poor, the words too few to convey the depth of frustration we all feel about where education is headed.

We have their attention. Somebody up there finally has awoken to the fact that teachers can make a difference -- in politics as well as in the classroom. Perhaps it was the thousands of teachers who mobilized in Florida to stop Senate Bill 6. Perhaps it was the backlash to the administration’s support of the firing of teachers in Rhode Island. But all of a sudden, for some reason, they care what we think. We need to make sure they know exactly what we think, in no uncertain terms.

Two months ago we polled the members of Teachers’ Letters to Obama and asked what issues we should raise when we spoke with Secretary Duncan. The top three issues are: Overreliance on test scores for high stakes decisions (93%), narrowing of the curriculum due to over-reliance on test scores (87%), and tying teacher pay and evaluations to test scores (84%). But in our call to Secretary Duncan, the Department of Education seemed to have quick answers to every point we raised around these issues. We need to develop our understanding, including current proposals, so we can weigh in effectively on the policies being decided upon. We need to do a bit of homework, and sharpen our thinking. Then we need to get out there and take a strong stand on what we believe in.

We need you.
We are proposing a summer of teacher activism focused on getting smart, getting clear, and getting involved in the policies that are affecting all of us and our students -- too often in terrible ways. Here is how this will look:

Discussion Openers: What is wrong about the ways tests are being used? What are the negative consequences? What are alternatives to this approach?

For the month of June, we are asking everyone to jump on this topic. If you have a blog, write about it. If you have books about this, read them. And most importantly, come to the Teachers’ Letters to Obama discussion forums and discuss. We need clarity. What do we want tests to be used for? What do we want to change about the ways they are used? We need to reach a consensus, as teachers, and decide on concrete policies we will support that will enact our vision. We will also have threads where we can suggest ways to affect change: who to pressure, what legislation to support, where to protest, where to write.

We will organize two large webinars for the month of June. The first will be designed as a learning session. We will invite a few experts, teacher leaders and advocates to share some key understandings about standardized tests and the ways they are being used and abused, and some possible alternative approaches. The webinar will be open to all, and there will be channels for participation. This will be followed by a period of active discussion, where we will seek the consensus we need to speak powerfully on this matter.

Then we will hold the second webinar, which will be the Teacher Roundtable, where we will allow prominent and powerful voices from the discussion to speak out publicly. We will invite the Department of Education, members of Congress, and the press to attend. This will be their chance to hear teachers. And our voices will reflect not just the ideas of the few who are speaking, but will carry the power of all who have been involved and contributing. The policy ideas that emerge will become the items that we will ask the Department of Education and members of Congress to act on in the months to come.

Please join us on the Teachers’ Letters to Obama Discussion forum to discuss this process, and the big questions we are raising about our obsession with testing.

What do you say? Will you join in this process and make your voice heard?

The opinions expressed in Living in Dialogue 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.

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.


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.
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Data Analyst
New York, NY, US
New Visions for Public Schools
Project Manager
United States
K12 Inc.
High School Permanent Substitute Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District
MS STEM Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read