It’s something of a Facebook phenomenon in education circles.Teacher Letters to Obama began in late 2009 as a grassroots effort to offer a counter-narrative about school reform from U.S. teachers who believe they are equally committed to the success of all students but question whether federal policy will produce the results promised to the American public.
The group has grown in size and diversity over the past six months. Its latest membership bump, which pushed the number of participants over 2000, came in late May after a dozen participants convinced U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to join them in a 30-minute conference call to discuss USDOE’s proposed Blueprint for the reauthorization of ESEA, the Elementary & Secondary Education Act, better known over the last decade as “No Child Left Behind.”
TLO’s latest initiative is a summer series of education policy “teach-ins” for educators and anyone else interested in discussing school improvement strategies with an independent community of teachers. The first live web conference is scheduled for June 14, with guests Monty Neill, a long-time critic of standardized testing; former Nebraska state superintendent Doug Christensen, who led the development of statewide alternative assessments during his tenure; and education scholar Yong Zhao, a professor at Michigan State University who questions whether over-standardization of education threatens American creativity and freedom of thought. Based on reports about who’s signing up for the live webinar, it promises to be a lively exchange among an audience with diverse points of view.