(Well, one of them. I've sent several.)
I am concerned first of all with the speed with which this is being done. The pattern of the last decade's worth of education reform is to put new rules and regulations in place, to mandate standards and approaches before any real work has been done to determine whether the right choices are being made. It is true that we have been laboring under the bad choices of No Child Left Behind for too long. Replacing old bad choices with new bad choices is not really an improvement.
Let's take our time and get it right.
The reauthorization of ESEA represents a perfect opportunity to do what folks have declared cannot be done-- for the federal government to actually let go of some of the power that it has gathered to itself and send that power back to the states. It needs to be done, not because of some ideological or political stance, but because trying to control local education from DC simply does not work.
Controlling local education from DC is like trying to use a piece of gum and a ten foot pole to pick up a dime. DC is simply too far removed from the nation's classrooms to be able to effective aid the teachers who work there. Trying to set standards, establish a definition of success, and impose a vision of what every single child in the nation should want to be-- these are beyond the scope of any single body, federal or otherwise.
Give us financial support. Give us a list of do-nots (do not discriminate based on gender, race or anything else). Require us to function in a transparent manner so that folks can see how we're doing just by looking. And stop supporting the creation of means by which public schools can be undercut and stripped of resources.
We have been living with the ramped-up version of ESEA for over a decade. Has anybody gotten what they wanted? Have we closed the achievement gap or provided better educational opportunities for poor and minority children? Do legislators and bureaucrats believe that they now have a clearer picture of how well students are doing across the nation? Do teachers and local districts feel that they have better guidance or information to do their jobs?
The answer for everybody is no. Over a decade of more centralized control, accountability and oversight, and we have nothing to show for it.
This experiment has failed. It's time to end it.