Two grandparents on opposite ends of the continent each had a concern about the direction of education reform and its effect on their grandchildren. Through a chain of improbable circumstances they found each other on Facebook and conjured up a letter to President Obama expressing their concerns.
Mark Naison, Ph.D., from Brooklyn, NY and a Fordham professor prepared a draft of the letter. Bob Valiant, Ed.D., retired school administrator from Kennewick, WA, edited the letter and Bob Valiant Jr. developed a survey form and website, http://dumpduncan.org/. The letter calls for the removal of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the inclusion of parents, teachers, and school administrators in all administration policy discussions. It insists on the immediate end to penalties and incentives to compel using student test scores to evaluate teachers, require school closures, or install charter schools. Finally, the letter asks for a National Commission, to include parents and teachers, to explore ways to improve the public schools.
Naison and Valiant Sr. began to circulate the letter to friends on Facebook on February 3. The signatures started rolling in and by the start of the Super Bowl over 2,000 total signatures had been recorded. A map on the website shows they came from all across the country, from big cities, suburbs, and hamlets. All of this happened with a purely volunteer cadre made up of parents, teachers, and other concerned citizens with no financial expenditure. Now the goal is to continue collecting signatures until March 1 when the letter and package of signatures will be delivered to the President.
Veteran teacher Janet Mayer, in her book “As Bad as they Say? Three Decades of Teaching in the Bronx” expresses optimism that public education and our democracy can still be saved, urgently calling on all to become involved and help save our schools. Says Mayer, “By signing this petition, each one of us can help make a difference in our public schools and in the lives of students across America. Together, we can stop the deception, dismantling and demise of public education.”
For further information, and to sign the petition, consult the website, http://dumpduncan.org/