Post your ideas/possible language for an Op-Ed here:

Annie: What do we want to say in an Op-Ed?

That there are thousands of teachers around the country doing excellent, innovative work with their kids. Thousands of teachers are isolated and beleaguered, and not meeting the standards.

That the emphasis on standards and accountability and testing and evaluation threatens to isolate and drain teachers even further. That the best way to get kids to authentically meet standards is to engage them in authentic, personally important writing, not just test prep; to enable community and reflective practice among teachers, to inspire, not to insult and beat down. Teach beyond the test.

Standards are not a bad thing -- in many ways, the Common Core is an interesting idea. The danger is that focus on it will turn our schools even more into test-prep factories, that very little authentic, life-changing learning and teaching will come from any of this.

As an organization which has, for 30+ years, taught writing and reflective practices and had demonstrable results, the NWP has suggestions:

  • teach beyond the test (more explanatory language here)
  • empower students and teachers to own their learning -- give students authentic ways to write, and they will write better.
  • teach testing-taking strategies to our students as a genre study.
  • empower teachers to reflect actively on student work and their own practice.

Dotty: I love the 4 bullets and think the emphasis should be on these. I would keep all of the positive statements that you make, like the first sentence and the part about the best way to get kids to meet the standards. I'd expand on these. We don't want to draw attention to the thousands of teachers who are not meeting the standards or that testing and evaluation will isolate and drain teachers, since we don't have the support or sympathy of the general population and the "powers that be."
Annie, do you want us to write an Op-Ed for a collaborative piece or do you just want feedback? I'm away now but will check back with you soon. Enjoy the 4th!

Mary: I have to revise this comment of mine later, but for now I am thinking of these points:
Public school has been the cornerstone of our democracy. It has never been perfect, but it has never been abandoned. We have continually tried to improve on what we do--From Brown V. Board of Education to today's push for equal access to a quality curriculum for all students. However, let's not fool ourselves--the CC are not "answers" or "solutions" for the real problems of poverty, lack of opportunity faced by children raised by children in poverty. It will not overcome lack of student effort or parent engagement. If we examine the evidence, NAEP scores show little change for the past 20 years. Schools/students have not suddenly become worse. They have remained remarkably stable. We do face a serious achievement gap, which mirrors our growing economic disparity between the "haves" and "have nots" of our society. Education problems will be tied to the exporting of manufacturing and the roadkill wrought by economic globalization. It is no accident that literacy rates reflect opportunity and access. People become better readers, writers, and thinkers when they have the opportunity to engage in all of these acts and reason to do so. (This is why authentic, engaging curriculum is so good for developing literacy and achievement.) The demands create the literacy. No jobs = no demand = low levels of literacy. Our country still has plenty of work to do, but we are not focusing on it. It has work to do with creating a sustainable energy system along with incentives and infrastructure to support it. Our country is spending tremendous amounts of money on "defense" and security"; who is being enriched by this work? A small number of defense and technology firms and the executives who manage them.

Dotty, I'd love to have it be a collaborative piece. I'm happy to help shape it, but I think an Op-Ed should contain many of the ideas you and Mary have raised, and more. If anyone else wants to take a stab at organizing an outline or draft, please feel free!

In the meantime, I got really mad at David Brooks last night for his Opinion column:

and wrote in this Letter to the Editor:

To the Editor:

Testing is neither the enemy of good teaching nor its savior. In a
climate of testing and standardization, however, all teachers are
assumed to be ineffectual until proven otherwise. And when the
standards are developed without the educators’ input and student
scores are wielded like cudgels to threaten their jobs, what incentive
does any hard-working, effective teacher have to stay in the

Mr. Brooks should look beyond charter schools to the work of the
National Writing Project. For over 30 years, they have succeeded with
a simple formula: Recognize the expertise, passion, and talent of our
country’s best teachers. Train those expert teachers to work with
teachers in all kinds of schools. Infuse writing into our classrooms
in authentic, effective ways that take context into account.

More testing won’t create an “invigorating moral culture.” Making
teachers an active part of educational reform will.

Annie Thoms, English teacher, Stuyvesant H.S., and member of the New
York City Writing Project

I was also angry at Brooks's Opinion piece! You have written a BEAUTIFUL and pointed response, Annie. Three cheers!! I will be looking for it to be published.--Mary

Fabulous letter-when did you send it??/ I will keep me eye out for it also.
thank you Amy