This week over 100 children’s book authors and illustrators sent a letter to President Obama urging him to reconsider his testing-driven education reform agenda. The list of signers includes Dr. Maya Angelou and children’s book authors and illustrators like Judy Blume, Judith Viorst and Donald and Nina Crews.
Organized by testing reform advocacy group FairTest, the signers collectively told Obama:
We are alarmed at the negative impact of excessive school testing mandates, including your Administration’s own initiatives, on children’s love of reading and literature. Recent policy changes by your Administration have not lowered the stakes. On the contrary, requirements to evaluate teachers based on student test scores impose more standardized exams and crowd out exploration.
Teachers, parents and students agree with British author Philip Pullman who said, “We are creating a generation that hates reading and feels nothing but hostility for literature.” Students spend time on test practice instead of perusing books. Too many schools devote their library budgets to test-prep materials, depriving students of access to real literature. Without this access, children also lack exposure to our country’s rich cultural range.
Indeed, the hallmark of Obama’s education reform agenda has been his aggressive expansion of test-based accountability measures. Under Obama, tests now matter more. Standardized tests can determine whether school doors stay open, a student’s future educational options, and even whether a teacher may keep her job. In response to new state standards and the testing barrage, lawmakers, parents, educators and students around the country have spoken out against overtesting with legislation, boycotts, and protests.
Which leaves just one question. President Obama, are you really going to ignore Maya Angelou?