President Obama has taken a positive step to reverse George W. Bush's counterproductive No Child Left Behind Act. Since coming to office in 2009, Obama implemented "Race To the Top," which encourages states to compete for federal funding by adopting mandatory standards. Though RTTT is positive by being about promotion rather than demotion, it is nonetheless based on running schools for profit (in this case, federal dollars). The policies also still include teaching to the standardized test, merit pay, undermining teachers' unions, and even firing entire staff in schools (including janitors and lunch ladies) if test scores are too low. Who is responsible for such policies? The president's Secretary Of Education, Arne Duncan. Obama and Duncan go back to Chicago when the former was still a community activist. Duncan, however, is a strange match to the president's otherwise liberal administration. In 2001, Chicago mayor Richard Daley Jr. appointed Duncan the head of the Windy City's schools. As "CEO" of Chicago's schools, he subsequently privatized the district. Through his reform program, "Renaissance 2010," Duncan promoted charter and magnet schools while shutting down schools that didn't perform well on standardized tests, firing the entire staff, and reopening them with a free market mission and even new student bodies. What were the results of Duncan's right wing tinkering? His initiatives yielded little or no success. According to the Mathematica Policy Research institute, merit pay for teachers had little or no impact on student performance. According to a Stanford University study, only 17% of charter schools outperformed regular schools, while 46% had equal results, and 37% did worse. The Chicago Consortium on School Research (an affillate of the University of Chicago)concluded that Renaissance 2010 schools only occasionally performed better than regular schools. Therefore, it would be foolish to implement Duncan's failed policies on a national level. Education is too precious of an investment (our children, our future)to be gambled away by social experiments cooked up by free market ideologues. Sign the petition and tell President Obama to dump Duncan before he cripples our public education system even more.
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