For my final project in Education and Society, which I took with Tom Giblin, and loved, was to write a letter to a decision maker or law maker concerning issues in Education.
I choose to write to President Obama, highlighting some issues in Urban Education and ways that they could be addressed. (see below)
So this was back in May of last year and I had rarely if ever even thought about the letter since then.
That was until Friday when I went out to the mailbox after work and found a letter from the White House addressed to me.
Now I realize that it is not a personal letter from the President, but considering the sheer number of mailings the White House receives in a days time, I cannot believe someone took the time to read mine (the content of the reply says that someone at least glanced at what I wrote).
This was a very cool thing and something that will be making its way into my Professional Portfolio, definitely will make for a conversation starter in an interview.
Here is what I wrote to the President:
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
Allow me please to congratulate you on your historic rise to the Presidency and your first one hundred days in office which has presented you with obstacles as large as any we have faced as a nation in our history. You have handled these challenges with the same cool, collected and controlled grace that you displayed during your unprecedented run for office and continue to make those of us who count ourselves as your supporters proud of our votes.
Among the many daunting challenges that we face, none in my opinion are more pressing than the crisis in education. As a future social studies teacher in the state of New York, I fear for the future of the system that I will devote my professional life to improving. Whether it is rural or suburban, urban or somewhere in between, the education system in this country is at a breaking point. We as a nation have pushed school districts and local governments to reach goals that are all but unobtainable, while holding a school’s continued existence as a carrot meant to motivate districts to improve while at the same time removing the resources necessary for that success to take place.
The purpose of this letter is not to decry No Child Left Behind. There are smart people in Washington in both Congress and your administration who are working to correct the wrongs of the past. A major overhaul of the education system in the country is needed and I trust that the right people are on the job. What is needed at this time is creativity and an open mind. There are a number of avenues that parents and educator can take to help mold young people into effective and productive citizens of the future. Charter schools, private schools, home schooling, public schools and virtual education all have a place in today’s educational landscape. The ultimate goal continues to be preparing our young people for lives after high school.
Creativity and outside of the box thinking have led to some exciting and effective ways to motivate young people, particularly in urban schools. In your home city, Chicago Public Schools has recently instituted a program called “The Paper Project” which is a green for grades program designed to motivate young people to achieve academically by providing financial incentives. I work in a similar incentive program in Rochester, New York. I am a Youth Advocate in the Hillside Work Scholarship Connection Program. In this program we use employment and college scholarships as external motivation for academic success.
Our program is designed to assist urban youth in their ultimate goal of graduating. In this endeavor we provide our students with 360° of support. There are many theories about why some students struggle while others succeed. Some of these theories have merit while others have displayed less efficacy. The fact is that urban youth, particularly in but not limited to Rochester are failing high school and dropping out at rates that cannot be sustained. By targeting youth who meet specific risk factors and supporting them socially, academically and in the realm of life and social skills we work to reverse the cycle of failure that is crippling our students. It has been proven that continued academic involvement is one of the most effective deterrents to the continued cycle of failure that many urban youth find themselves ensnared in.
As I stated above, the purpose of this letter is not to place blame for where we find ourselves as a nation where it pertains to academics. Similarly, I do not write this to purport that Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection is the answer for all of the obstacles that impede the progress of America’s youth academically. I write you to say simply that although there are many major issues that face this country, and none of those problems have simple solutions, creativity and a desire to do good are at the foundation of any answer to these problems. There are people working on these solutions today and we need your support and leadership to guide this ship out of the stormy waters we find ourselves in.
As a future teacher I have a vested interest in the success of the system we have to educate young people. At this time I am both hopeful and fearful for the future viability of our system. What we do know is that a top down approach will not work. We need a “student first” solution to the crisis we face. We are doing the nation a great disservice if we do not act now. There can be no more important task than improving the educational experience of America’s youth.
I greatly appreciate your time