Maya Angelou Criticizes Obama's 'Race to the Top'

Maya Angelou Criticizes Obama's 'Race to the Top'

Maya Angelou was among more than 120 authors and illustrators of children's books who urged President Obama to curb policies that promote excessive standardized testing and said they are "alarmed" about the impact "on children's love reading and literature."

The letter was delivered to the White House and organized by The National Center for Fair & Open Testing, known as FairTest, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the misuse of standardized tests.

The letter states:

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

We the undersigned children's book authors and illustrators write to express our concern for our readers, their parents and teachers. 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.

We call on you to support authentic performance assessments, not simply computerized versions of multiple-choice exams. We also urge you to reverse the narrowing of curriculum that has resulted from a fixation on high-stakes testing.

Our public school students spend far too much time preparing for reading tests and too little time curling up with books that fire their imaginations. As Michael Morpurgo, author of the Tony Award Winner War Horse, put it, "It's not about testing and reading schemes, but about loving stories and passing on that passion to our children."

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.

This year has seen a growing national wave of protest against testing overuse and abuse. As the authors and illustrators of books for children, we feel a special responsibility to advocate for change. We offer our full support for a national campaign to change the way we assess learning so that schools nurture creativity, exploration, and a love of literature from the first day of school through high school graduation.

Now Angelou has blasted Obama's signature education initiative, Race to the Top, saying that it is "a contest" that doesn't help children learn to love to read and get a better understanding of the world.

She states, "Race To The Top feels to be more like a contest... not what did you learn, but how much can you memorize." "Writers are really interested in forming young men and women," she said. "... 'This is your world.' ' This is your country.' ' This is your time.' And so I don't think you can get that by racing to the top."