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Maya Angelou hits Obama on school 'testing overuse and abuse'

More than 100 children's book authors are challenging President Obama's national education policy, saying standardized testing hurts children's love of reading.
US poet Dr. Maya Angelou sits in the East Room of the White House during a ceremony honoring her and 14 other Medal of Freedom recipients in Washington DC, USA, 15 February, 2011.
US poet Dr. Maya Angelou sits in the East Room of the White House during a ceremony honoring her and 14 other Medal of Freedom recipients in Washington DC, USA, 15 February, 2011.

Famed author and poet Maya Angelou and 120 other children's book authors are challenging President Obama's national education policy over what they call an "overuse and abuse" of standardized testing. They say the focus on testing hurts children's imaginations and has a negative impact on children’s love of reading. 

Obama's signature education program, "Race to the Top," has been criticized for heightening the value placed on students' performance on standardized tests as an indicator of a teacher's success in the classroom.

Read the letter below:  

President Barack ObamaThe White HouseWashington, DC 20500Dear 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.Alma Flor AdaAlma AlexanderJane AnconaMaya AngelouJonathan AuxierKim BakerMolly BangTracy BarrettChris BartonAri BerkJudy BlumeAlfred B. (Fred) BortzLynea BowdishSandra BoyntonShellie BraeunerEthriam BrammerLouann Mattes BrownAnne BroylesMichael BuckleyJanet BuellDori Hillestad ButlerCharito Calvachi-MateykoValerie Scho CareyRene Colato LainezHenry ColeAnn CookKaren CoombsRobert CortezCynthia CottenBruce CovilleAnn CrewsDonald CrewsNina CrewsRebecca Kai DotlichLaura DowerKathryn ErskineJules FeifferJody FeldmanMary Ann FraserSharlee GlennBarbara Renaud GonzalezLaurie GrayTrine M. GrilloClaudia HarringtonSue HeavenrichLinda Oatman HighAnna Grossnickle HinesLee Bennett HopkinsPhillip HooseDiane M. HowerMichelle HoutsMike JungKathy Walden KaplanAmal KarzaiJane KelleyElizabeth Koehler-PentacoffAmy Goldman KossJoAnn Vergona KrappNina LadenSarah Darer LittmanJosé Antonio LópezMariellen LópezJenny MacKayMarianne MaloneAnn S. ManheimerSally MavorDiane MayrMarissa MossYesenia Navarrete HunterSally NemethKim NormanGeraldo OlivoAlexis O’NeillAnne Marie PaceAmado PeñaIrene PeñaLynn PlourdeEllen Prager, PhDDavid RiceArmando RendonJoan RocklinJudith Robbins RoseSergio RuzzierBarb RosenstockLiz Garton ScanlonLisa SchroederSara ShacterWendi SilvanoJanni Lee SimnerSheri SinykinJordan SonnenblickRuth SpiroHeidi E.Y. StempleWhitney StewartShawn K. StoutSteve SwinburneCarmen TafollaKim TomsicDuncan TonatiuhPatricia ThomasKristin O’Donnell TubbDeborah UnderwoodCorina VaccoAudrey VernickDebbie VilardiJudy ViorstK. M. WaltonWendy WaxApril Halprin WaylandCarol WeisRosemary WellsLois WickstromSuzanne Morgan WilliamsKay WintersAshley WolffLisa YeeKaren Romano YoungJane YolenRoxyanne YoungPaul O. ZelinskyJennifer Ziegler