Famed poet and author Maya Angelou passed away this week at age 86, leaving her life, politics and worldviews to be dissected in obituaries and eulogies around the Internet. Among one of Angelou's notable policy stances was her opposition to standardized testing and President Barack Obama's Race to the Top competition, as the Washington Post pointed out this week.
Angelou was among 120 authors and illustrators who co-signed a letter to Obama in October 2013, criticizing his administration's education initiatives for placing too much emphasis on standardized testing. In the letter, organized by The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, the authors wrote:
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.
Launched in 2009, the Race to the Top competition allows districts and states to compete for federal funding in exchange for implementing certain education initiatives, such as adopting higher standards or building new teacher evaluation systems.
As the Washington Post notes, Angelou further spoke out against the initiative on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports." “Race To The Top feels to be more like a contest,” Angelou said, “… not what did you learn, but how much can you memorize.”
As CBS points out, Angelou and Obama had a somewhat up-and-down relationship. Angelou supported Hillary Clinton during the 2008 Democratic primary, although Obama awarded Angelou the Presidential Medal of Freedom in February 2011. However, in 2009, Angelou told Newsweek that Obama's election was an "indication that [America] may at last be growing up, growing beyond racism, sexism, ageism and all those other ignorances. This is why we see faces radiating with hope."
Following her death, Obama released the following statement:
"Like so many others, Michelle and I will always cherish the time we were privileged to spend with Maya. With a kind word and a strong embrace, she had the ability to remind us that we are all God's children; that we all have something to offer. And while Maya's day may be done, we take comfort in knowing that her song will continue, 'flung up to heaven' – and we celebrate the dawn that Maya Angelou helped bring."