In a commonwealth and country where pessimism rules the day, there are still those who shine the light of optimism on America’s future.
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Professor Diane Ravitch from Columbia Teachers College and now New York University amassed a considerable reputation over the years as an education historian.
Lately, however, she has been missing the target, as her recent comments to the National Education Association’s annual conference attest.
(Click the ‘Read more’ link below to learn more)
Below is a link to a video of some of Ravitch’s comments to the National Education Association’s national conference in New Orleans on July 6, 2010. Before you watch this, please consider some facts.
• This video is obviously edited, so some of the comments selected by the video editor may have been taken out of context from what Prof. Ravitch actually said.
With that caveat, here are some facts to consider before watching the video:
• Ravitch seemed annoyed by questions from documentary film makers about New Orleans charter schools (questions she may or may not have repeated correctly).
Keep in mind the convention was being held in New Orleans. Not long ago, Hurricane Katrina wrecked havoc in “The Big Easy,” wrecking much of the city’s school infrastructure in the process. The New Orleans school system was largely rebuild because Louisiana, fed up with the slow turn-around coming from that public school system, allowed unprecedented charter school development to occur there. The inflexible regular public school bureaucracy wasn’t getting it done.
People doing documentary filming in New Orleans would certainly have figured that out. Those video producers may know more about what is going on there than Professor Ravitch.
• Ravitch states charter schools are run by “privateers,” implying without saying it that these schools are both private schools and that they are run by irresponsible characters.
The truth is that charter schools are public schools. Furthermore, charters do especially well in inner cities like New Orleans, often embarrassing the far less productive regular public schools that Ravitch seems to so strongly prefer.
How many more generations would Ravitch sacrifice to a public school system that has been unable to make strong improvement year after year after year?
• Ravitch laments to the union worthies that “thousands and thousands” of poor, persecuted public schools are in trouble under current accountability programs solely due to impossible to reach standards.
At least in Kentucky, that’s bunk. Schools at the bottom of the stack, the ones facing the sorts of real sanctions Ravitch laments, have long-term, lousy records and started failing years ago when standards were very low.
As I point out in “Examining Kentucky’s ‘No Child Left Behind’ Tier 5 Schools,” to be a Tier 5 school at the present time, a school had to start failing when required proficiency rates were extraordinarily low, especially in math.
In the 2003-04 school year, schools passed muster with math proficiency rates no higher than a dismal 22.45 percent. That was fully 14 years after KERA was enacted and we started paying a ton more for education in this state.
Furthermore, those proficiency rates were calculated from our grossly inflated CATS tests, not some really demanding, high quality assessment.
Minorities, the poor, and kids with learning disabilities have continued to turn in dismal academic performance and very low graduation rates year after year in too many Kentucky schools for far too long.
• Ravitch also spouts a union line on high stakes testing, saying this causes cheating.
I’m sorry, but poor moral character coupled with poor teaching skills lie behind that sort of cheating. Ravitch would shoot the messenger while the guilty go free.
Ravitch is also out of touch with her comments on the Central Falls High School in Rhode Island. That school did fire all its union teachers, but only after those education worthies refused to do the extra things that badly underserved kids in Central Falls High desperately needed.
Well, the local union at Central Falls finally woke up way back in May. The union and its teachers agreed to try to do the things the principal and the superintendent know can help those kids. The firings were cancelled.
Based on her comments in New Orleans this week, Ravitch either doesn’t know what happened, or doesn’t want to admit it.
No one got fired after all the dust settled.
But, the union did have to start negotiating in good faith instead of trying to bully its way to maintain an unworkable status quo. And, this was a win for the stricter rules brought in by ‘Race to the Top’ and the federal ‘School Improvement Grant’ programs.
Maybe that is why Ravitch conveniently overlooked this real history lesson. It didn’t fit in with her current attack on ‘Race to the Top.’
So now, as you listen to Ravitch, ask yourself how a historian who wrote “Left Back, A Century of Failed School Reforms” can suddenly excuse the continued endemically poor performance of the education establishment in this country.
Decide for yourself how Ms. Ravitch might have come to this sudden turn in thinking that led to her off-target speech for all those well-heeled, big union types in the “The Big Easy” last week.
A new law in Texas looks like it might be worth discussion everywhere else, as well. The Dallas News reports that under the new statute, every public college and university in Texas must post:
•A detailed syllabus listing each course requirement, recommended textbook, test and lecture topic for every undergraduate classroom course.
•A curriculum vitae for each professor, which includes post-secondary education, teaching experience and professional publications.
•A departmental budget report of the department under which the course is offered, from the most recent academic term it was offered.
•Cost-of- attendance information.
The information must be:
•No more than three links away from the institution’s home page.
•Searchable by keywords and phrases.
•Accessible without a user name or password.
•Available on the seventh day of classes in the semester the course is offered.
Such information could make it much easier for students to select colleges that truly offer what they want to study while insuring that professors don’t lure kids in with a bait and switch agenda.
Of course, some of Texas’ professorial crowd are yelling about academic freedom. But, exactly whose freedom are they concerned about – the students’ or the faculty’s? And, since the public is paying a major portion of the cost, what gives professors the right to withhold this important information that can help students make much more informed choices?
Dreams really do come true … for government workers supported by your tax dollars.
The Heritage Foundation released a paper analyzing data from 2006 to 2009 on federal employee compensation. Compare this to your compensation and benefits. Federal employees:
– Average 22 percent more per hour
– Get both defined contribution pension benefits and thrift saving plan
– Can retire at age 56 with full benefits after 30 years
– Get benefits are worth $32,115 versus the private-sector average of $9,882
– Get job security with unemployment going from 2 percent to 2.9 percent while the private-sector climbed from 4.2 percent to 10.6 percent
– Leave their jobs at one-third the rate of private-sector
– Pay is set by Congress under a wage-fixing pay scale based on seniority, not performance
There you have it – big government, big pay, big benefits and no accountability for performance. Wow.
We should all be so lucky. But we aren’t. The federal compensation approach must end now before each one of us has to support two government workers. They’re getting way too heavy to carry anymore.
Join the Bluegrass Institute at the Freedom Fest Rally on Saturday, July 10. Help us create a video montage that will be sent to Frankfort and D.C.
What’s your message in 60 seconds?
What: 2010 Freedom Fest Rally
When: July 10, 2010 – 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: State Capitol, Frankfort, KY, on the Great Lawn
Bluegrass Institute will be Booth #1, the first booth at the top of the stairs on the left hand side (facing the capitol).
Stop by and let us record your 60-second message to Frankfort.
The Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions works with Kentuckians, pro-liberty coalitions, grassroots organizations and business owners to advance freedom and prosperity by promoting free-market capitalism, individual liberty and transparent government. Join Us