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.