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Diane Ravitch And The ‘Error’ Of American School Reform

Education icon Diane Ravitch championed education reform from vouchers to charter schools.  Now she champions against all that.  Calls it a mistake.  We’ll ask why.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan walks with Winston Brooks, Albuquerque Public Schools superintendent, during a tour of Emerson Elementary in Albuquerque, N.M., on Monday, Sept. 9, 2013. (AP)

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan walks with Winston Brooks, Albuquerque Public Schools superintendent, during a tour of Emerson Elementary in Albuquerque, N.M., on Monday, Sept. 9, 2013. (AP)

For years, Diane Ravitch was a big voice in hard-nosed school reform.  Working under President George H. W. Bush and after, she wanted teacher accountability.  She wanted school choice.  She wanted charter schools.  In the years that followed, we got No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, the Common Core — and lots of charter schools.  But Diane Ravitch has jumped ship.  Reform has become an attack on public education itself, she now argues.  A Trojan horse for privatization.  And the real problem is poverty.  Up next On Point:  we’re testing Diane Ravitch on testing, public schools, and more.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Diane Ravitch, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education in the administration of George H. W. Bush, author of “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools” and “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education,” historian of education and an educational policy analyst at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. (@DianeRavitch)

Jessica Levin, education policy advisor in the Department of Education under Bill Clinton, independent education consultant and former Chief Knowledge Officer for the New Teacher Project.

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times: Loud Voice Fighting Tide of New Trend in Education —  “Ms. Ravitch, 75, is in the full flower of yet another stage in her career: folk hero to the left and passionate scourge of pro-business reformers. She has come to doubt the whole project of school reform, saying it will solve little without addressing poverty and segregation. ‘We know what works,’ she writes. ‘What works are the opportunities that advantaged families provide for their children.’”

Detroit Free Press: Longer Michigan Waits on Common Core, Farther Behind We Get —  “The rigorous Core standards, developed by the National Governor’s Association and adopted by Michigan in 2010, were en route to implementation in 2014. Then state Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, led a successful charge to strip funding for the standards from the state’s budget. (McMillin can’t stop obsessing about local control — a piece of choice hypocrisy when one considers that McMillin also wants to pass state legislation that would bar cities from adopting human rights ordinances. So much for local control?)”
The Atlantic: Did This Little Election Strike a Big Blow to Education Reform? — “The Bridgeport primaries were the latest front in the ongoing political war over American education. It’s a fight that has become intensely polarized, with reformers like Vallas and Michelle Rhee vilified by progressives and unions who see them as working to privatize public schools and undermine teacher unions. Vallas’s opponents say he has a record of closing schools, laying off teachers, privatizing school management, raiding pension funds, and funneling taxpayer dollars to for-profit education companies with dubious track records. Vallas says that in Bridgeport, he has not closed a single school, opened a single charter, or laid off a single teacher.”

Excerpt: “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools” by Diane Ravitch

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  • Bluejay2fly

    I am for the concept of allowing vouchers because of the barbaric system of generating school revenue. School taxes are compulsory and unavoidable yet the local school system is governed by state mandates and proctored by a local elite system that is impermeable and impossible to alter. We fought a so called war against Great Britain over taxation without representation yet our school system are governed without any local input whatsoever. We have had the same English, Math, Science, History model since the turn of the century and any thoughts to deviate from that mandate would be met with a firm NO! Imagine if you decided to create a school where a humanities tract only offered philosophy, sociology, anthropology, etc while a math tract would offer Trig, algebra, statistics, etc. Our system would rather see you spend thousands in college to take those basic courses after having your school taxes pay thousands to expose you to things that do not interest you.

    • Yar

      We essentially have a voucher program for higher education through Pell-grants. How is that working out? Education costs increase, and many states have reduced support for public colleges and universities. For profit colleges take money and often fail to provide useful skills. You really think this should be the model for k-12 education?

      • Bluejay2fly

        If I could take my 2000K a year in school tax and use that for tuition at a charter or private school I do not see a problem with that. The best solution would be to cut costs and finance the system state wide through a more voluntary tax system like a sales tax. I think nobody should have a mandatory tax attached to their property, it’s barbaric. However, since we do at least let us have the means to spend it on our choice for education. Competition may also help schools perform better.

        • Enuff_of_this

          The teachers unions would never allow that. It would eventually cost members their jobs. They protect their own which is a huge part of the problem. School taxdes should be collected at the state level and disbursed on a per head basis. There should be a statewide contract to address teachers jumping districts in search of the better dollar and/or better benefits.

      • thequietkid10

        Fantastic, we have what is widely regarded as one of the best higher education systems on the planet. K-12, not so much.

      • thequietkid10

        Also, why do people spend so much time hating on for profit colleges. They’re a red herring. I have a degree state school, a degree at a private catholic school, and I took a class at a for profit college. That class was second rate and I got the impression that the school was second rate. BUT, there are a lot people in my field who have a degree from this school school and do just fine. Further more for profits are so outnumbered in size and enrollment by not for profits that it shouldn’t make much of a difference.

      • Don_B1

        Many states have greatly reduced their contribution to state colleges because of the “race to the bottom” lead by states like Texas which lower taxes to attract business but do not provide the social safety net that other (“Blue”) states do.

        This money is being “replaced” by:

        1) Support from the private sector which pays for research, etc., but then requires the results to be retained by the company, even when the results indicate hazards for the general populace.

        2) Student loans, first as just a supplement to other sources until they were allowed to become the major source of money for tuition and living costs for middle- and lower-income families. This leads to students and parents putting themselves deeply in debt, uneraseable by bankruptcy, with bad consequences for their lives.

        3) Scholarships (including Pell grants and athletic ) which help a significant but small segment of the students to at least partially fund their educations.

        This is a recipe for disaster unless major changes can be made. While MOOC offers the possibility of cost reduction, it requires a high dedication on the part of the student but even then it will take some on-on-one interaction between a professor/tutor for some aspects of issues to be clarified for full understanding.

  • 2Gary2

    I am sick of these media elites spewing their opinions. I do not really care what she thinks. Until we address the gross inequality of wealth and income nothing will be fixed. We have way too much money in way too few hands.

    Tax the rich and spread the wealth.

    • Wm_James_from_Missouri

      Gary, I’m curious. If you were given a sum of money that would pay all of your necessary bills for the rest of your life and an extra amount, say; 20 million dollars, what would you give back to the world ? I ask this, because I often wonder about all of those multimillion dollar lottery winners. Can you name ONE that has become America’s new Edison, Ford, or Einstein ? Can you name ONE that has cured a disease, or solved a math conjecture? Can you name ONE that has transformed political theory or “ revealed a new spiritual truth ? Gary, the adage, “money isn’t everything”, is timeless for a reason. Don’t get me wrong, Money; I need it, Money; I use it, and , yes, Money; I want it, but …?

      • Yar

        Where does wealth come from? Building wealth is dependent on a functioning public where laws are enforced, infrastructure is maintained, and society has some level of education. Lotteries are a math tax, for those who are bad at math and are exploited and looking for hope. It is the worst form of redistribution of wealth and also a very inefficient way of raising revenue. Wealth is always redistributed across generations. We enter the world dependent and leave the world dependent, Hopefully, somewhere in the middle we produce more than we consume. That is the source of wealth.

        • Bluejay2fly

          Lotteries tax the willing and are the BEST form or raising revenue. It was widely used in the colonial era, those dark days in America when we had no prisons and no military. Charging you 6K dollars to live in your house means you have to participate in the work force and cannot be non working. So unemployed people, disabled peopled, the elderly, all of them have to get money from the government because of high rent via property tax. This causes taxes to go up creating an endless loop. If you could buy and pay for your house and live in it for free then you could sell apples or grow your own food and not need Gov. assistance (except for medical which is another issue)

          • Yar

            Just like tobacco is free choice.

          • Wm_James_from_Missouri

            I don’t know about lotteries being the “best” way to raise tax revenue, but I do think it is a reasonable way to raise money. My problem with the lottery is the fact that the money raised isn’t put toward SPECIFIC projects, Let the tax payers choose what their money is spent on !

            PS. Lottery “odds” stink !

          • Wm_James_from_Missouri

            The wealthy and powerful want you to stay broke, have little equity, and remain in debt. This is how they manipulate and control you. BluyJay, if you want freedom, you will have to leave planet Earth, and maybe our solar system !

      • 2Gary2

        Most folks who are stupid enough to play the lottery are probably home watching honey boo boo. I would not use the lowest information people (lottery players) as a example for anything but a dolt.

    • Shag_Wevera

      Bravo, 2Gary2.

  • Yar

    We say we want to return to the good-ol-days, with good teachers and community schools. What happen to those? First those teachers were the product of a discriminatory employment system. Women had fewer options in the workplace, teaching was one of the few professional jobs available to women. Teachers usually graduated in the top 25 percent of their college class. Today women have many more options, and schools have not kept pay competitive, a teacher today is more likely to be in the bottom 25 percent of their graduating class.
    Is going back to community schools the answer? For the last 60 years people (we) have been sorting into communities that are more like themselves (us), We are a segregated nation, by politics, by economic class, and by race. Take a look at Brown VS board of Education, separate schools are inherently unequal. People will never adequately fund the education of other people’s children. Vouchers, private, or religious schools drain public schools of the best students, and of public funding as the people chose the best option for their own children.
    Is K-12 education a public or individual benefit? We can clearly see that a failure in education is a public problem, Here are some ideas for education reform. Pasted as a reply to this post.

    • Yar

      Every employee in the school system (from superintendent to janitor) should be certified as an educator and every employee spends at a least ten percent their time working as a teacher.
      Add an hour to the school day, and give teachers (all employees) a full hour (unpaid) off for lunch with no supervisory or other responsibilities during that time.
      All citizens should serve 2 years of public service after high school; public schools should use this [conscripted] labor to supervise organized physical activities for all students, prepare meals for the students, and maintain the facilities along with the participation of students.
      Open the books of public schools to students, require classes that study public school administration. Show where the money goes. This is true empowerment and it will shine a light that finds and prevents corruption. Try it in any community and it will return to a democracy.
      Oh, now I see the problem with these ideas. It doesn’t work to preserve the status quo, the current system is working as intended. This hour is just talk. Tomorrow we can talk about how gun control solves mental illness.

      • Shag_Wevera

        Too bad not everyone cares half as much as you, Yar.

  • Shag_Wevera

    I’m 42. When I went to school, you had to bring notebooks and writing materials. Sports and extra curricular activities were free. Occasionally you’d hold a bake sale to cover a field trip. Drivers Ed was part of the curriculum with a smallish fee ($50).
    Today, my kids come home with a list of dozens of items which are then pooled and used by everyone. There are 3-4 fundraisers taking place at all times, just to bring in revenue. Playing a sport like footbal costs a few hundred dollars. Most schools in the area do not provide drivers ed at all. It is a few hundred dollars through private instructors
    What the hell has happened? What has changed?
    We need one national model for education to ensure uniformity. Then, we need to tax the population to pay for it. Yes, you greedy bastards, that means taxation. I think answers to these questions are more simple than we think.

    • William

      I’m not convinced that one national model for education is good due to the failure of the Federal government to manage it’s existing responsibilities. A local school board is usually more accountable.

      • Shag_Wevera

        Then you end up with creationism taught in the south and lefty stuff being indoctrinated in lefty strongholds. I don’t trust the locals to decide curriculum.

        • Ray in VT

          It does create problems, doesn’t it? It’s a really tricky issue of local versus state or federal standards.

  • Markus6

    There are rarely simple steps that will improve things. This one might be different.

    Set up a realistic mechanism to fire bad teachers. Principal at local elementary school said, in private, there was little she could do to get rid of a teacher that had retired in place. I remember the story of the “rubber room” in NYC where thousands of teachers were sent every day to do nothing, because they were too incompetent to teach, but couldn’t be fired. This was a few years ago and I’ll bet now they’re just sent home.

    Allow people to have a choice in schools. It’s astounding to me that the left fights this. Rich people get to choose their schools. Terrible private schools disappear. Why wouldn’t you let poor people have the option of choosing their schools? Is your motivation to protect the union so strong that you don’t think poor kids should have a shot at getting out of lousy schools? Or is it that you don’t think their parents are bright enough to choose well? Or is it that the only thing you know is that more money should be taken from rich people and thrown at the problem.

    I like this topic because it shows how much people really care about the poor. When it comes to supporting a union vs. helping kids, I know where the discussion will go.

    • Bluejay2fly

      I once asked a social worker how many serial killers America has running the streets. She guessed 30,000. In reality best estimates are the hundreds. It’s a matter of misperception. The rubber room does not have THOUSANDS and union employees can be fired. It is media distortion.

      • Markus6

        It wasn’t my estimate. There was an NPR show (This American Life, I think though it was several years ago), that investigated this, visited these places, interviewed government officials. And I was understating it as I think it was tens of thousands.

        I don’t remember where they got their numbers but I think it was from public sources (NYS government agency). And it’s unlikely that an NPR show would bias against teachers unions.

        Probably not difficult to look up, but I don’t have the time.

      • Ray in VT

        50,000 gets thrown out a lot. Like 50,000 murders per year perpetrated by Satanists.

        • Bluejay2fly

          The news media makes its living on drama so the unusual gets all the attention. Most uneducated people do not realize schools are safer today than in the past. School fires used to kill hundreds of students far more than the total sum of all our mass shootings. Add polio out breaks and other unpreventable and incurable contagious diseases of the past and we should be basking in the golden age of school safety. Yet in days or yore people didn’t call schools Death Factories etc.

  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    I cursed Dubya back in the day when, after railing against unfunded mandates of congress (presumably Democratic mandates,) he launched ‘No child left behind’… An unfunded mandate in a large sense. Ironic that one of the dumbest presidents on our history should champion education reform and press the accelerator peddle of decline on our school systems!

    And on the ruination of our financial system through non-governance, driving us from surplus to deficit, the deaths and maiming of tens of thousands of our soldiers and countless civilians, subversion of the constitution and bill of rights, and making us a torture state among other things, we have already had a long list of shows discussing the sad legacy of George Walker Bush which is epitomized by the image of him standing on the USS Abraham Lincoln with ‘Mission Accomplished’ prominently displayed behind him in 2003.

    Now that’s irony!

    • William

      But the late Senator Ted Kennedy not only supported NCLB but wrote the bill. It was funded and of course like anything tied to education there is never enough money. As for the bummest President I think JFK and LBJ and neck and neck for number 1 with their Vietnam War policy.

      • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

        At the time it tied federal educational funding to implementation of NCLB which at the time was represented as a requirement just to get basic funding. It was a zero sum game imposing new requirements with no additional funding for added costs so state and local taxes went up to meet satisfy the mandate… At least that’s how it was reported at the time . It was practically speaking unfunded by imposing greater cost to receive the same level of funding.

        Kennedy embraced Voltaire’s view that perfection is the enemy of the good.

  • Coastghost

    The very fact that Diane Ravitch has successfully ridden her pendulum from one education “fix” to yet another education “proposal” could be showing us any number of things: a desperate quest for relevance, intellectual inconstancy, the sordid state of intellectual fashions in academic communities, or mere intellectual recalibration with the benefit of an extra twenty years of experience, among them.
    Another fact: she’s but one star in the compact galaxy of “education icons” and “education gurus” that public education has been afflicted with for decades and decades, and whose careers get recycled with alarming frequency. Diane Ravitch is not the only “education professional” who gets dissatisfied with policies she’s promoted or helped implement in the past, surely. The cumulative effect of all this pendulum-swinging (today’s Google animation no doubt gave me the idea) is a lot of pendulums crashing together, with the crashes and sparks, thuds and reverberations you’d expect.
    Oh, and the continued sorry performance of public education.
    At this point the only safe thing to do is abolish public education altogether, since all this clamor among high-brow education theorists does nothing to serve public interests any longer and does precious little to promote actual learning. For education policy to be at the mercy of such intense partisan political wrangling, from both sides, shows clearly enough the actual need to exempt it from the political realm altogether.
    Promote multi-culturalism: ABOLISH PUBLIC EDUCATION.

    • Shag_Wevera

      I was going to coment, but I just can’t. I’ll just repeat your words. “Abolish public education”.

      • Bluejay2fly

        Bring back the Farms and Factories to empty out these young folks homes.

        • thequietkid10

          Not the worst idea, but that would require repealing century old labor law.

  • thequietkid10

    I do not understand why having the ability to choose a school that fits an individual personality, learning style, and skill set and the ability to walk away from a school if it is not working for them (or not working period) can be anything but good.

    • Bluejay2fly

      It’s a monopoly and they know competition in the market place would destroy them.

  • Bluejay2fly

    Why I left a career in teaching to be a prison guard.

    I used to be a teacher in rural NY and I disliked the arrogance of the faculty, the nepotism, the constant changes in the curricula, and a school board made up of people, who had not read a book in 30 years yet think they know everything about education. All that aside what drove me out of the profession was the students and the attitude of the parents. Most students come to school to socialize and really do not care about learning anything. They are not taught to treat school like a job and have no work ethic. At home their stupid parent(S) cannot even get them to take out trash or pick up dog crap in the yard. The disrespect and sass I could not take. I am 5’5 and everyday some turd would ask me “why are you so short?”. Fat teachers, ugly teachers, poor teachers or disabled teachers etc. are all fodder for them to make their stupid insults towards. Parents almost always lectured me about how great their kids were and how “Johnny would not say that”. Economics did not play into it as rich and poor kids alike felt superior to everybody in the room including the adult teacher. When kids did get disruptive and you sent them to the principal’s office he would threatened to fire you because he was too busy to deal with an insulant thug. I get paid more as a correction officer and if an inmate acts up there are consequences. I once worked at a minimum where all the inmates would walk past the guard’s cars on their way to the mess hall. I never heard of one case where a car was dented or scratched ,which would be easy to do. Try and do that in a public school. Why, why do I get more respect now (from society and inmates) than I did as a teacher? IF YOU WANT TO BUILD A PERFECT SCHOOL then pick better parents. Half the HS age students should be carted off to a farm or factory where they can dig a ditch for 10 cents an hour and drink their 5 cent beer.

    • thequietkid10

      Good point, I’m big on the idea that if we are going to have charter schools that they be “privileges” not rights. That is, if you sass off to the teachers, never do your homework, and never get to class then you shouldn’t be there. We shouldn’t be using the student’s performance as a bench mark here, but instead the student’s participation and attitude.

      • Bluejay2fly

        Schools at the bare minimum should instill a work ethic and on that accord they fail miserably. That has to be instilled at home. Furthermore, when have you ever lost out on a blue collar job because you had a 2.0 GPA in HS school. Nobody.

        • thequietkid10

          I think my biggest concern is that the students that WANT to be there are held back if most of the students are either not there or not applying themselves. I know education policy makers are big on the idea that we should integrate the higher performing students with the lower performing students so that the higher performing students can model for the lower performing students. But it works the other way too, lower performing students (or students who never show up) can hold back a teacher from challenging the higher performing students.

          • Bluejay2fly

            Where I worked those gifted students who were not syphoned off by private schools were placed in special programs. It’s the average kid who may want to learn who is stuck. He often gets a crappiest teacher in a room full of students some of whom are disciplinary problems. His learning experience is limited.

          • J__o__h__n

            I don’t see the advantage of not separating students by ability. The most advanced students aren’t challenged and don’t thrive by helping other students. The average are ignored – arguably they are the ones the most resources should go to. The bottom hold the rest back and are looked down upon instead of learning in an environment where they can learn at their own pace instead of always bringing up the rear. I was an unathletic child and I would have thrived in a gym class that took me aside for remedial strength training instead of just being among the worst players of most of the sports. The odds of me being a professional athlete were about the same as an academically less skilled student becoming a doctor so setting achievable goals would make more sense. I’ll never be an athlete but there is no reason I can’t be fit and healthy.

        • Ray in VT

          I think that as with many things what you get out in part depends upon what you put in. My wife and I emphasize the value and importance of education a great deal, although neither my parents or her parents did especially. I see a lot of apathy from parents. My brother lives in the North Country, and it seems like the value placed on education there is pretty low, at least generally in his town.

          • Bluejay2fly

            We live in an anti intellectual society. People are proud of their ignorance that is what gets me. How many people do you know who discuss, with strong opinions, history or politics and have not read a book since HS. I would love to have seen a better trade school option for those not interested in academics but those jobs are gone to the forces of globalization..

          • Ray in VT

            “Exuberant ignorance” is a term that I have seen. Ignorant and not only proud, but loud-mouthed with ignorant opinions. It’s funny. I’m reading a book on Holocaust deniers, and it sort of touches on what we know and how we know it and how some people/groups are easily swayed by shoddy and shady information.

            I know what you mean about vocational education. Not everyone is going to go to college for history or literature, or engineering for that matter. My nieces do go to a vocational/tech program. One is going to go to Paul Smith’s for a culinary degree and the other is hoping to do veterinary work. I think that the loss of blue collar jobs is a real problem for many kids who may want to go down that road.

          • Bluejay2fly

            I live a few miles down the road from Paul Smith’s.

          • Ray in VT

            I’ve never been down that way. I basically always end up up around the border (Champlain to Malone) or from Whitehall southwards.

    • William

      Well said!

    • Shag_Wevera

      A lot of truth there.

    • ToyYoda

      I would hazard a guess that you get more respect as a prison guard, because you probably carry a weapon, and your captive audience knows you can really exercise your authority.

      • Bluejay2fly

        It starts out like that but I have been in the system long enough to have seen inmates genuinely like officers. You’ll see one come in on draft from another prison who someone knew 12 years ago and their face actually lights up. You can hear the excitement in their voice when they say as”Officer M, Ohh my God! how are you doing?” In this sense for some we have become kind their parent, their aunt/uncle, their brother/sister some connection to them. It’s not all fear but before we get to that point we can and do exercise order and discipline. I just wish schools could create some of that.

    • jefe68

      Interesting choice in carer change. The sad thing is you’re now dealing with the results of poor education systems.

      • Bluejay2fly

        Nazi Germany had an abundance of well educated and people and look how they turned out. I would say lack of morals and selfishness is the main reason they are in prison.

  • Coastghost

    Just look at the picture above of Arne Duncan casually strolling: does THIS look like a man who is SOLVING the conundrum of public education at this critical moment? I submit that numerous cans do not appear in this photograph, having already been kicked out of frame. (Yet another Ivy League overlord at work.)
    I mean, what was the operating deficit of Chicago Public Schools during Duncan’s tenure? It HAD TO HAVE BEEN something between $200 million [its size c. 1990] and $700 million [its present size]: Duncan did nothing in all his years with CPS to erase or reduce the ridiculous level of running deficits that have beset the CPS system for well over twenty years. Oh, and the education outcomes he could boast of? Well, what could they consist of? If he’s not managing budget deficits well, how can anyone think or believe that he raised the levels of teaching and learning across the system? And now he heads the Federal public education bureaucracy, I have to assume with equally stellar results.

  • Jeff

    Economic incentives work, plain and simple…offer up bonuses for better performance and extra time spent with students after school to make sure they all understand the material. I find it hard to believe that economic incentives work in every other factor of life but not for teaching.

    • Rick Evans

      Most of the No Child Left Behind cheating scandals are directly related to economic incentives.

      Atlanta ex-superintendant and national Superintendent of the Year is now serving time for chasing economic incentives, i.e. bonuses.

      • Jeff

        Fire the cheaters…it’s quite easy, seriously read a book called Freakonomics.

        • Rick Evans

          You have to catch them or be willing to chase them. Ask Michelle Rhee who fired lots of non-cheaters but could only find and fire one alleged cheater despite evidence of widespread cheating by her own contract investigator.

          http://tinyurl.com/bvt5ks

          • Jeff

            She’s doing it wrong if she could only find one teacher…
            An investigation into Atlanta’s public school system has uncovered evidence that teachers and principals have been secretly erasing and correcting answers on students’ tests for as long as a decade. A state investigation found that 178 educators at 44 of the district’s 56 schools engaged in cheating. The report is a huge blow to an urban school district that for years was hailed as one of the country’s most successful due to increased student performance.

            This is the second teacher scandal to erupt in a large metro area this year. In March, a USA Todayinvestigation found evidence of teacher cheating among some of D.C.’s highest-performing public schools. Teacher cheating is a subject we’re pretty familiar with at Freakonomics. Levitt and Brian Jacob investigated teacher cheating in Chicago schools. Their findings were detailed in Chapter 1 of Freakonomics. Since Chicago schools would destroy the physical tests shortly after they were taken, Levitt and Jacob had to come up with their own method of detecting cheating, rather than use erasure analysis. So they developed new tools for identifying strings of unlikely answers. Read the full version of their paper here. It would be interesting to see what Levitt and Jacob’s methods would turn up when applied to Atlanta’s decade of altered tests, which fortunately for investigators, remained intact.

          • Rick Evans

            Funny, I thought the TinyURL link I posted,in my previous post and have now deleted, linked to that article but USA Today’s weird web page structure screws it up. I’m well aware of the USA Today investigation.

    • Shag_Wevera

      That’s because they don’t work in every factor in life. Try offering financial incentives to gain the true love of a woman.

      • Steve / Lexington MA

        Or the service of a military officer. Our military does not use incentive pay, for good reason: it would corrode the esprit de corps and sense of professionalism that makes our officer corps excellent.
        Teachers are more like military officers than sales clerks. They are professionals. Pay incentives are no more appropriate in schools than in the military.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I was reading Christopher Schroeder’s “Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution,” which is about education in an eye-opening way, showing NGO’s trying to make up for failings of public education systems, nation by nation, and using various individuals, their motivations, support systems, the ways they find the needed education, connections, and relevance. It’s based on the way in developing countries with high birth rates, there will be far, far more young people looking for jobs than jobs, so most will have to be entrepreneurs, that is, self-employed. The role of NGO’s (private money, from our various billionaires and their guidance?), it seems to me, brought us to the charter schools, So.

  • MrNutso

    I have never been an advocate of vouchers, because I have always been circumspect of the motives of those who espouse them. In the last election for Governor in PA, one Democratic candidate campaigned on a voucher program and school choice. Not surprisingly he received most (almost 100%) of his money from contributors that had a charter school business.

    In addressing angry parents complaining about the closing of schools in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, Archbishop Chaput responded that they should demand that the legislature pass a school voucher bill to all voucher money to pay for catholic school tuition instead of complaining to him.

    It seems like a couple of times a year, I read about a charter school owner/official being investigated or charged with misusing funds.

    It always seems to me that we can find the money for vouchers, but we never can find the money to fix the schools.

    • Bluejay2fly

      A parent should not have to pay school taxes AND tuition for a private education. The rich have no problem sending their precious children to a private school. I wish as a non parent I could voucher my school tax dollars to an approved school.

    • TFRX

      I applaud anyone who calls himself “Nutso”, but I gotta say, you buried your lead:

      We can find the money for vouchers, but we never can find the money to fix the schools.

  • ToyYoda

    Tom, please ask a simple question:

    So if she got it wrong the first time and released a mountain of changes that she regrets, why should we believe her analysis this time?

  • TFRX

    I love how EvenTheLiberal NYT presumes “Tide of the New Trend” in the lede cited.

  • Coastghost

    “Diane cares”. Well DUH! It’s obligatory for public education advocates.

  • Steve / Lexington MA

    Tom–

    I’m hoping you might raise the following topic discussion:

    Many “school reformers” send their own children to elite private school, like Andover, Exeter, Pomfret, Hill School, Putney, and so forth.

    Do these elite private schools operate by the rules that the “reformers” seek to bring to public schools?

    Specifically, do they evaluate their teachers by student scores on high-stakes tests?

    I believe the answer is “no.”

    And if not, what’s going on? Why do the “reformers” push policies to which they don’t expose their own children?

    • Steve / Lexington MA

      And another question:

      Are merit pay schemes used at the elite private schools to which school reformers send their children?

      I believe the answer is “no.”

      If not, why not?

      Why don’t reformers send their children to schools that follow the education practices that they recommend for the rest of us?

  • TFRX

    Media word alert: At some point isn’t “reform” the wrong word for this?

    And it can’t be doing the word “entrepreneur” any good, either.

  • MaximF

    If you want to understand the push for “education reform,” follow the money. Do you really think that the owners of Walmart and other libertarian billionaires who pour millions of dollars every year into education reform are interested in closing the achievement gap? Or is it more likely that they use the rhetoric of education reform to weaken unions and channel taxpayers’ dollars into the pockets of “education entrepreneurs”?

    • Shag_Wevera

      Ugh. Libertarian billionaires. Just reading the words makes me a little sad.

  • toc1234

    psst Tom, its the breakdown of the family unit that is the crux of this decline in American public schools.

    • hellokitty0580

      Yes, for sure. Parents are plugged in nonstop to their devices and working longer hours (generally to support their families). But I am a firm believer in “It takes a village to raise a child.” I think it’s the breakdown of community in American culture and society that is a huge crux of the problem. In American culture, we value the individual above all else, but as a species we are communal beings and that nature is imperative to raising healthy, happy, safe kids.

      • Bluejay2fly

        How do you square that with Meism and our Kinderarchy?

        • hellokitty0580

          I really don’t know what you mean by that.

  • Coastghost

    And from Ravitch & Co. we receive “manufactured solutions”.

  • MrNutso

    I am glad to hear Diane Ravitch layout what she has discovered about the current state of school choice and vouchers. I hope Tom asks if there was any critical thinking about the potential outcomes of her advocacy of school choice and vouchers and if one of those outcomes was what we are currently seeing.

    • TFRX

      Little steps. I am glad that Professor Harold Hill’s Michelle Rhee’s Gish Galloping Act isn’t on this show. Y’know, for “balance”.

      • MrNutso

        Trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with V and that stands for vouchers.

  • Coastghost

    INSTANTLY: heap upon the poor beleaguered institution of public education programs for public health, public nutrition, public ophthalmology, public audiology, public meteorology.
    NO, TOM!! She’s heaping upon poorly performing public schools even MORE public policies that stand to be just as poorly implemented, just as poorly executed. Might as well call this show the “Save the Bureaucracy Hour”.

    • Rick Evans

      “heap upon the poor beleaguered institution of public education programs
      for public health, public nutrition, public ophthalmology, public
      audiology.”

      That’s the model of the much corporate reformer celebrated Harlem Children’s Zone so it’s hardly far fetched.

  • Shag_Wevera

    I have to say… great and thoughtful comments today from all sides. Give yourselves a round of applause!

    • TFRX

      Really? “Everybody gets a gold star”? That’s not gonna solve anything!

  • Coastghost

    Ahhh, foreign language instruction: pray tell, what do her unchanged views on foreign language instruction consist of?

  • thequietkid10

    What is this woman’s problem? Of course New Orleans schools has problems. For the same reasons most urban schools have problems, for the same reason she was ranting about how poor kids don’t have access to medical care and housing. That doesn’t mean that charter schools don’t help the situation. They are two entirely different things!

    Even in left wing Europe, students aren’t restricted to where they go to school based on geography.

    • MrNutso

      I didn’t hear her exact comment, but I think the point is that charter schools are not helping the situation.

      • thequietkid10

        Her point was that there was that New Orleans school district was the worse in the state. (even acknowledging that it has improved)

  • Yar

    It takes a good neighborhood to have a good neighborhood school.

    • Shag_Wevera

      Messmer in Milwaukee is at least a hiccup to your anecdote.

  • Coastghost

    NO, Tom: he doesn’t want BETTER (ameliorated) schools, he wants merely good, merely sound schools. His expectation sounded that modest to my ears, at least.

  • JTinRI

    Schools have had such an overwhelming mountain of responsibilities placed on them that’s it’s not surprising that schools are struggling with their core job – teaching children. Meals, healthcare, daycare, discipline etc have all been shifted from the responsibility of parents, family & community to the school and other institutions. Even education has gone from learning to teaching to the test. If education is in a crisis, it’s not because of public schools, charter schools, poor schools, or rich schools. It’s because of too many people with a lot to say and not a lot of knowledge or understanding trying to make schools fit their agendas.

  • veronica

    Ask her about accountability. Isn’t one advantage of charters the fact that the bad schools can be shut down?? Versus districts where poor performance is allowed to continue and children are trapped?

  • TFRX

    Why privatization is horrifying, Tom?

    A phalanx of people see kids as walking, talking burlap sacks with dollar signs on them. And they’ve bunkumed a lot of people into giving up even a bit of control for the money. The amount of cherry-picking of students is hilarious, and the medicine show that the “best” reformers have put on has been run out of a few places.

    Tom, why did you “hear the frustration” from caller Cory, while asking Cindy to support her opinions?

  • Todd Morse

    Heads not spinning. Having discussed the matter with many parents as a teacher outside the regular school system – I teach the performing arts – so many will be relieved that someone has Finally reversed their position. Kids are stressed out with all the testing. Teachers in the school systems are only teaching them what they need to know for the tests. And that is a terrible lesson to instill on children. You should only learn what you need to know to get a good grade on this particular test.

    • jefe68

      What you are describing is an out of date education model. In my view we need to teach kids to think, be creative and not to be afraid to make mistakes and how to work and learn from them.

  • pwparsons

    SCHOOLS ARE “MINIMUM SECURITY DETENTION FACILITIES” to filter “bodies” into an alleged “job market” at predictable, “manageable” rates. Most jobs, even if there were such, could be done by bright 12 year olds (as they are by foreign, child labor, by our “out sourced manufacturing industries”.) Most of our kids would flee the confinement of our public schools, were it not for MANDATORY attendance, etc. They would, and should WANT to be EDUCATED, IN A REAL SENSE, but they are denied this “opportunity”. The KOCHS, COMMON CORE, etc. love this! They want a Society which “manufactures” “useful idiots”, ie: low “IQ”,
    poverty wage “workers”, NOT COMPETENT, CONFIDENT, CRITICAL THINKERS. SHAME!!

    • thequietkid10

      So if it is true that the Koch’s want “useful idiots” then why are they trying to reform the system?

      • TFRX

        Because they want to get their hands on public money.

        Your use of “Koch bros” and “reform” with a straight face is funny.

    • hellokitty0580

      You’re a little extreme, but I fully agree with your point.

      It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized I loved learning. Before that school was like a punishment for me. In my particular school system (4th largest high school in Connecticut at the time), the emphasis was on discipline, security, and sports. Everyone in between was chopped liver. And forget about the arts.

      I did what I needed to do in school and passed my classes, but God it was difficult mostly because I hated the environment so much. Point blank: We’re not working hard enough to foster a love of learning in our children in this country. We’re much too concerned with passing meaningless tests.

      • pwparsons

        Thank you. Much more to say than I have time for, but if you look to the ROOTS of America’s “PROGRESSIVE” Education, with John Dewey, it was based on encouraging students’ (and aren’t we ALL? for our Lifetimes…)learning by EXPERIENCE. In my hometown, Gloucester, MA, formerly “The World’s Greatest fishing Port”, there was a “graduation” at 8th grade, because the assumption was that by that time/age, young people had enough “formal education” to equip them for their “real” education AT SEA(!) Norman Mailer picked up this idea in advocating diverting part of our MILITARY BUDGET into the construction of “Square Riggers/Sailing vessels” that would be “Schools” for young peoples’ ” Educational ADVENTURES. There would be other, appropriate, “Regional/Cultural Variants, I’m sure…If industries require “trainees” for whatever purposes, they should install such facilities, at their own expense, To confine young people to overcrowded, and underserved class rooms, does a terrible dis-service to the “promise” and capacities of “youth”. (Project Adventure, BTW, is a great example of a Program that “works” in this way…) Try to put practical “foundations” to the escapist daydreams you were having, confined to School, and I think, you’ll do much better for yourself and our “students” than our current “Educational” SYSTEM. How’s about “Alternative” Public Service? The CCC? The WPA, Sea Scouts, etc. –think of what Public Service Students could be DOING, if you need “Government” to “Educate”…

    • Bluejay2fly

      Well done.

  • WorriedfortheCountry

    The fear of competition by the so called expert is stunning.

  • lulu

    My kids go to public school in Vermont and in part our schools are as good as they are because there isn’t a lot of money to be made by large corporations here, so we buy into fewer curriculum packages, pay fewer consultants, and give our good teachers more freedom

  • Coastghost

    Diane Ravitch: Brain of Error.

    • Rick Evans

      !How insightful.

      • Coastghost

        I’m not her editor or publisher, don’t thank me.

  • Yar

    Because the majority can not have choice. if everyone had choice’ everyone would sit at 50 yard line, it just simply doesn’t work that way.

  • Rick Hunter

    In the 90s I taught a graduate course on the Social and Political Foundations of Education. Although I respected your ideas and actually used one of your books, even then I thought that testing was not the whole answer nor was privatization, nor charter schools. I kind of liked Horace Mann’s idea of the common school. Do you think some modern version of this could work?

    Also, the “reformers” seem to be better at getting their message out to “the rest of us.” Any ideas how to counter that?

  • Josie

    I was raised by a high school librarian and am married to a teacher, so this is a topic that hits home for me. My husband’s first teaching job was at a for-profit charter school in Milwaukee where he was one of the few actual teachers on staff… over 80% of the “teachers” there were on ‘emergency’ license and had been for well beyond the allowed time for such licenses. How can that even happen when there are so many wonderful teachers in this country underemployed? 92% of the students were on free-lunch, but the president of the school walked the halls in prada shoes! There was something wrong with this picture… I’m not going to claim to know the answer but I agree with the guest, charter schools don’t seem to be it.

  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    The only profit that belongs in public school systems is the benefit realized by the students. To think that corporations will mange schools better and deliver better education without politics with more accountability while attracting better teachers and taking profit out of the system is the epitome of naïveté.

    Just try voting someone of the board of a corporation. Yeah, good luck with that theory.

  • J P Fitzsimmons

    Don’t the wealthy already have a huge advantage in education. The parents are usually well educated, a major advantage to their children, they can send their children to private schools of their choice, they can live in communities with the best schools.

  • Beth_in_NH

    Tom, I’m so disappointed by your prosecutorial approach to your conversation with Diane Ravitch. Are your children still in public school, and if so, what effect has the profit-driven testing industry had on their educational experience? My experience is that testing greatly constricts the breadth and depth of our local hgh school’s curriculum, narrows the focus to STEM courses and starves the arts and humanities, and drives idealistic educators to despair.

    • LFG

      If schools taught a strong curriculum competently, passing the tests would be an easy thing to do without putting much class time into the prep. Unfortunately, as our schools fail our kids, they have to spend enormous amounts of time teaching to the test because they lack a decent curriculum.

      • SraVigi

        Spend a few days with a real teacher in a real classroom in one of today’s typical public schools which require 17 high-stakes standardized tests between k& 12 (that’s more than 1/yr), with quarterly pre-test assessments per test. Take a look at the mandated state curriculum & his binders full of state-concocted aligned lesson plan & test prep mat’l’s, all purchased on yr dime & written by testing & curriculum ‘experts’. That’s today’s reality.

    • Rick Evans

      I’m not disappointed. I agree with Diane Ravitch. If Tom Ashbrook didn’t hard ball her the right would be whining that he was carrying her water. She did a pretty good job especially in face of the little snot Jessica Lavin repeatedly calling her Ravitch instead of say Ms. Ravitch or Dr. Ravitch.

      Frankly considering Ms. Lavin only interviewed ‘More than 50′ reformers and leaders and extrapolated the benefits of charterization from those anecdotes says to me Tom let her off easy.

      • eat_swim_read

        “little snot?”
        wowsa.
        nice ‘tude, fosters discussion & reflection.
        I smell…teachers unionese….

    • Steve / Lexington MA

      Beth_in_NH is channeling my kids’ experience in Lexington. They were bored to death by days of preparation for the MCAS tests. Discouraged and angry.
      The high stakes testing that “reformers” are imposing is poison.

  • LFG

    I’d like to support teachers – but we have to raise drastically the standards in our schools of education. We can’t keep pulling students from the bottom of their HS class to become teachers. For many decades, great women became teachers because that was the only option for intelligent women looking for work outside the home. As options improved for them, our schools of education didn’t adjust. They just assumed that great women would keep showing up. When they didn’t, the schools of education took anybody with a HS diploma. We can’t expect teachers to teach a strong curriculum if they themselves don’t understand it.

    • SraVigi

      It’s a nice thought but a tad out of synch with continual cuts in ed funding & states lowering entrance & certification reqts, & proliferation of charters paying 6 figures to admin & chump change to a revolving door of inexperienced staff.

  • Fiscally_Responsible

    The teachers’ unions will always oppose anything that threatens their monopoly and resulting stranglehold on the public purse, whether it is being against charter schools, vouchers, etc. We need to get rid of the unions and their inflexible contracts which protect incompetent teachers.

    • Bluejay2fly

      How do you rate a teacher? Better yet tell me what the mission is for a school?

      • Enuff_of_this

        You are part of the problem

        • Ray in VT

          How so? I think that those are valid questions.

          • Bluejay2fly

            Those are incredibly basic and very complex questions and that is my point.

          • Enuff_of_this

            Rating teachers, the proof is in the pudding with success/graduation rates, mastery of skills through testing. The mission and objectives seem to be a more fluid issue and tend to change to address ignored problems that fester in the background until they blow up. I don’t buy the poverty excuse for one minute. The reward you get out directly reflects the effort you put in.

          • Ray in VT

            I don’t think that that is the case at all. In order to rate based upon test scores and graduation rates, then one would have to assume that all students are basically equal in terms of ability or initial skills, and I certainly do not think that that is the case. Hard work and effort most certainly affect outcomes, but many students face real disadvantages that effort will not totally overcome.

          • Enuff_of_this

            Now you’re making excuses. Dedicated teachers would recognize the need for and implement remedial education in deficient areas and not blame it on poverty or problems at home. Any teacher who is not in the profession solely out of passion is in the wrong profession, Period. The real rewards are watching the young minds that you have worked to inspire and influence fourish, not worrying about whether to book your mid-winter vacation in Florida or Hawaii.

          • Ray in VT

            Recognizing that not all students come equally prepared or are equally able is recognizing reality. Period.

          • Enuff_of_this

            The material is exactly the same across the board and either the student gets it or the student doesn’t. If the proficiency isn’t there, the student doesn’t advance, Period. Any dedicated teacher would recognize the deficiency and retain and/or remediate the student. Simply kicking the student off to the next level sets it’s own track record after a while and it wouldn’t require a sliderule to figure out who the weakest link is. That teacher would then be held to more scrutiny and if things don’t improve, replaced without recourse.

          • Ray in VT

            And how do we evaluate teachers based upon outcomes for those students who are either not capable of meeting the standards of proficiency or who don’t care? There are those who either don’t want to perform at a certain level or can’t? Should a teacher be punished if he or she has an inordinate number of those students in a given year?

          • Enuff_of_this

            Recognizing and addressing that incapability is part of the job. That is why they have IEP’s and associated resources that can be and are dedicated to these students that need the extra attention. Students who don’t care are another issue because if they just plain don’t get advanced to the next grade. Peer pressure of seeing their friends leaving them behind should be enough to maovate them after a short period of time. If not, there are plenty of low paying dead-end jobs out their that will reward those with the complete of effort and motivation. No one is owed a living and if you are a real Vermonter, you should already know that.

          • Ray in VT

            But how does that figure into your suggestion that teacher ratings be based upon testing and graduation rates, given those factors. I think that it is problematic at best to be basing those sorts of decisions upon those things based upon the variable factors.

            There are also plenty hard working and motivated people who will not rise beyond a certain level based upon limitations that they have. Part of my statement is a reaction to what I see as you presenting that position.

            I don’t know if I qualify as a “real Vermonter”. My family’s only been tilling the soil and such here for 220 years or so. I’m certainly no flatlander.

          • Enuff_of_this

            Good, then you understand that no one is owed a living.

          • Ray in VT

            Where did I say or suggest that I did?

          • Enuff_of_this

            Just taking that point off the table. Real Vermonters understand that because we have been a hardworking independent group of people for generations. If your family has been ’tilling the soil and such 220 years or so’ it was done through hard work and dedication

          • Ray in VT

            I wasn’t aware that it was on the table.

          • Enuff_of_this

            Do you consider yourself successful?

          • Ray in VT

            Reasonably so. I’m working on it. I have a healthy and generally happy family. I have a well paying job that I enjoy. I’m making a name for myself in my professional organizations, which is, I hope, going to help me get a promotion in the future. I have a decent house and a deal to get a better one. There’s always room for improvement, but I’ve got time, as I’m still relatively young. Hows about you?

          • Enuff_of_this

            How much of your success do you attribute to your own hard work and dedication, that of your parents and that of your teachers all the way from Grade K, to be fair. Did you go to public school or private school through high school? College?

          • Ray in VT

            I went public all the way. I think that it’s hard to say just how much was hard work. I did work hard (mostly), in part because I was determined to get off of the farm, and I went to some very good schools that had some very good teachers. I think that I pretty much made the most of what the schools offered me, combined with my drive and natural abilities. However, I recognize that had I been born to a different family, or even the same family under different circumstances, in a different place with different capabilities, then the outcomes could have been very different.

          • SraVigi

            Wake up & smell the coffee. Tying student scores to teacher evaluations is about dumping experienced teachers & replacing them w/cheap newbies– unions running scared & signed on to it, try to keep up! As we speak in Conn., tests designed for average kids are given to disabled & autistic& dyslexic, who flunk it, & those experienced, dedicated specialized teachers are FIRED, & their students either get a cheap newbie or in more cases are just moved next door raising a class size to 45. It’s already happening, & not just in Conn.

          • Enuff_of_this

            The modified tests for students with disabiliies do not impact a school’s overall results. What’s your point? As a matter of fact, more and more students are being included in this testing loophole. Does a 7% increase sound about right to you?

          • SraVigi

            1. I’m talking about SpEd results on state std tests (which are usually sub-par regardless of accommodations) being used as in some cases 40% of a teacher evaluation, used by a district to fire SpEd teachers. Obviously an abuse of the spirit of SpEd laws, but used legally to dump expensive/experienced teachers.

            2. results of modified tests for students w/disabilities will not be counted into school ratings? Wrong. Under NCLB, 95% of speced students must be state-tested, subgroups including SpEd are counted into the school rating; the goal was to be all SpEd students testing proficient by 2013-2014 or serious sanctions ensue. See http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=10&ved=0CIEBEBYwCQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Flaw.wustl.edu%2Fwugslr%2Fissues%2Fvolume5_3%2Fp611Franks.pdf&ei=SM47Uv21I-HA4APj1oHoBg&usg=AFQjCNH_S-0UIP3Nw-PSbi4v7YgXF4w0yw&sig2=_EC4hPfCH3PteXlvbagXMA&bvm=bv.52434380,d.dmg

      • disqus_fw2Bu1dEsd

        Let the kids rate them, they KNOW!
        If you need to proclaim a mission and vision then you don’t really have one.

        • Bluejay2fly

          If an organization does not have a clear purpose or objective that is attainable we have something analogous to the Iraq War.

    • Ray in VT

      I’ll gladly take public schools and their supposedly evil unions over places like Louisiana, which has been trying to give public dollars to private schools that teach things like how humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time.

      • Bluejay2fly

        They did Ray, when they were on Noah’s Ark.

        • Ray in VT

          Uh, duh. Who doesn’t know that. Plus the world is only 6,000 years old and the Klan wasn’t so bad, at least according to some Bob Jones University Press school books.

          • Bluejay2fly

            I had a friend who was smart enough to work on nuclear bombs in the military. He was an alcoholic who eventually dried out and went to Bob Jones University, so sad.

          • Ray in VT

            Weird. Well, to each his own I guess.

    • jimino

      Assuming what you say is true, wouldn’t that make Ayn Rand and her acolytes proud of them, maximizing their own gain regardless of the consequences on anyone else?

    • jefe68

      Funny how the states with unions are doing better in education results than the states without.

  • jgeigerphoto

    Doesn’t happen often but just stopped listening to change the station or possibly watch some cartoons. Diatribe double-talk, tirade and back-peddling polemic here.

    • disqus_fw2Bu1dEsd

      The whoosing sound of hot air meets the screaching sound of political axe grinding. Tom is manfully trying to focus these people, to no avail.

  • JanaHod

    It makes me so sad to hear that last caller refer to public education as an “altruistic” endeavor. This is the exact mindset the guest is warning against in critiquing charter schools.

  • hellokitty0580

    I think there are 3 overall problems with US school system: socioeconomic inequalities among schools (which are often also racially and ethnically based), not enough support for the services that we want schools to offer, and an outdated curriculum structure. And all of these problems often intertwine with each other.

    I have no problem with food access and health clinics being attached to schools. But we can’t just add on those services and then hope for the best without the appropriate professional and monetary support. I think Ravitch’s idea of adding these services onto public schools is quite novel. Clinics for pediatric care at public schools? I’m sorry but what busy parent wouldn’t appreciate a one-stop shop like that?

    Furthermore, I’m scared of how far behind we are compared to other countries in what we’re teaching our children. We’re moving too slow, we don’t have long enough school years, and we’re taking away valuable subjects such as music, art, etc. It wasn’t so long ago that I was a public school student and I was bored out of my gourd because the curriculum often wasn’t challenging and thought-provoking enough.

    • Bluejay2fly

      There is nowhere for these children to go. We are short about 30 million jobs in this country. That is why this dysfunctional system has not collapsed. We cram the unemployed into colleges, the military, on their parents sofa, on welfare, in prison (on both sides), and at under paying jobs.

      • hellokitty0580

        I’m not even sure how to respond to what you’re saying ’cause I’m not sure how what you’re saying is relevant to the point I made above.

        • Bluejay2fly

          Go teach in Detroit or L.A. to understand my point. When basic needs are not being met then education is not rated as a high priority. That is the impact of poverty and unemployment. Do you think a single mom working 2 jobs is going to be attentive to her children? Especially in a crime ridden neighborhood.

  • TFRX

    Where are the “charter schools” which don’t cherry-pick its students?

    More importantly, if Lavin is so gung-ho about charter schools, why isn’t she doing everything in her power to make every charter school into a non-cherry-picker?

  • Coastghost

    “Income is being consumed”? Hunh? What?

  • TFRX

    Whoa, there, Tom and Jessica Lavin.

    Let’s hear more about the Texas Miracle (sic)!

    • Rick Evans

      Or the now convicted Atlanta Superintendent of the Year.

  • Coastghost

    No hoax ever perpetrated upon the American populace can compare in perniciousness to the hoax of “public education”. Public education has all the sheen and patina of a RACKET.

    • Ray in VT

      Funny. It’s worked pretty fine up here for 140 years.

      • Coastghost

        Ray, your state is positively an anomaly among all the states in the union: 95% of your state’s population is white last I looked, which lends a cultural homogeneity if nothing else that few other states can boast of (excepting perhaps your neighbors New Hampshire and Maine, which also are both over 90% white and thus boast a decided lack of multi-cultural representation in the population.
        Go visit County of Cook, Illinois, sometime for a “real world” view, or go to Los Angeles, go as far as NYC. You Vermonters, frankly, are remote and peripheral to the national conversation given your demographic circumstance, which again I emphasize is thoroughly atypical to the daily American experience.

        • Ray in VT

          So, are you saying that public education can’t educate non-white kids? You seem to also be assuming that all “white” people are culturally homogeneous, and that is quite simply not the case, given the very real and different cultural and language traditions that the very large French Canadian minority here has contributed to Vermont’s culture over the years. You are also citing large urban areas, which have their own set of issues and challenges, with a small, rural area.

          • Coastghost

            To the extent that ANY education can result from exposure to the public system, no, non-white kids can learn just as well as white kids, at least theoretically.
            I credit you with being smart enough to see that I’m saying that the challenge posed by having to have a public system meet the disparate needs of disparate populations severely compromises its performance, on daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly bases. Your lovely state, given its anomalous demographic status, is exempt from having to address many of these challenges. (Are you saying that we can safely extrapolate national policy on the basis of your state’s rural and relatively homogeneous status?)

          • Ray in VT

            Again, I think that public education can and does do a pretty good job. That varies from school to school and state to state, but I’ll certainly take it over what I have seen some of the private and/or religious schools pushing.

        • Enuff_of_this

          We’re getting better by importing diversity at the rate of a couple hundred a month

        • jefe68

          You have not been to Burlington lately.

          • Ray in VT

            One of my friends said that he saw a girl skateboarding down Church Street while wearing a burqa, and that it was one of the best things that he has ever seen.

          • TFRX

            I hope she stopped in at the NECI cafe for a bite.

            Its student chefs really must have aced their standardized tests–I’ve never had a bad meal there.

          • Ray in VT

            I think that the NECI cafe is long gone, but it was good while it was there. My brother-in-law went there, and he does some really nice work.

          • TFRX

            Dang. Next you’ll tell me the Vermont Expos no longer play up the hill at Centennial Stadium.

            Well, it has been a few years since I was to Church St.

          • Ray in VT

            Yeah, they’re called the Lakemonsters now, but I still call ‘em the Expos. It looks like there are going to be a couple of Spring Training games up in the old Olympic Stadium next spring.

            I think that I have said before that the rocks on Church Street came from my family’s farm.

          • jefe68

            There has been a lot new immigrants from what I understand mostly from Tibet and Somalia.

          • Ray in VT

            I don’t know about Tibetans, but maybe. Ditto for Somalis, although I think that we had a pretty decent number of Sudanese refugees a few years back, and there were a lot of Vietnamese back in the1990s. It has certainly changed the local cuisine options somewhat.

          • Coastghost

            Assuming you mean the thriving bustling New England megalopolis of some 43,000 souls and not the modest North Carolina city of some 51,000, you’re right. In fact, you’re even more right than you might suppose: I’ve never been to Burlington, VT. (Truth be told, I’ve never stepped into or driven through Vermont.)

          • jefe68

            Vermont is not what it seems.
            I use to live there and in the poorer towns the school systems were as bad and in some cases worse than some inner city schools.

            You want to see a poor school system go north to Richford VT. It’s pretty dire up there.

      • Bluejay2fly

        That is because people exited HS with credentials to work. Now to become something as easy as a patrolmen in most states you have to have a criminal science degree.

        • Ray in VT

          Ive definitely seen that more jobs and employers require degrees. Sometimes it seems a bit strange, but sometimes I think that it is pretty justified. There used to be a lot of non-MSes in my field. Some did very good work, and some definitely did not. I think that the MS requirement helped to weed out the less able people. I’ve spent years cleaning up the mistakes that one lady made back in the 1990s.

      • SraVigi

        Yes, in Vermont & plenty of other locales public schools have worked fine. But under reform policies you may lose what you have if it hasn’t already happened. Brought in under the banner of giving poor kids an option to terrible urban schools– probably what Ravitch had in mind when NCLB was promulgated– it’s a top-down national bulldozer. Once you have the key ingredients in place (fed-imposed curriculum tied to fed-imposed assessments whose student scores are tied to fed/state funding & teacher-evaluations), you have lost all means of keeping what you had. And the ed-for-profit megaliths selling everything from curriculum alignments to test preps to assessments take your taxes to the bank while your schools hire more MBA’s on your dime to administer the mess.

  • Emily4HL

    During the “Choosing to be child-free” program a few weeks ago, many people commented online that choosing not to have children was selfish because other people’s children would support you in your old age, through tax dollars and social security. Personally, I think that’s a bit nutty, but…

    If we don’t educate all children, the older generation won’t have economic support as we grow older. We need quality education for all children, even from the viewpoint of enlightened self-interest.

    • Bluejay2fly

      We really do not need any more well educated children than what our private schools and some high end public are producing right now.

  • Roy-in-Boise
  • LFG

    Where are you getting your data? Connecticut has not ranked 3rd in the nation for many years. We’ve slipped, honey. And have you taken a look at Hartford or Bridgeport lately?

  • TFRX

    Growth in charter schools in MA might be a reason for test scores going up there (caller Katie, 52m)?

    How many children are in charter schools in MA? Is there even enough to “move the needle” should every student in them enter as Kaspar Hausers and leave as Einsteins?

  • Bigtruck

    Diane Ravitch is a warrior. Principles against ignorance and lobbyists, I am not optimistic.

  • TFRX

    The retired teacher said “Teachers were lured to work at Charter School System X by the promise of having to buy their own school supplies”.

    I know I’m glossing over the rest of the call, but if education is so damned important, why do teachers have to buy supplies? Paramedics don’t need to buy their own sterile gloves, bandages and defibrillators.

    • Bluejay2fly

      You obviously never went to college and got fleeced.

      • TFRX

        (Not sure what you meant, but I edited my original as I left out one important word.)

        • Bluejay2fly

          My bad

          • TFRX

            No prob.

    • lulu

      You’re right. Teachers shouldn’t need to buy supplies. But they do. If you want to make a difference, you can check out http://www.donorschoose.org/ There are some smart, innovative teachers who could use help buying extra books for classroom discussion, materials for science experiments, funding for special guests, etc.

      It should not be this way. There should be funds for creative, dedicated teachers to follow their students’ interests, but as long as that is not the case, we can help.

  • LFG

    Testing only tells us how we are doing at the very end of the process. It tells us nothing at all about where the process is broken or how to fix it. I am in favor of testing, otherwise you don’t know how you are doing. However, when tests scores are poor, our schools try to fix things by focusing entirely on the last step in the child’s educational process – how to take tests. We need to look at the entire process – from how we select teachers in schools of education (they shouldn’t be coming from the bottom of their high school class), how we prepare them in ed school, and what do they teach when they get to a school. The curriculum has to be vastly improved and teachers have to be able to competently teach a more demanding curriculum. And yes, kids need to show up to school healthy, fed, well-rested, and feeling safe. All those things need to be fixed and the test will take care of themselves.
    Rather than fix what’s wrong, our schools fix what’s easy – and that leads to more and more test prep.

    • Steve_the_Repoman

      Fixing the problems may not be the purpose of the testing

  • Steve_the_Repoman

    I also am from Milwaukee, have taught in the public school system, and also have four children in private school.

    MPS has mostly failing, dangerous schools.

    The voucher/private schools have many failing/dangerous schools.

    There are far to few good schools available in this city.

    The school (K4-12) my children attend is tested according to State standards and performs at the very top across all subjects.

    • Yar

      When paying for 4 children in private school, does that change your attitude on paying taxes for public schools that you won’t use because of their low quality? Isn’t that a self fulfilling prophecy for public schools?

      • Steve_the_Repoman

        Your thoughtful responses on this board always draw my attention and are appreciated.
        No, I gladly also pay the taxes for public schools in the hope that all children receive the education my children do.

        Yes, it is a self fulfilling prophecy and that is deeply troubling to me – but I cannot sacrifice my children to schools that are failing/dangerous.

        I suspect that a generation of children will be lost and or sacrificed. I also think that the answer may be no to both:

        -the current configuration of public schools
        and
        -the private school system that is being
        represented on this program but is by no
        means the only model available.

        • Yar

          I went to a public school, my mom was a teacher in the system, she often made the comment that the custodian in the building sent his child to a private school. She said, what does he know about our school that I don’t.

        • Yar

          Thanks for your comments as well.

  • jefe68

    I think our entire education system is outdated.

    The public education system was first and foremost designed to produce factory workers, tradesmen and office workers.

    It’s a late 19th and 20 century model that needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. Not unlike our health care system which in my view is connected to how well children do in school and was touched on by Diane Ravitch when she mentioned poverty and school results. It’s hard to concentrate or retain lessons on an empty stomach with a tooth ache or some other health care issue.

    • myblusky

      Agree – but you know how humans are when it comes to change.

      I’m surprised we haven’t been wipe out yet considering how we move at tortoise speed on matters that require some degree of urgency.

  • myblusky

    Here in Chicago we closed a bunch of schools that poor kids went to, yet my the school portion of my property tax bill increased. What exactly am I paying for – schools to be closed?
    Good grief. Can we get anything right in this country.

    • Bluejay2fly

      For the 1% things are working just fine and have been for years.

    • TomK_in_Boston

      You’re paying the investors in the privatization schemes and the salaries of the privatization executives.

  • Tim from Durham, NC

    I’ve read Professor Ravitch’s book “The Life and Death of the American School System,” and found is very disappointing. It was not a data driven analysis of US education. When policies Ravitch doesn’t like are implemented and they produce gains, even for the poor, these gains are glossed over and the focus is on continued inequality and on teacher protests, but when a reform doesn’t produce results, then data is presented as key to the argument against top down reforms.

    I’d highly recommend Amanda Ripley’s “The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way,” as an alternative view. Poverty does not explain it all. I’m about as leftist as they come but that’s simply not an accurate reflection of the data. South Korea, Finland, and Poland have a history of child poverty far greater than that of the US, not to mention histories of invasion, war, and in the case of Poland, genocide during the last three generations. These school systems have managed massive reforms despite wide spread poverty.

    Ripley’s argument boils down to this: it is too easy to become a teacher in the US. Education is not considered a prestigious or difficult field. Or rather, it is considered difficult to teach, but not at all difficult to get a degree in education. How are many of our math teachers not mathematics majors? How can we expect high quality teachers when state masters in teaching programs accept 50-70% of students? Even Harvard takes 30% of incoming teachers. In Finland only 5% of applicants make it into education school. Teaching is considered a profession on par with being a doctor. Rather than making twice as many education degrees as we need nationally and then brow beating teachers with test scores, we should start at the teacher colleges and make it more rigorous to become a teacher. If the profession isn’t taken seriously, the kids know it. It’s no accident that Massachusetts is number 1 in reading and math AND has the highest teacher pay.

    • Bluejay2fly

      Horace’s School is also a good read on that subject.

    • Bluejay2fly

      Restricting the supply of teachers to create a high quality product is what the AMA did for medical students. Guess what, the market needed more doctor’s so now you have a ton of quacks from all over the globe. You need millions of teachers worrying about some arbitrary system of ranking and hierarchy to select “the best” will not work at all. Using your logic Bill Gates a college drop out would have been weeded out.

      • Tim from Durham, NC

        I think you can strike a balance between the AMA and creating more than two times as many education degrees as we need teachers, don’t you?

        As for arbitrary guidelines, if you need to do well to get into a program which trains you for a job which is highly respected and pays well (closer to the MA average salary of $70k a year as opposed to the $40k in NC), then you will care.

        • mjhoop

          My husband cared, but he couldn’t have afforded to work in the schools of this rural NC county without the US Govt. subsidy (retirement check) he got as a retired Navy vet. His dedication to teaching made this an acceptable situation for him. The very people who complain about the US govt are often the ones who benefit from indirect govt. funding.

      • tbphkm33

        I don’t know the particulars in regards to restricting the number of education degrees that are awarded, but I can say that standards in most education departments need to be increased. Often the education major has the lowest GPA requirement to stay in school. So, you get the situation where college students have flunked out of their original major, only to end up in the education department as the last stop before being kicked out of the college/university. This situation of course ends up watering down the experience for those students who enter college intending to be a teacher – the sort of “true” teacher.

    • Tim from Durham, NC

      Also, having worked in real estate, local ordinances have as much to do with class segregation in neighborhoods and schools as does federal economic and tax policy. High SES communities always have regulations with prevent the construction of high density housing which low SES families could afford. The fact that you never see a high rise apartment in a high income, good school district town is that there are legal barriers to creating such a building.

      The fact is that, whether they pay attention to local elections or not, middle and upper class families are often unwittingly complicit in class segregation.

    • Elizabeth Schaefer

      I have not read the book, but I wonder about the list of countries covered in it. I think it has to do with a culture of aspiration. ALL those countries are looking at a new, growing economy – whether it’s the post-communist Poland, the up and coming South Korea displacing Japan, and Nokia, which I understand as floundering now, as an engine of ambition. Cultural and economic conditions make an education seem worth something. It always seems as if US culture has not valued education, or educators enough. I think the ed school ‘problem’ may be a classic chicken and egg – ‘good’ math students are discouraged from thinking about teaching, as they imagine better jobs than that. Why are those jobs better? Because our country values the private sector more than the public.

      • SraVigi

        Agree but you left one piece out, which is as those economies have developed, ours has been in decline. The cultural attitude you describe in the US reflects economic realities kids see all around them which impacts directly on motivation & aspiration while in school. In the late ’60′s when I was that age, there was social idealism (& $ social programs/jobs steady or still growing, reflecting a booming economy able to spread the wealth a bit). Hard to believe now but many went into law to change the world:) Within a decade mfg was in decline & trickle-down economics, it was becoming all about leveraged buyouts & loosening fin’l restrictions, law degrees & MBA’s translating to big $. Nerds came to fore in the ’90′s & current promotion of STEM. Over 3 decades of decline in social pgms, mfg outsourcing created the income disparity we see today. Kids understand they’re either going to make big $ or struggle along in low-pd service jobs, & regardless of merit/high-ed it’s a roll of the dice. Hence lack of direction/ motivation in school, cynicism about ed in general.

  • http://www.CayerComputing.com/ Melissa A. Cayer

    How are the statistics by state effected by square miles and population of each state (Large California compared to smalll Connecticut)?
    To sum up the message I got from my mom when I was in public school was “when you bring me food home then I am pleased.”
    To sum up the way I felt with my public school children was “when you show me you learned skills that you can use in a job then I am pleased.”
    To sum up the message I got from my standardized test scores when I was a public school student was that “I must be pretty smart.”

  • myblusky

    Schools (universities included) are completely out of touch with reality and what’s needed in the workforce and for survival. That ultimately is what school is for – educate them so they can get jobs and take care of themselves. Instead the administration argues over trivial matters and wastes money.

    When I was in school the administration hired a new principle and he wrecked our school. The vast majority of good teachers left. Finally the students had enough. We called the principle down to the gym and told him our demands. They weren’t met so we walked out in good old fashioned protest. This tiny rural school in Indiana was on the news everywhere that night.

    We were all suspended, but in the end, that jerk of a principle resigned very shortly after. I’m sure his resignation wasn’t done willingly either.

    People do have power. Sometimes you have to sacrifice for the changes you want, but being suspended was worth it to see that jerk packing his bags.

    • AC

      what were the demands?

      • myblusky

        At that point he had gotten the sports teams removed from some conference and they wanted back in. He had already ruined the teaching staff and now he was working his way through everything else.

        He said “no”. The high school president yelled out “then we walk” and that’s what we did. All very dramatic but so exciting to be doing something to force change.

        The principle came out and told us we were all suspended for a day and we just sat there in the parking lot while helicopters flew over head filming it. Then we were told it was going to be 3 days suspension and it would keep increasing. We all went back in at that point after about 2 hours in the parking lot.

        In the end the damage was done. His reputation was ruined and the administration couldn’t support a principle with parents, teachers, and students that passionately against him.

  • K. S.

    I always appreciate Tom’s calm, balanced approach to his guests. Today he felt argumentative and slightly combative – perhaps he has a personal stake in this issue that overwhelmed him, but whatever the reason it was unpleasant listening, albeit an interesting discussion (he usually elicits the latter from his guest without creating the former). I also felt the second guest was rude in referring to Diane Ravitch as merely “Ravitch” – couldn’t she have at least used a polite “Ms. Riavitch”? Right or wrong in her thinking, which I’m still considering (with great interest) kudos to Diane Ravitch for being brave enough to change her mind, write a book about it, and then hold her own against two protagonists on this morning’s show.

    • Tim from Durham, NC

      It does seem like he is more invested in some debates than others.

      As for the guest, Professor Ravitch paints very unflattering pictures of many “reformers,” in her books, including some of her colleagues at Columbia, so I’m sure the feeling is mutual for some. I always wondered how those faculty meetings went at Teacher’s College after the books went to press.

    • thequietkid10

      Notice that too, usually he’s more incredulous with guest from the right (IMO).

      If his salary is anything near what a number of NPR hosts make (http://www.mediaite.com/online/report-non-profit-npr-to-make-a-modest-margin-this-year/) and he had kids, they are probably educated in a private school.

      • Tim from Durham, NC

        Yeah but I always figured that’s because they get so many of their guests from the Cato Institute. Their speakers always sound so condescending and they all do this bait and switch where they start and interview with the a moderate view point and data and make it maybe 5 minutes before going into full scale partisan diatribes. It seems so dishonest.

    • Robin Harris

      I think he has a naturally abrasive nature that I have never liked, but he was really offensive today. I listen for the content, but he really distracted me from what Ms. Ravitch and others were trying to discuss. Give me an hour of TOTN.

      • Birdwatcher1

        Gawd, I miss TOTN…

  • TomK_in_Boston

    Diane Ravitch is a breath of fresh air.

    Everyone should know by now that “reform” is righty Newspeak for “screw the middle class”.

    “Ed reform” is a dangerous front in the class war, the broad attack on all our great public institutions.

    As always, follow the money. Financial con artists like Bane Capital want those taxpayer dollars!

    • mjhoop

      Too bad Ravitch came to this point the long way. My late husband had an MA in education. He could see the direction the private school advocates were taking the educational system. He was a decade ahead of Ravitch and she no doubt has a PhD. He predicted the mess she now laments. I’m glad he doesn’t have to see the current fiasco. It would help the nation if the people with common (really uncommon) sense were allowed to be heard.

  • tbphkm33

    I never like these “one-size fits all” approaches. I see this all the time in companies, so many following the latest business fad. Reality is that organizations are not cookie cutter images of each other. This is a capitalist system, not a centrally managed communist system where conformity is the key.

    Fundamentally these “national” excellence programs fail to take into account a number of factors, but towards the top is organizational culture. Each organization has its own unique internal culture, without recognizing this and customizing reform to the particularities of the organization’s culture, you fail from the very start.

    I work to transform SME manufacturers from having a U.S. centric focus to an international focus. In these endeavors, I see the impact of organizational culture all the time. There are even some hierarchical, top down, organizations that I refuse to work with. They just have the wrong organizational culture to effect meaningful transformation.

    In the late 1990s, I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Covey on his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People seminars. We often would discuss the limits of a one day seminar in changing individuals or the companies they worked for. Dr. Covey readily said what he would really need is an intensive few weeks within an organization to truly effect change. Namely that you can’t grab a pre-packaged program off the shelf and think this will fix all the organization’s problems.

    In any case, whenever I hear proponents of standardized testing and One Child Left Behind, I roll my eyes. Its another example of follow the money, behind these movements there are a few individuals make a lot of money, fully knowing that what they are proposing is worthless and will have very little beneficial effect.

    If you want to effect positive change, locate those critical thinkers with a cross-sectional liberal education and broad experience. Individuals who are willing to roll up their sleeves and work within your organization for several years. Then give them the support and authorization to truly transform the organization.

    • TomK_in_Boston

      Always follow the money. “Crazy” policies make perfect sense when you follow the money. Our “broken” economy is working perfectly when you follow the money and realize who it’s supposed to benefit.

  • passarinha

    I lived for a few years in Brazil, where (except at the university level), the only decent schools are private. I know Brazilians who immigrated to the U.S. because they couldn’t afford to pay for private schools. Because of this public/private gap in quality, poor Brazilians (and most are poor or low-income) do not have a realistic route to a decent university education or a job that pays a decent wage.

    Is that the direction we want to go in the U.S.? I understand the frustration with public schools, but let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water. Eventually, we’ll wind up with no middle class.

    • TomK_in_Boston

      It’s not the direction “we” want to go, but it’s the direction the oligarchs who are calling the shots want to go.

      And, we have a huge problem, as can be seen on this forum, that many lower and middle class Americans are totally bamboozled by their propaganda.

      • tbphkm33

        I agree, it is the direction that things are heading. Although, private school is often not what its cut out to be. I do alumni admissions for my undergraduate institution, nationally in the top 10 liberal arts colleges, and often see entitled private school students. Out of about 500 applicants in my region, I have never had a year where there are more private school students than public school students admitted. Normally there are 3 to 4 students admitted, but only 1 will be from a private school. A friend who is an alum from an ivy league university sees similar trends.

        From my perspective, the reality is that a top student will excel irrespective of public or private high school. Much like you can get an ivy league “equivalent” education at a state university, just that you have to work hard to force your professors to go the extra mile.

    • SraVigi

      Or take a look at Chile, 40 yrs of all-voucher system & thousands of students protesting in streets. Their system was designed by Milton Friedman & his Chicago Boys… the very same school of thought driving Obama/ Duncan/ Rhee/ Gates/ Broad ed policies. Be very afraid.

  • NashMomof3

    Yes, Yes, Yes!  We have seen this first hand in our system here in Nashville, TN.  A small group of wealthy investors who have never been active in our public education work have entered the picture with hundreds of thousands of dollars and lobbyists in hand.  They have inserted themselves into the back pockets of our state commissioner of education (Michelle Rhees ex-husband) as well as, bought numerous local school board races with outside money.  These investors have attempted to make money off of other systems in NC and FL before and failed.  Now they have come home to manipulate our system in the hopes of privatizing and profiting.  There is a blatant disregard for the children and families who are being used as pawns in this fight for power.  Unhappy with a local school board decision, Commissioner Huffman withheld $1 million dollars from our local system to punish the board for not going along with his recommendation.  This is absolutely insane to me!  I have 3 children in public schools and these outsiders are not looking out for the interest of our children.  

    • nf sbrrpkk

      Stay strong and don’t let Haslam off the hook. Haslam is bashing the superintendents who signed the letter. Parents must stand in favor of the 60+ superintendents and let your views be known to every legislator. If legislators refuse to support local public schools, remove them from office.

  • TomK_in_Boston

    Ed “reform” doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is part and parcel of privatization and the broad attack on our public institutions. Ed reform, “Entitlement reform” and “Tax reform” are all designed to redistribute more $ to the top.

    In high school I read about the bad old days of private fire departments. It seemed like a joke – we had progressed far beyond that nonsense. Now I’m reading about how there are fewer fires and the horrors of maintaining all these well-paid firefighters. I predict that we will soon be hearing about “Fire safety reform”, and Bane Capital will start investing in private fire contracting companies and offering their services to cities and towns.

    How about police? Maybe the 1% in their gated communities have their own security and don’t need the local police. Isn’t it horrible unfair that their taxes go to a service they don’t use? How about “Public safety reform”, with every neighborhood hiring its own security?

    Public higher ed has been under attack for a long time. It used to be free and now has rising tuition as states contribute less, prioritizing prisons and low taxes. That is the main cause of student debt. As the middle class pays and the 1% taxes stay low, most people without ideological blinders can see the direction of the redistribution.

    Reagan said the scariest words were “i’m from gvt and i’m here to help” but actually the scariest single word to a non-oligarch is “reform”.

    • tbphkm33

      Well said.

      I once lived in a city that had a gated community with private security. They had painted their security cars the same color scheme as the local police, people were always confused. I am honored to say, it was my complaints to local and state government that forced them to repaint their vehicles. It is against the law to impersonate a police officer, which includes painting a private vehicle to look like a police car. Appears some of the residents were irate about having to pay to repaint the cars. Oh well, can’t say I felt sorry for them.

      • TomK_in_Boston

        Thanks and congrats on taking action.

        I have absolutely no doubt that Bane Capital et al have teams of MBAs looking at every public service and brainstorming how they can profit by privatizing it.

        • eat_swim_read

          Bain.
          Not Bane: as in “you are the bane of this comment board….”
          lol

  • Coastghost

    Bundling the provision of numberless “social services” with the provision of public education does little or nothing to alleviate poverty and little more to promote actual education.
    Exiting secondary teaching after four thankless years, I later had opportunity to work for an “education publisher” of teacher training materials for a year (which position I left upon learning of the intellectual fraud of the firm’s founder, who was padding the bibliographies of his own negligible monographs with articles and books he’d never consulted). This firm excelled in conducting “teacher training” workshops around the country for all kinds of pretty pennies (publicly-funded, I must add), which somehow added up to drive this enterprise of intellectual fraud.
    I won’t even begin to address the intellectual fraud that our post-secondary schools of “education” foist each year, graduating highly unqualified (but duly credentialed) candidates year in year out.
    Yes, a RACKET. (Pardon the perversity of my rank understatement.)

    • SraVigi

      What you describe is precisely the sort of mess reform policies have incorporated in spades into public schools over the last 12 yrs, causing taxpayers to have to shift decreasing revenues into expensive materials & more admin costs, w/no measurable improvement in quality. Yes, in state-run poor districts things already looked like this. At least locally-run schools with a higher tax base had other options. If your state buys into nationalized curriculum w/assessments tied to funding/ teacher-eval, you’ve brought this horror-show right into your neighborhood.

      • Coastghost

        And what you say confirms to my ear my view that public education is government’s bureaucratic institutionalization of poverty. (Id est: the only possible beneficiaries of “education policy” are those in the roughly 60% of the student population that complete their primary and secondary coursework: the bottom 40% who never complete their secondary coursework [outright dropouts and those exhibiting no academic characteristics] are actual victims of public education. But because of egalitarian misconceptions concerning the pedagogical legitimacy of a “two-tiered system” [academic track and vocational track], the victimization continues apace. I can begin to understand the frustration and resentment the poor have towards public education, which unfortunately helps lead to disaffection with instruction altogether.)

        • SraVigi

          Grad rates actually up to 75% now but I get your drift, & agree that decline (& disappearance in poorer areas) of voc-tech programs criminal. That problem like all major system problems IMO due to steady cuts to ed funding for decades– not to misguided pedagogical ideas. The foolish idea that everyone should go to college emanated from big biz & their gov puppets just like the ‘ed reform’ ideas. Meanwhile strapped communities dumped exp voc eqpt at local hs, tho smarter communities w/enough $ have provided great voc-tech pgms shared among county schools– those pgms on the ropes now too.

  • Brad dayag

    ill believe the commitment of the most vocal advocates for a strong robust public education system when the stat sending their kids to public schools.

    • 65noname

      I doubt that Ravitch has any school age kids. She is 75 years old. I’ll believe the committment of the privatizers for vprofit when they start sending their kids to privatized for profit schools. they’re the ones who say that their anti-union policies are improving public education. And what do you know about where any “vocal advocates …” send their kids? Meanwhile advocates for destroying public schools such as clinton and obama send their kids to elite private, not for profit schools. Guess they don’t really beleive that their policies are improving public schools.

  • 65noname

    this announcer specializes in having the same old professional spin artists analyze every issue. Despite being wrong on every issue from iraq to the economy he has never questioned their “expertise”. Now when ravitch acknowledges having been wrong to support chater schools and privatization in the past, he suddenly starts agressively asking her why anyone should listen to her now since she admits to being wrong in the past.
    Too bad that he doesn’t use that tack on his usual gang of professional spin artists, like the one’s who gave us Iraq and the recession resulting from their deregulating the economy.

    • TomK_in_Boston

      Exactly. The corporate media are still promoting, with great respect, the views on Syria of those who got us into Iraq, and the views on finance of those who got us into the Bush crash. The gang at Heritage who predicted massive job creation from the Bush tax cuts hasn’t missed a beat. They invented Obamacare and now they can’t trash it enough.

      I would just once like to see some DC pundit or institution vanish from the scene after too many mistakes.

  • Bluejay2fly

    Why then do American HS graduates have to learn basic courses like anthropology, sociology, psychology, art history, etc in college when they should have been taught those courses FOR FREE at the HS level. A European HS graduate is comparable to one of our college juniors. Our system is terrible and the only nation that has a similar system is Russia. If she were the voice of reason she would be advocating more competition in the off chance that might light a fire under that dinosaur to change. I will also add, as an aside, that some of the most arrogant, opinionated, narrow minded, vindictive people I ever had the displeasure to work around were not in prison but in academia.

  • MsAbila

    Education should be a public good in an advanced society.

    We are living in a ‘knowledge-based’ economy and being told from every direction how important education is.

    We need to speak up in order to fix the public school system rather than changing it into a third-world-type school system.

    • thequietkid10

      It is a public good.

  • nf sbrrpkk

    Corporate reformers, charter scammers and Pearson’s lobbyists are circling the wagons as a result of Reign of Error. They have been exposed and are fearful. The sleeping giant (parents) are following the money in every state.

  • John Corey

    Why does hardly anyone ask the teachers? They receive all the blame and have less and less creative freedom. They are increasingly choreographed in a state run, mind-numbing dance.

    Establish a collaborative environment for educators to create, and we will rediscover what makes our best schools. I promise you that none of the”great ideas” of the day researchers cobble together come from the “franken-schools” they have created.

  • Gatortrapper

    Enter with eyes wide open. Caveat emptor should always be foremost in our consumption of any product. But the reality is quite simple and I’m constantly amazed that no one feels willing to raise the issue: Public education is failing not because of the teachers (sure, unions are a problem) or the facilities but the raw product: the students are neither prepared nor committed to working at their education.

    The whole of society has devolved to the point that parents don’t read, they don’t monitor their children, they place few demands upon them to spend the time necessary to do well. If they should 1/4 of the interest in their children’s education as they did the kids performance on the “hardwood” or “gridiron” then the quality of all would improve. They somehow expect that if the kids crosses the threshold of the school grounds that learning will be “poured” into them like water into a glass. It doesn’t work like that.

    As for the suggestion that society should expand into providing ancillary medical care and other social services to somehow compensate for the lack of adequate nutrition and medical care is ridiculous. While half of all births are to unwed mothers (and half of all births are also paid for by Medicaid…..no correlation there is there….) the fact is between WIC and food stamps, Medicaid and other social services the last thing we need to more mission creep in education.

    The problem is with the parents and the children not working to learn. The problem is not segregating behavioral problems out of the general population and not providing discipline within the schools to punish those who disrupt the environment. There is no accountability from the parents and children and even though I object to the liberal bias of the teachers, the performance decline is not their fault.

  • Gatortrapper

    Regarding the privatization of education with the use of vouchers, the key is to demand accountability. It is not enough to pay someone else to deliver the same poor outcome. But it still comes to down to the parents and kids. If they are not engaged and committed then we will not see improvement regardless of the structure of the school.

    I expect that in a private setting it would be more likely that demands upon the parents and children would be raised significantly and either they got with the program or they got cut. And that’s the key. Just like the sporting programs where commitment, discipline and effort are required to stay on the roster and play, and where disrespecting the coaches will get you cut, you have to have a system of real consequences for the parents and children. This doesn’t exist in public education anymore.

  • RobertLongView

    To the Tenn. caller about school choice and her foregone conclusions about Unions: The dominate narrative of the right is that unions have harmed America. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    • nlpnt

      Anyone who thinks teachers’ unions being too dug-in and politically powerful should imagine what a school-industrial complex would be like.

    • SraVigi

      Try to keep up. If teacher’s unions still had any power we wouldn’t be having this conversation. They have already handed over the reins.

  • Paducah72

    Tom Ashbrook must be on the rag today. Someone get this guy some ibuprofen.

    • Birdwatcher1

      Vulgar comment. Shame on you.

  • anon

    I think it’s interesting that Ms. Ravitch thinks that it’s the public’s responsibility to support education, parks, street maintenance, etc., and maybe most people would agree – but then why isn’t health care in that list, as it is in many other countries?

    Sorry – not exactly on-topic, but it just got me wondering why Americans separate health care from the rest…

    • jefe68

      Conditioning.

  • SraVigi

    Edmonton, Alberta: one high-stakes standardized test only (12th grade)– high stake for student, but results are not tied to school funding nor to teacher eval. Public school funding EQUALLY divided throughout Edmonton district: a wide variety of schools open to all students in city incl places with focus on SpEd & learning English. Not achieved by ‘collaboration of charter, choice, traditional, parochial’. Done thro one unified public school sys w/equal funding across the board.

    Canada spends the same on public schooling as the US (5.5-5.6% of GDP) but Canada’s child poverty is 13% compared to US 23%. so they are effectively putting more public $ into educating their poor.

  • TFRX

    …wrong thread!

  • Will Garfinkel

    School, public or private or charter, are not welfare programs. If the parent(s) fail to feed their kids or take them to a Doctor or are no shows for school, the school should call Child Protective Services and let the agency with jurisdiction for dysfunctional families do their job.

  • Birdwatcher1

    Jessica Levin needs a few lessons in remedial people skills. I have rarely heard (except on shock-jock talk radio) someone so rude and disrespectful. I suspect she does not get far in her arguments, regardless of their validity, with such ill manners. For starters, she constantly refers to Diane Ravich solely with her last name, without the courtesy of Ms. or Mrs. or whatever she goes by, or at least with her first name. I found her impossible to listen to.

  • fun bobby

    close them all down fire all teachers and administrators and pay for the students to subscribe to the education app of their choice

  • Eliza_Bee

    Ravich did a good job of supporting her assertions with facts. I was pleasantly surprised that test scores and graduation rates actually aren’t so horrible, and will now look askance at calls for reform based on disaster talk.

    I’d like to see some organization simply identify practices that are objectively associated with better student outcomes over a diverse population, and then try organizing a school district around those broad principles. One such practice is smaller class size–there must be others. (And yes, I pay taxes and am willing to pay even more to support high quality public education. The benefits of having well-educated people in my community are tremendous.)

  • TJPhoto40

    I think Ravitch makes a number of strong points but also ignores the role of quality teaching, at least in this interview. Not all teachers or teaching methods are equal. And there are serious problems with public education, whatever Ravitch would like to believe. Test scores and graduation rates are equally superficial measures.

    Amanda Ripley’s book includes discussion of the most successful education systems, one of which is Finland. In Finland, Ripley describes a system that draws the highest-achieving young people into education and values them as they should be. The selection process for teachers is rigorous, as is their training in much higher quality teacher training programs, and they’re given much greater latitude in their teaching methods. They’re paid at a much higher rate than in the US, and their profession is accorded the highest prestige in the society. Ripley points out Finnish teachers would never stand for a cookie cutter curriculum being imposed upon them. They do very little testing, yet their students perform among the best in the world. Even allowing for some substantial differences in social conditions, this is impressive.

    Here in the US, virtually anyone can become a teacher, and too many of them choose the profession for want of a better alternative. The training is too often inferior, and there is neither the pay nor the prestige there should be for someone in such an important profession. I don’t think we can improve public education without addressing this issue of teacher recruitment and training, valuing of the profession, paying much better, and providing a more well-rounded education.

    I know Ravitch probably agrees with most of this, and I applaud her for emphasizing the role of the arts, for example. But it’s not enough to simply praise all teachers and ignore the failings of many subpar teachers who are contributing to what is still a seriously flawed public education system. Poverty and social conditions are critical issues as well, but let’s consider the teacher training process, professional standards and curriculum development as equally or more important in this.

    • SraVigi

      “Here in the US, virtually anyone can become a teacher.”
      No, actually this statement only applies to those states which have either lowered their certification standards (& some like FL actually have), or those states which allow ‘school choice’, i.e., can take their school tax to a private &/or charter school which is not held to state standards (true in LA & a growing number of other states).
      I do not disagree with the thrust of your statement. However, to increase training/ salary/ prestige of teachers in our country is a difficult proposition as education spending is not a big priority here, & it varies widely since it is funded by property taxes. We spend overall about as much as Canada (in terms of %GDP), & we get pretty OK results, translated to excellent results in expensive areas, terrible results in poor areas, & everything in between.
      If what you are really trying to say is that teachers meeting better state reqts stink, I disagree. Teachers with a liberal or math/science degree & certification courses, who then (in accordance with law of most states) get their MA within 5 yrs are qualified people. If they get even a modicum of mentoring in their first few yrs of teaching they do very well; those who don’t, or who find teaching too trying for the salary, leave in large numbers. My experience as a parent of 3 in public schools & as a free-lance ‘specials’ (for lang) educator in many schools, is that there are a lot of terrific teachers out there.

      • TJPhoto40

        Thanks for your thoughts on this, SraVigi. I wasn’t talking so much about state standards as I was about how people choose to go into education and the rigor of their studies and their training. I think it varies widely, and that many people who go into teaching are not representative of our best and brightest. There are many earnest and committed teachers; I don’t doubt that. But the quality of the teachers in Finland seems better overall because the profession attracts the best academic performers and trains them effectively, consistently, and gives them better pay and prestige as well as freedom to teach with more autonomy.

        I agree that it will be challenging to achieve that in this country. I think it has to do with social and economic inequality, but also with the way Americans give lip service to education without being willing to pay up and give it higher priority in support.

  • Melissa Mangino

    I agree with TJPhoto40. They never addressed the role of excellent teachers and leaders in the schools. It needs to begin with teacher education programs – we should be looking at a model similar to the medical profession – interning, residency, full mentoring, etc. I agree with Ravitch on most points but didn’t disagree with Levin. I think she is correct in saying that we need to find the programs that do work – whether public or charter – and implement them where appropriate. Education is an art, not a science. Students are human beings not “widgets” that can be fixed with a little tweaking here and there. It is a long road and we won’t see results overnight (like the caller from TN insisted.) The problem is that politicians and let’s face it, most of us want to see immediate results that just are not possible. It will take a generation to accomplish. Desegregation did not start and end with Brown – it took decades and yet de-facto segregation does still exist.

  • ExcellentNews

    I have a great idea on how to fix our education system. Let’s turn over our schools to EVIL CLOWNS wearing expensive suits. The clowns will take all the money and spend it on advertising, sales meetings, and a modest special seven-figure CLOWN BONUS. Classes? Don’t worry, these will be offshored or outsourced to the lowest bidder. However, the clowns will give you a special surprise when you get the bill. Maybe they can even sign you up for a child loan from their banker friend at a special introductory APR…

    Oh wait !!! You say this is being done now ??? How did Bush dare to steal my idea !!!

  • ExcellentNews

    You must be one of these communist Muslims that Fox News keeps warning us about…

  • SraVigi

    Echoing jwis! Wake up Democrats our prez & the people he listens to are NOT progressives they are neoliberals, far more dangerous than GOP (at least Repubs are fairly upfront about what they’re trying to accomplish). Obama, Bush, Clinton all cut from same cloth. Hillary as well I presume. These people believe in unfettered free-market capitalism, & that NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) can deliver social services better than gov’t’s can. Privatization of our schools is just another plank in the structure that brought us outsourcing of mfg, insourcing of cheap foreign engineers & doctors, lowest upward mobility & highest income inequality in the OECD.

  • SraVigi

    It’s a moot point we haven’t had any liberal leaders in over 30 yrs.

    • Gatortrapper

      Correct. There have been no “classic liberal” leaders since Coolidge.

  • SraVigi

    Thank you! You said it all.

  • Gatortrapper

    The commitment required is not predicated on a parent having either a middle class income, or being educated. Indeed that would mean that all illiterate parents (which is not indicative of intelligence but only education) would never be able to assist their children in improving their situation.

    To the contrary all I have noted is that it is the lack of commitment by those parents to force their children to spend as much time on school work as they do playing basketball, football or Xbox. (Among other things that need to be done, like teaching respect and self discipline, etc)

    You are absolutely correct about poverty being a great predictor, but you seem to be resigned to their being condemned to that socioeconomic level.

    • Isernia

      My illiterate, immigrant parents overcame poverty in this country but it was long ago when manual labor provided jobs, public schools /libraries helped kids with literacy and hygiene habits and churches provided important character building/moral support to families. Respect for education and learning, along with working hard at honest labor, were accepted values by immigrant families who knew this was the only way to rise in social class. Today, many of those community institutions that supported my parents are either faced with overwhelming challenges or have faded in relevance.

  • Gatortrapper

    Being poor is no excuse. It never has and is only a of recent advent by liberal’s looking to excuse behavior. We used to shame, not tolerate slothfulness and idleness. Now we do.

    It is a self fulfilling prophecy aided by those who feel empathy for the condition. The empathy is good and proper. But enabling the maintenance of the condition rather than insisting that they work to acquire the education that gives them a fighting chance is wrong. Freedom and liberty are essential but being created equal does not equate to equality of outcomes. Commitment and hard work are more likely to result in long term, widespread improvement, not redistribution of income.

    Again you seem to have condemned them to their lot in life. I’m saying that if they don’t work at maximizing the education they are offered for free then of course they are so condemned, by their own choices.

    • SraVigi

      I am with you in toto as regards passing on the puritan work ethic. My kids work their butts off; they have somehow gleaned from us that work is fun, work is everything, & even their play is work. They would rather deliver pizzas than play video games, & we even persuaded them to go to college (by finding state schools that had courses in the things that interested them). HOWEVER: the jobs are really not there, & it’s not OK to pretend they are. In my day (the ’70′s), a BA & a good work ethic could get you into a wide array of middle-class jobs. My kids cannot earn enough to pay more than rent & food: clothing, cars, & health/car insurance are still provided by parents. Let’s not pretend, please, that this is about sub-par education. The only people making big bucks in our economy right now are lawyers, stockbrokers, bankers, & a few engineers/nerds. Meanwhile for lack of vo-tech programs there’s a generation-and-a-half of people missing from the trades, being replaced by illegals. THIS IS ABOUT GOVT POLICY NOT ABOUT EDUCATION.

      • Gatortrapper

        You’re absolutely correct. What few understand is that it has been the GROWTH of government both in its own size and it regulation that has shut down our economy.

        Follow the expansion of government, not just entitlements, and you can see a direct correlation between the growth since 1965 and the slow erosion in the strength of economic base.

  • Gatortrapper

    It’s the states and local governments seduced by the prospect of free federal money. No one forced them to take it and frankly all conservatives seem to agree that the first agency to be abolished is the Department of Education. Get the federal government out of the way, starting with the DOE..

  • https://twitter.com/MetroIssuesLou Metro Issues :: Louisville

    That, combined with Ravitch being on top of her game, made the program really stand out, and hopefully will be very influential in the ongoing debate.

  • TJPhoto40

    I said in my original post that I recognize poverty and social conditions play an important role, but you simply overstate its importance. There have been success stories in poor areas just like there have been many cases of lousy education in impoverished areas and middle class areas alike.

    As for Finland, I don’t think you know much about the causes for their success. I doubt your statistic about the percentage of poor kids there, but more important is that Finland has improved tremendously since the 1970s when it was ranked low in education and was struggling to upgrade. The country has made incredible strides largely as a result of the educational strategies I mentioned while dealing with increased immigration from many countries we would consider low performers educationally, and with some 60 languages and many cultures now represented in what was previously a more homogeneous population. Read this article as further exploration into Finland’s turnaround: http://www.nea.org/home/40991.htm

    I don’t see why we can’t consider teacher quality along with improving socioeconomic conditions. I don’t believe the educational issues would be resolved just by bolstering the middle class, as you claim, though I agree that the middle class is eroding and that threatens our democracy generally, not just education.

  • Isernia

    EXCELLENT RESPONSE to the heated “dialogue” of this program. Fifteen years ago when I was a history teacher in one of this nation’s best public school States, I read everything Diane Ravitch wrote on education. She promoted the primacy of teaching history along with the “basics”- i.e. English, math and science. When she hopped on the testing, NCLB, charter school bandwagon six years ago, Ravitch lost credibility in my eyes. Now, she has redeemed her reputation by emphasizing the social/economic realities through which educational reform must be seen. Until we as a nation narrow the gap between super rich and the poor and stop shrinking the middle class, there is little hope for substantive school reform.

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