Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Diane Ravitch was on The Daily Show

Diane Ravitch was on The Daily Show last week.  The first segment of the show is a must-watch, as Jon Stewart shows the unconscionable teacher-bashing going on at Fox "News", and has AWESOME video clips showing the hypocrisy of the Fox commentators, who all said a couple of years ago that the government couldn't touch the contractual salary guarantees made to the jokers at AIG and on Wall St. who got us into this mess, yet are now all saying that Wisconsin and other states should feel free to rewrite the union contracts:


Ravitch appears at minute 13:00 and did her usual shtick for 8 minutes bashing tests (she actually asked the audience, "How much do you like testing?" and they of course booed – like that means anything), said "under NCLB schools have turned into testing factories", Finland should be our role model (in many ways, I agree – more on this later), it's all the fault of poverty, reformers are attacking teachers, etc. 


Here's a partial transcript:


Ravitch: "I think the things that are being done now by Sec. Duncan, by the Gates Foundation, by the Broad Foundation, by all of these very wealthy and powerful people, are taking us on the wrong track because they're focused solely on 'how do we find the bad teachers'?  I don't think America is overrun by bad teachers.  I think America is overrun by too much poverty, too much poverty among children.  If we're going to talk about what works, we're not going to talk about which teacher do you find and punish because their kids didn't get high scores.  We should be talking about is how do we make sure that our children have adequate healthcare, and that we have pre-K education, birth to 5-year-old education, because there's a gap when kids start school, there's a gap at age 3 where poor kids begin and they're already behind because they don't have access to healthcare or vocabulary."


Stewart: "The whole bad teachers argument blows my mind too.  Have you been in the world?  There's bad everything.  You know what I mean?  How many fast food restaurants have you ever been in where you go, 'What's the hell's going on here?'  How many times have you been to the bank?  There are crappy people in almost every field.  And yet somehow teachers don't have a luxury of having a couple of crappy ones."


Ravitch: "I was with a principal the other day in California, in Los Angeles, and I asked, 'How many teachers have you supervised?'  She said, 'I've been a principal now for about 15 years and I've supervised maybe 300.'  'How many of them would you say are bad teachers,' I asked and she said, 'One.  And I got rid of that bad teacher.'" [Note that she doesn't say what kind of school she visited – or what kind of school, serving what demographic of kids, that 1 bad teacher was sent to (because he/she surely wasn't laid off!).]


I wonder how Stewart would feel is one of his kids were stuck with one of those crappy teachers he's so unconcerned about.  Too bad he wasn't better prepped on this.  We need to get a real reformer on his show!


Ravitch's last sentence is noteworthy – it's almost a STOP THE PRESSES: for the first time EVER, to my knowledge (and I follow her and read her book closely), she admits that there might be ONE bad teacher in America. 


So, you have Ravitch saying that 0.3% of teachers might be crappy vs. the estimate of 48 inner-city teachers whom I surveyed, who say it's 45% -- that's quite a range!  I think the answer, nationwide, is in the single digits, but they're almost all concentrated in schools (and, within schools, in classrooms) with the poorest kids.  And then for Ravitch to say it's all about poverty.  It's obscene!  Yes, poverty matters a lot, but I've been to too many schools that are sending 80-90% of poor, minority kids to four-year colleges (without creaming) to believe this you-can't-hold-schools-accountable-when-kids-can't-read argument.  It's just excusing failure.  (To my knowledge, Ravitch has NEVER ONCE admitted that there might be even ONE failing school in America.)


The only thing that worried me about this is that Stewart's interview with her was juxtaposed with the nitwits at Fox attacking teachers, which makes it seem like real reformers are attacking teachers, instead of the truth: celebrating them.

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