I have lots of conversations with various people about education reform, so I want to share my responses to six common critiques: 1) Reformers don't acknowledge the importance of factors outside of a school's control like poverty, single-parent households, etc.; 2) Reformers demonize teachers; 3) "I have a special needs kid and my local public school served him well"; 4) Charter schools don't serve special needs kids; 5) Charter schools are selective; 6) Reformers are unreasonable zealots who have needlessly triggered World War III.
(Speaking of rebuttals, I want to highlight an open letter (#7 below and pasted at the end of this email) that my friend Ali Nagle, an AMAZING teacher at KIPP TEAM in Newark, sent to Diane Ravitch after reading her book. In it, she powerfully and passionately demolishes Ravitch's critique of KIPP and other high-performing charters. Not surprisingly, Ravitch never replied…)
1) Reformers don't acknowledge the importance of factors outside of a school's control like poverty, single-parent households, etc.
I challenge anyone to show me even one quote from one leading reformer who says that reforming the schools is all that is needed or who believes that great teachers and improved teaching methods are all that's required to improve student performance.
NOBODY thinks poverty is irrelevant, but there's a ton of research (Hanushek (http://edpro.stanford.edu/hanushek/content.asp?contentId=65), etc.) that shows conclusively that high-quality schools, filled with high-quality teachers, can make an ENORMOUS difference in life outcomes for even the most disadvantaged kids. At far too many schools, poor kids are making only half a year of progress every year, yet at others, in the same neighborhoods, often in the same buildings, with the EXACT SAME KIDS, the kids are making 1½ years of progress and 90% are going to four-year colleges vs. 20%. Why isn't this entire debate around what the great schools are doing and how we can replicate their success, instead of whining about how hard it is to educate disadvantaged kids (and there is no doubt that it is REALLY hard)???