Monday, July 11, 2011

Column doesn’t make the grade

Elsewhere, Ravitch takes a slap at me (I'm delighted that I'm getting under her skin!) in this letter to the editor of the San Diego Union-Tribune by saying I am "best known for a book about making a profit during a mortgage meltdown."  As usual, she gets it wrong: given the paltry sales of the book, of the things I might be known for, this is probably among the LEAST of them!  Also, a more fair way to describe the book is, "a book that came out at the very depths of the financial crisis, which counseled readers not to panic and instead invest in the many cheap stocks that were available at the time."  Apparently in Ravitch's world it's a high crime to make money for one's investors during a market panic – if so, I'm guilty as charged.  But in my world, it's a high crime to defend a system that condemns millions of kids to broken, ruined lives, and to attack anyone trying to improve that system, harping only on the failures and never mentioning the many successes.

Column doesn't make the grade

Reading the content of David Brooks' column "The real secret of school reform" (Opinion, July 5), I feel certain that he did not read my book, "The Death and Life of the Great American School System," which carefully documents every statement with research and evidence.

Brooks relies on the authority of "education blogger Whitney Tilson," but does not point out that Tilson is a Wall Street hedge fund manager who is best known for a book about making a profit during a mortgage meltdown, and who also serves on the board of KIPP and other "reform" groups.

There is a substantial body of research on charters: Some are excellent, some are awful and most get no different results than regular public schools. Some skim students, taking disproportionately small number of students with disabilities and English-language learners.

Contrary to Brooks, our nation's obsession with testing and accountability has not produced good results. Only weeks ago, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences released a nine-year study concluding that test-based accountability leads to inflated scores, gaming the system and narrowing the curriculum. The recent testing scandal in Atlanta is a product of the belief that high test scores are the purpose of education.

The San Diego public schools are a bright spot in the nation today because they have making slow, steady gains in recent years. They are an example of what can happen when teachers, principals, parents, district leaders and the community work together to help children succeed in school.

Diane Ravitch

Brooklyn, N.Y.

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