Ravitch Responds to Brooks, with my comments
I was right – it didn't take long for Ravitch to respond to Brooks – she's at her clever, misleading and disingenuous best in this letter to the editor:
Invitation to a Dialogue: Fixing the Schools
Published: July 5, 2011
To the Editor:
Re "Smells Like School Spirit," by David Brooks (column, July 1):
Mr. Brooks has misrepresented my views. While I have criticized charter schools, I am always careful to point out that they vary widely. The overwhelming majority of high-quality research studies on charters shows that some are excellent, some are abysmal and most are no better than regular public schools.
Some charters succeed because they have additional resources, supplied by their philanthropic sponsors; some get better results by adding extra instructional time. We can learn from these lessons to help regular public schools.
Others succeed by limiting the admission of students with disabilities and those who can't read English, or by removing those with learning problems. These students are then overrepresented in regular public schools, making comparisons between the two sectors unfair.
I don't want to get rid of testing. But tests should be used for information and diagnostics to improve teaching and learning, not to hand out bonuses, fire teachers and close schools.
When high stakes are attached to tests, people often act in ways that compromise educational values. High-stakes testing incentivizes narrowing of the curriculum, gaming the system, teaching to bad tests and cheating.
Poverty has a strong influence on academic achievement, and our society must both improve schools and reduce poverty.
Top-performing nations like Finland and Japan have taken the time to build a strong public school system, one with a rich curriculum and well-educated, respected teachers. Our desire for fast solutions gets in the way of the long-term thinking and the carefully designed changes that are needed to truly transform our schools.
Brooklyn, July 1, 2011
Brooklyn, July 1, 2011
The writer is the education historian.
Editors' Note: We invite readers to respond to this letter, as part of our new Sunday Dialogue feature. We plan to publish a sampling of responses in the Sunday Review, and Diane Ravitch will be given an opportunity to reply. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I don't have time to respond to every point, but here are a few quick thoughts:
· "While I have criticized charter schools, I am always careful to point out that they vary widely." False. Any fair, board reading of Ravitch's comments on charter schools shows that 99% of what she says and writes is negative and focuses on poor performing charter schools with nary a mention of the fantastic schools.
· "The overwhelming majority of high-quality research studies on charters shows that some are excellent, some are abysmal and most are no better than regular public schools." False. Other than the widely cited but deeply flawed CREDO study (which showed that charter students made greater academic regular school students in EVERY year except year one, where they performed far worse, offsetting all of the gains in subsequent years – this makes no sense and immediately tells one that the study is highly suspect), an analysis of 26 studies showed that in 16 (62%), charter school students did better, 6 (23%), there was no difference, and in only 4 (15%) did charter students do worse (see page 208 of my school reform presentation at: www.arightdenied.org/presentation-slides).
· Of the charter schools do appear to be succeeding, she cites four reasons for this, three negative ("they have additional resources,… limiting the admission of students with disabilities and those who can't read English, or by removing those with learning problems") and one positive ("some get better results by adding extra instructional time"). Note how she is completely silent on the most important reasons that high performing schools are successful: high caliber school leaders and teachers, unshackled by onerous union contracts. Ravitch NEVER talks about these factors – not surprising for a union spokesperson.