Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ravitch's Reign of Error

I just received in today’s mail Ravitch’s latest screed, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools. I already know exactly what it says, but I guess I’m going to have to wade through it anyway – oh, the brain damage… Fortunately, other people are already tearing it to (well-deserved) shreds, so maybe I’ll get lucky and won’t have to invest too much time doing so myself.

However, there is one thing I’m certain that Ravitch and I agree on: K12 and other similar schools. I think the entire sector of for-profit online schools has run amok and is giving the entire charter (and reform movement overall) a bad name.

Here’s a brilliant critique by Kyle Smith in the NY Post this week:

Public schools? They’re fine.

Teachers who can’t be fired? No problem at all.

Our international competitiveness in education? Nothing to worry about.

Too many kids dropping out of high school? It’s a myth. And anyway, some kids are just poor, hence doomed, so what are schools supposed to do about that?

Get ready for the world’s longest excuse note: Diane Ravitch’s new book “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to Public Schools.” Only this note is from the teachers’ unions (who have paid Ravitch for her flackery) to you.

The dog ate your child’s education.

Ravitch’s book purports to be a point-by-point destruction of the arguments for school reform, (a word she cloaks in scare quotes), choice and competition. She thinks that the local monopoly stranglehold of the average union-run public school is somehow a good thing and that parental choice and competition are bad.

The book veers between argument and rant. Ravitch seems scarcely able to stop sputtering out meaningless and irrelevant buzzwords that she hopes will inspire ill will towards school choice. Again and again — hundreds of times — she tosses out words meant to stir up irrational hatred. I refer to words like “privatization” (which no one is proposing), “entrepreneurs,” “corporations,” “profits” and (most hilariously) “creationism,” which she claims is one of the hidden agendas of school reformists.

Yet school reform and charter schools (which are generally just public schools freed from union red tape) are among the few political solutions floating around that are genuinely bipartisan.

I’m not surprised to see Parent Revolution on the ball, creating a blog to rebut the book:

Dear Colleague,

As many of you are aware, education pundit Dr. Diane Ravitch has written a new book scheduled for public release today, Tuesday, September 17.  The title of the book is 'Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools.'

Dr. Ravitch will now travel around the country promoting her book and providing her perspective on education reform and public schools in America.  As you can probably gather from the book's title, she strongly opposes reform efforts to make our public education system stronger. 

At Parent Revolution we have, of course, a different perspective to that of Dr. Ravitch.  Where she sees doom and gloom, we see opportunity.  Where she sees deep crisis for the status quo, we see positive change for America's children.

While there are many speaking out for various directions of education reform, Dr. Ravitch uses much of her platform to justify and protect the current broken and low-performing system.  As such, she positions herself as one of the last bulwarks against the rising tide of reform and change. 

As you know, we fundamentally disagree with Dr. Ravitch on many positions she takes.  We believe her work appeals more to a circle-the-wagons tribalism than a genuine endeavor to seek common ground around improving our children's education.

That is why, over the next two weeks, we will be doing a 'deep-dive' into her latest book. We will be analyzing each chapter of the book, summarizing her position, highlighting any inconsistencies, and providing our own perspective.  At the same time, where we do agree with Dr. Ravitch on an issue, we will report that also.

Our daily postings – starting today – will be on our 'Truth in Education Reform' website:www.truthinedreform.org/blog.

We hope you will look at our analysis. 

Agree or disagree with Dr. Ravitch, her latest work deserves a thorough analysis.  By doing it this way, we believe the discourse around education reform – and, ultimately the kids -- will be better served.



P.S. Again, the site to find our analysis is www.truthinedreform.org/blog

Derrick Everett

In fairness, I want Ravitch to be able to make her case, so for those of you who won’t have the time to read the book, here’s a lengthy excerpt from it that ran in Salon this week:

Of course some schools and districts have very low test scores and low graduation rates, and this has always been true. Most of these schools and districts have two features in common: poverty and high concentrations of racial minorities. The combination of these two factors is associated with low test scores. Children whose parents are poor and have low educational attainment tend to have lower test scores.
Children who are poor receive less medical attention and less nutrition and experience more stress, disruption, and crises in their lives. These factors have an ongoing and profound effect on academic performance.
That is why poor children need even more stability, more support, smaller class sizes, and more attention from their teachers and others in their schools, but often receive far less, due to underfunding.
Unfortunately, many people are unwilling to address the root causes of poor school outcomes, because doing so is either too politically difficult or too costly.
They believe it is faster, simpler, and less expensive to privatize the public schools than do anything substantive to reduce poverty and racial isolation or to provide the nurturing environments and well-rounded education that children from prosperous families receive.
Instead, the privatization movement nonchalantly closes the schools attended by poor children and destabilizes their lives. The privatization agenda excites the interest of edu-entrepreneurs, who see it as a golden opportunity to make money. But it is bad for our society. It undermines the sense of collective responsibility for collective needs. It hurts public education not only by attacking its effectiveness and legitimacy but by laying claim to its revenues. The money allocated to privately managed charters and vouchers represents a transfer of critical public resources to the private sector, causing the public schools to suffer budget cuts and loss of staffing and services as the private sector grows, without providing better education or better outcomes for the students who transfer to the private-sector schools.

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