Friday, March 19, 2010

The Ravitch Reformation Won't Help Public Schools

Some great letters to the editor in the WSJ, responding to Ravitch's op ed:

Regarding "Why I Changed My Mind About School Reform" by Diane Ravitch (op-ed, March 9): Ms. Ravitch correctly points out that teachers and school administrators, like all people, respond to incentives. This, she says, has led schools to "teach to the test," to the detriment of overall student learning. But if teachers and administrators truly do respond to incentives, what about the fact that there is no incentive structure currently built into our public education monopoly which incentivizes schools to improve?

Ms. Ravitch is quick to point out the mixed results of charter schools but fails to point out the one key difference between charters and traditional public schools: When charters fail, they go out of business. When traditional public schools fail, nothing happens, or worse they receive more funding.


Ms. Ravitch refers to numerous studies which indicate that charter schools are not worth the investment. Would she close public schools using the same analyses?


There is no question that there is a correlation between poverty and student performance, but it is not easy to pinpoint the cause. If poverty were the cause, parochial education would be a failure. It isn't.

Ms. Ravitch says that bad teachers are less important a factor than poverty is in influencing student performance. When children perform well, it is almost always attributed to good teachers. I don't see how good teachers cause good student performance, but bad teachers do not cause poor student performance. It makes no sense.


Early on in my 42-year career teaching in public schools, my principals actually took reading groups, helped with math, were present in classrooms, halls, lunch rooms and on playgrounds. They came into one's classroom unannounced and stayed sometimes for half a day, and they were taking notes. Their background was in teaching and they knew what they were looking for. By the time I retired, the union had required an administrator to give three to four days advance notice, right down to which period he'd be observing. Yearly evaluations became nothing more than a check sheet, and everyone got about the same score.

Our nation has some of the finest teachers in the world, and a goodly number of the worst. Unless and until teachers are evaluated based on what they accomplish, nothing will change.

PS—The latest Amazon rankings: Lemov: #34; Ravitch #94


The Ravitch Reformation Won't Help Public Schools

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