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Posted at 5:00 AM ET, 03/ 1/2011

Ravitch: 'A moment of national insanity'

By Valerie Strauss

This was written by education historian Diane Ravitch for her Bridging Differences blog, which she co-authors with Deborah Meier on the Education Week website. Ravitch and Meier exchange letters about what matters most in education. Ravitch, a research professor at New York University, is the author of the bestselling “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” an important critique of the flaws in the modern school reform movement.

Dear Deborah,
I'm beginning to think we are living in a moment of national insanity. On the one hand, we hear pious exhortations about education reform, endlessly uttered by our leaders in high political office, corporate suites, foundations, and the media. President Obama says we have to "out-educate" the rest of the world to "win the future."

Yet the reality on the ground suggests that the corporate reform movement --- embraced by so many of those same leaders, including the president --- will set American education back, by how many years or decades is anyone's guess. Sometimes I think we are hurtling back a century or more, to the age of the Robber Barons and the great corporate trusts.

Consider a few events of the past week:

In Detroit, the school system will reduce its deficit by closing half the city's public schools and placing students into classes of 60. These are among the poorest and lowest performing students in the nation. Parents and teachers should be rioting in the streets of Detroit, along with everyone who cares about these children and our future. This is an outrage.

The school board of Providence, Rhode Island, sent notice to all of its teachers that they could be terminated at year's end to address its deficit. Most will be retained, but now the board has maximum flexibility to choose which ones. At the same time, Providence's leaders are humiliating every teacher, breaking the bonds of trust that are essential for the culture of a good school. Will anyone hold these reckless, heedless, unprofessional "leaders" in Rhode Island to account?

And the business leaders in Idaho have a plan to lay off 770 teachers and replace them with online learning. Do they know there is no evidence for the efficacy of virtual learning? I don't think they care. For them, this is just a cost-cutting measure. And it's other people's children who will get this bargain basement training, not their own.

If more was needed to strip away the mask of "reform," consider the deafening silence of the corporate school reformers in response to these events. A few, like Joe Williams of Democrats for Education Reform, surprised their confreres (and me) by siding with the teachers of Wisconsin.

Most, however, complained that public employees are overpaid, have unnecessarily rich benefits, and need a comeuppance. All those who wrote such articles enjoy comfortable upper-middle class lives; do they want to reduce teachers to penury? Some circulated spurious claims that Wisconsin's schools were dreadful, because only one-third of eighth-graders were proficient on National Assessment of Educational Progress reading in 2009; I assume they don't realize that "proficient" on NAEP is far higher than proficient on state tests and is equivalent to an 'A.'

I was disappointed when my friend Rick Hess, who blogs for Education Week, expressed his support for Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker ("I Stand with Governor Walker") and noted in another post that the average salary of a Milwaukee public school teacher is $56,500. I wonder what the average salary is for professionals at the American Enterprise Institute, where Rick does his thinking and writing. I'm sure it's far more than what teachers earn, and that the working conditions are pleasanter, the stress level lower, and the responsibilities fewer.

The corporate reformers have done a good job of persuading the media that our public schools are failing because they are overrun by bad teachers, and these bad teachers have lifetime tenure because of their powerful unions. (See the corporate reform film, "Waiting for Superman"). I'm sorry to say that Race to the Top, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and the Gates Foundation have stirred up a frenzy of anti-teacher sentiment that hurts even our very best teachers, by their much-publicized search for "bad teachers."

National Board Certified Teachers are organizing a march on Wadhington this July to fight back against the vilification of their profession. Their website is www.saveourschoolsmarch.org.

In the wake of the attacks on teachers and public schools this past year, the haters of teachers feel respectable as they write their venomous diatribes and post them widely. When I recently defended teachers and their right to bargain collectively on CNN.com, I was startled by the raw expressions of rage in the thousands of comments that poured in.

So much madness on the loose. So many districts firing teachers and closing schools. So many legislators slashing education budgets while refusing to raise taxes on millionaires or allowing taxes on the wealthiest expire as they layoff teachers.

What do we hear from the corporate reformers? Merit pay. Really? Bonuses for some, layoffs for others? Fire teachers with low value-added scores? Ah, more teaching to the test, more narrowing the curriculum.

Nothing to improve education. Just "innovation" (i.e., no evidence) and "disruption" (I.e., firing the whole staff, closing the school).

Our schools remain subject to a failed federal accountability system. We are packing children into crowded classrooms, ignoring the growing levels of child poverty (the United States now leads all advanced nations in infant mortality, according to Charles Blow in The New York Times), and putting fear into the hearts of our nation's teachers. Who will want to teach? How does any of this improve schools or benefit children? Do you understand it? I don't.

Diane

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Correction: An earlier version incorrectly named the state that business leaders have a plan to lay off teachers. It is Idaho, not Utah.

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By Valerie Strauss  | March 1, 2011; 5:00 AM ET
Categories:  Diane Ravitch, Education Secretary Duncan, Guest Bloggers  | Tags:  arne duncan, diane ravitch, gates foundation, president obama, president obama and school reform, race to the top, school reform, teachers  
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Comments

Thank you, particularly for pointing out the near-silence of the "reformers" on devastating cuts to Detroit. If they really cared about poor children, they would be calling for marching in the streets.

And what can be said n defense of Gov Walker since the allegedly recalcitrant unions *already* made benefit concessions? This is just union-busting 21st century style. All of the criticisms about unions, how they won't work for the benefit of children, won't compromise, blah, blah blah. Well, the union did all of those things and in good faith in Wisconsin. Who isn't negotiating now? Gov. Walker and his supporters have other goals in their sights and you can believe it sure isn't the well-being of the children of that state.

Posted by: Nikki1231 | March 1, 2011 6:02 AM | Report abuse

Approximately sixteen months ago, police escorted teachers and staff out of the public school where I teach. Citing a Council action cutting funds, then-Chancellor Rhee oversaw the firing of 388 DCPS employees, including 229 teachers. Students in my building still recall the anger and confusion that dark day. As teachers, we all waited in our classrooms for the ominous knock we had been waiting for all week. No one knew who would leave, who would stay, or why.

Balancing budgets on the backs of teachers and students might be expedient, but the damage from this shortsighted policy will linger for years. I know it has in my school.

For more on teaching in DC, I again ask your readers to visit my blog at teachermandc.com.

Posted by: dcproud1 | March 1, 2011 6:05 AM | Report abuse

Diane, I anxiously await your appearance on The Daily Show on Thursday night.

What do you make of Arnie Duncan's rhetoric beyond any dissatisfaction you have with Race to the Top? I find it encouraging as he acknowledges that the bureacracy must stop placing burdens on teachers so they can innovate, use their creativity, and flourish. Is this empty or real? He delivered this message again to the Governor's Association on Saturday (which can be viewed at www.c-span.org).

Posted by: thetensionmakesitwork | March 1, 2011 6:22 AM | Report abuse

Mrs. Ravitch, I respect your passion and concern for our young people, but sometimes you just drive me crazy.

If what's going on in Detroit is such an 'outrage,' then go to Detroit (dress warmly), sit down with Detroit public school officials/Mayor Bing, and help them fix this 'outrage.'

Mr. Hess' salary is driven by supply and demand, not by taxpayers/voters.

Has anyone noticed that on most of these blogs where teachers are in a 'simmering rage' about these 'attacks' upon them that there's a very small fraction of our customers, PARENTS, commenting? No matter how misconstrued the actions of so many folks with their fingers in public education it's the voters/taxpayers/parents whom we serve, and who decide ultimately what public educators do. I'm not convinced we've won their hearts and minds, especially not enough to where they're willing to stage a Tea Party-style revolt and remove the legislators responsible for the current direction of public education with which so many public educators disagree, including myself on many things.

Posted by: pdexiii | March 1, 2011 6:58 AM | Report abuse

Ezra Klein has joined forces with Michelle Rhee & StudentFirst:

"The prospect of firing tens of thousands of teachers is bad enough. But, as a chilling report from the New Teacher Project explains, about 40 percent of the nation's teachers work in states where their contracts don't allow administrators to take performance into account when making layoffs. That is to say, they cannot try to lay off the bad teachers while saving the good ones. Instead, they're forced to use the "last-hired-first-fired" mechanism. The newest teachers get the pink slip, no matter how good they are. This will turn a crisis into a catastrophe. And let's be clear, it's the fault of the teachers unions.

That's not just a problem for schools, children, taxpayers and teachers. It's also a problem for the labor movement as a whole. Americans don't care what most unions are up to. But Americans do care, a lot, about what their child's teacher is up to. And if they think that teachers unions - which are public-employee unions, for the record - are standing in the way of good schools and good teachers, then their verdict will be much worse than "not an institution of the future." They will see unions as hurting our future - and their children."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/01/AR2011030100106.html

Posted by: frankb1 | March 1, 2011 7:28 AM | Report abuse

I had a colleague once say, "If you fire all these 'bad' teachers, who is out there just waiting to come take their place?"
When you combine the challenge, support, and compensation teachers face today, it's no wonder it's hard to find masses of 'highly effective' teachers. While only one data point, one of our campus aides is having second thoughts about teaching after being so intimate with what really happens in an urban school, and ours is considered decent by current standards. As I always say, it's not the children but what the adults do or don't do that have this aide so sanguine on teaching. These issues have nothing to do with money, but leadership and commitment. Money can't fix people, another reason why school reform is so darn hard.

Posted by: pdexiii | March 1, 2011 8:50 AM | Report abuse

I doubt that "Mr Hess' salary is driven by supply and demand." Like many 'think tanks', I'd suggest his salary is being underwritten by a billionaire or a other wealthy types who want to control the media and the message.

I'm not aware of anyone who is demanding more 'think tanks.'

I'm glad someone has some passion in railing against the anti-teacher insanity. Some of these problems should have been addressed (still could be) in a better stimulus bill. Why not have a new Teacher Corps? Hire thousands...maybe hundreds of thousands of teachers..at $40-Thousand a year,with training and benefits, to go into these poorer school districts for a 5-year guarantee.

It could help solve our unemployment problem and help the school districts.

And nearly all the money spent would be used to pay rent, buy cars, buy furniture, gas, food...you know...stuff that helps the economy.

Why do we make this stuff so hard.


Posted by: tomclen | March 1, 2011 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Let's be fair, it's the ridiculous union rules that caused them to fire all of the teachers in Providence. I can't even imagine running my company with that kind of restriction in place.

I have to slightly agree on Detroit though, 60 kids is a big number. 40-50 is quite common in Korea, but they have additional...disciplinary tools at their disposal to ensure kids behave (as well as parents that impart the value of education on their children).

Posted by: staticvars | March 1, 2011 9:16 AM | Report abuse

In some ways I agree with Diane. In some ways I do not. When the teachers' unions embrace communism and other radical leftist political agendas, parents simply will not support them.

They are on their own now because they are too radical.

It is unfortunate for the teachers who are caught up in this disaster, but when the unions protect bad teachers, support radical political agendas, parents get angry.

Budgets have to be balanced. This is very much a fiscal issues.

What Diane left out was, many Corps. ELIMINATED pensions for their employees in the last couple of years. Many lowered salaries, downsized and didn't hand out raises! That's the real world.

Reforming the pay structure with govt. employees NEEDS to be done. Not just for those working in education but for ALL govt. employees.

Companies that did this over the past 2 years will survive this economy.

Why govt. employees are immune from all of this, leaves me confused.

Posted by: MOMwithAbrain | March 1, 2011 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Poor America

Posted by: HariSheldon | March 1, 2011 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Ravitch is if nothing else, pitch-perfect for the unionistas.

She wants parity betw teachers' pay and the rightwing researchers at Am Enterprise Inst. How quaint.

Other teachers on WaPo blogues want the pay of doctors, attorneys, CEOs, just about anyone with money.

If they want pay commensurate with their qualifications and contribution to society and, to some degree the labor market, I am all for that. Some are underpaid, to be sure. Some get too much, if they are ineffective and protected from firing.

Some teachers have this thing about respect, which is understandable, given the forces of influence on them, but wrong-headed. They want high respect conferred on them before they show any performance or results. Since so many do not, apparently, deliver good results, parents and other taxpayers are not about to confer that high respect, and more salary, before the teachers demonstrably do something positive.

Good teachers understand this point and earn their pay. We do not have enough of them, but it is not because of pay. It is, in significant part, because of their colleagues who are not skilled or committed to getting some classroom education done.

Posted by: axolotl | March 1, 2011 10:12 AM | Report abuse

To @Nikki1231

Just clarifying-- there are protests on March 2nd and 3rd in Detroit I believe, I've been seeing signs on campus.

Posted by: am1023 | March 1, 2011 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Frankb1,

Your wish was granted. Klein is officially a Gates-monger.

Posted by: DHume1 | March 1, 2011 10:33 AM | Report abuse

@ pdexiii

The mayor has little say in the school situation in Detroit. The Governor appointed an emergency financial manager, Robert Bobb to solve the deficit no matter what the expense of the children was. Robert Bobb tried to rally for $400 million in tobacco revenue for the schools, but no representative took him up on that. It's a difficult situation.

Posted by: am1023 | March 1, 2011 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Both sides need to look at reality:

The "reformers" need to realize that you cannot rely on test scores as proof of good teaching. There are just too many variables.

The teachers need to realize that they are paid adequately for today's economy. In most cases they are getting superior benefits and they need to be grateful for having a job.

Both teachers and reformers need to look at reality and use common sense.

Today on the news in DC is a report of "dropped" 911 calls because of furloughs. However, loaded Lincoln Navigators were purchased for VIP's. One of those SUV's would easily pay a salary. When public systems spend their money in this manner, there is never going to be extra money for schools.

Look at Fairfax County. Administrators purchased a "Taj Mahal" for themselves, but students are in trailers and the School Board closed an outstanding elementary school for very questionable reasons. The students are moving to trailers in other schools.

I had a Civics teacher who had taught during the Great Depression. He was paid in "scrip". Teachers are a long way from that.

I know a woman who was told that she would lose her job as a librarian if she got married (1933). The county had decided that they wanted to "spread the wealth" and that they would not employ someone whose spouse had a job. She moved her wedding up so that she could be "grandfathered" in.

Be grateful you are not going through this. But, the money is limited--do you want your children to go through this? If you don't fix it now, they will.

And, to the reformers: "Listen to the teachers." Drop relying on test scores as the defining factor in evaluation. Start by evaluating administrators and principals. Eliminate the obviously poor teachers for reason--not on a whim. With good principals and administrators that should not be hard to do.

I think I read somewhere on this blog that you can have good teachers in lousy schools, but that you do not have good principals in lousy schools. Start there.

Posted by: mmkm | March 1, 2011 11:22 AM | Report abuse

H*** of a nutshell, Diane! Think you are also describing/assessing a ticking time bomb with both our schools and society.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | March 1, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

DHume1: With everyone else already in the "reformers" camp, the remaining debate is now between the young liberals (Ezra Klein) and the very old liberals (Valerie Strauss). I wonder how that will turn out?

Posted by: frankb1 | March 1, 2011 12:02 PM | Report abuse

While I respect Ezra Klein’s writing on a number of issues, it’s wise to keep in mind that he is no expert on education reform. Far from it. Like many in the mainstream media, he thinks that if “smart” people from prestigious backgrounds say it, then it must be true.

Klein and the rest of us need only remember the argument made that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Or we need only recall who it was that created and marketed toxic, collateralized securities (and bet against them) turned Wall Street into a casino, and broke the economy.

As usual frankb1 presents only part of the truth Here’s another piece of what Kein wrote in addressing Randi Wiengarten’s ideas for better teacher evaluations:

“For teachers, this creates a clear and transparent process for evaluation. It ensures that instructors will know why they've been rated poorly and be given a supervised opportunity to improve. It means that decisions about hiring and firing will have to fit into some clear definition of what good teaching is and how it can be achieved - an important comfort at a time when ambitious school supervisors with budgets to balance see a political upside in doing something, anything, that makes it look like they're improving schools without spending money.”

The whole Weingarten text can be found here:

http://www.aft.org/pdfs/press/sp_weingarten011210.pdf

The so-called “report” from The New Teacher Project that Klein discusses is really just a 13-page colorful powerpoint, with some pretty graphs and charts and some “scary” conclusions that are hardly accurate.

We should keep in mind that The New Teacher Project is just another corporate-financed organization with a “business model” approach to reform. Its Board of Directors includes the following:

* Chris Bierly, who” has extensive experience working with private equity firms and their portfolio companies.” At Bierly’s company, he says,” We target the Ivy League and other leading schools.” Interestingly, Bierly says his work place is “one of the most supportive work environments that I've ever seen.” Yet, he’d create something quite different for teachers.

* Chris Cross, who works with the Gates Foundation and the Walton Foundation and who “served as director of the Education Initiative of the Business Roundtable” and as a former “Republican staff director of the House Committee on Education and Labor.” Cross also served in the first Bush Education Department.

John D Arnold, a billionaire hedge fund manager. Arnold learned the art of energy trading at Enron.

The New Teacher Project is corporate-allied and funded. It represents the kinds of corporate reform that Ravit refers to as “insanity.”

She’s right. It is.

Posted by: DrDemocracy | March 1, 2011 2:15 PM | Report abuse

While I respect Ezra Klein’s writing on a number of issues, it’s wise to keep in mind that he is no expert on education reform. Far from it. Like many in the mainstream media, he thinks that if “smart” people from prestigious backgrounds say it, then it must be true.

Klein and the rest of us need only remember the argument made that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Or we need only recall who it was that created and marketed toxic, collateralized securities (and bet against them) turned Wall Street into a casino, and broke the economy.

As usual frankb1 presents only part of the truth Here’s another piece of what Kein wrote in addressing Randi Wiengarten’s ideas for better teacher evaluations:

“For teachers, this creates a clear and transparent process for evaluation. It ensures that instructors will know why they've been rated poorly and be given a supervised opportunity to improve. It means that decisions about hiring and firing will have to fit into some clear definition of what good teaching is and how it can be achieved - an important comfort at a time when ambitious school supervisors with budgets to balance see a political upside in doing something, anything, that makes it look like they're improving schools without spending money.”

The whole Weingarten text can be found here:

http://www.aft.org/pdfs/press/sp_weingarten011210.pdf

The so-called “report” from The New Teacher Project that Klein discusses is really just a 13-page colorful powerpoint, with some pretty graphs and charts and some “scary” conclusions that are hardly accurate.

We should keep in mind that The New Teacher Project is just another corporate-financed organization with a “business model” approach to reform. Its Board of Directors includes the following:

* Chris Bierly, who” has extensive experience working with private equity firms and their portfolio companies.” At Bierly’s company, he says,” We target the Ivy League and other leading schools.” Interestingly, Bierly says his work place is “one of the most supportive work environments that I've ever seen.” Yet, he’d create something quite different for teachers.

* Chris Cross, who works with the Gates Foundation and the Walton Foundation and who “served as director of the Education Initiative of the Business Roundtable” and as a former “Republican staff director of the House Committee on Education and Labor.” Cross also served in the first Bush Education Department.

John D Arnold, a billionaire hedge fund manager. Arnold learned the art of energy trading at Enron.

The New Teacher Project is corporate-allied and funded. It represents the kind of corporate reform that Ravitch refers to as “insanity.”

She’s right. It is.

Posted by: DrDemocracy | March 1, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Let's start with where we are, with 30-40 years of massive increase in the number of ancillary educational professionals who spend much of their time coordinating and documenting extra services. I won't challenge that extra services are needed. I do challenge that the time is well spent in IEP meetings, managed before, during and after, as though students are up for parole.

I imagine that other special services / special ed is like that. We know that in education the record keeping is even more inefficient than in medical care, where we know those costs are crowding out actual care.

I'd like to see an experiment not in cutting the services, but in radically reforming how they are delivered to drastically reduce documentation costs and increase direct counseling and instruction.

And we need alternative settings in every school for students who cannot or will not academic work. Yes, I mean even drop in tai chi. Compulsion, expulsion, and counseling are too expensive, part of our American incarceration and treatment regime and mindset.

Posted by: incredulous | March 1, 2011 3:42 PM | Report abuse

First of all, there is NO evidence whatsoever that smaller class sizes improve student performance. Nothing but wishful thinking and union propaganda. Go ahead, cite me some actual scientific studies that support that assertion.

Secondly, all the whining from teachers about how they're being oppressed leaves out the fact that teachers have one thing that NO ONE in private industry has: TENURE.

The rest of us who work in the private sector are evaluated on current job performance--what we did this past year. Not 5 years ago, not 10 years ago, not 20 years ago. Unlike public school teachers, we don't have the luxury to be rewarded for past glories while we coast in more recent years. Unlike public school teachers, if we fail to cut the mustard, we can be laid off. But in many districts, it's almost impossible to fire a bad teacher. (What would "Answer Sheet" Lady suggest be done with bad or incompetent teachers? Anything at all? Or perhaps she just denies that there are any incompetent teachers?)

If teachers REALLY want to show their commitment to excellence, and to not covering for incompetence, then let them voluntarily abandon the entire concept of tenure. In the dynamic economy of the 21st century, tenure has no legitimate place anywhere.

Posted by: sinz52 | March 1, 2011 3:55 PM | Report abuse

E.D. Kain laments the lost of comrade Ezra Klein:

"It’s important to remember that this new batch of Tea Party conservatives will use any means at their disposal to weaken the influence of organized labor and the public sector – including lines like “Even the liberal, Ezra Klein” when justifying their attacks on teachers and teachers unions. Perhaps we should write our reform-the-unions columns with more caution."

http://blogs.forbes.com/erikkain/2011/03/01/ezra-klein-on-reforming-teacher-unions/

Posted by: frankb1 | March 1, 2011 4:05 PM | Report abuse

If one was to ban the word "unionistas.", we would never heard from axolotl again.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | March 1, 2011 4:09 PM | Report abuse

To Pdexiii:
I am indeed a parent with two children in public schools in Florida. I don't often post comments on Dr. Ravitch's or Valerie Strauss's columns. I do, however, read them, email them, and share them on social networking sites. Let me tell you that there are a growing number of parents who cheer the statements made by both on a daily basis. Dr. Ravitch is not just the voice for teachers, she is the voice for parents who are sick to death of the hypocrisy of the corporate reformers as well as the attack on teachers. The political games going on today are nothing short of disgusting and I recognize they will harm my children. So yes, Dr. Ravitch does have a strong parental following and we will be watching her (and, no doubt, cheering) when she appears on The Daily Show on Thursday night.

Posted by: DebbieS1 | March 1, 2011 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Here's the thing about last in first out, EVERY company operates like this regarding LAYOFFS. Why would you WAIT until a layoff to fire someone who is ineffective? If someone is truly ineffective they should be long gone before a LAYOFF even happens. Through effective and thorough evaluations, not TEST SCORES, these people should be eliminated. However, as we all should know, nearly 50% of all teachers fire themselves or are counseled out, leave at someones request without the paperwork that says you are fired, before their fifth year. (People willing do this because they know that to be FIRED as a teacher means you will be very unlikely to ever work in education again.) Therefore, changing the layoff procedures is monumentally unnecessary if administrators are well trained and actually doing THEIR jobs.

Posted by: teachermomnj | March 1, 2011 6:09 PM | Report abuse

@sinz52 Here is a whole page containing info and links PROVING that class size is very important to student success. Whether or not you'll believe the info is another thing. You are entitled to your opinion, not your own facts. I defy you to cite any reputable study that proves your contention. Crickets.............

http://parentsacrossamerica.org/what-we-believe/why-class-size-matters/

Posted by: CitizensArrest | March 1, 2011 6:33 PM | Report abuse

Philly Marlowe: u sound, friend, like Alfred E. Newman voicing his famous question.

Posted by: axolotl | March 1, 2011 8:12 PM | Report abuse

@teachermomnj if you are really a teacher then you would know that the main reason that new teachers leave during the 1st five years is burnout due to lack of support from their schools administration and from an uninvolved community. The idea that they "fire themselves" is preposterous. They realize that they can make more money with less stress elsewhere. They have NO incentive to stay.

Posted by: CitizensArrest | March 1, 2011 8:29 PM | Report abuse

sinz52
I am afraid that you have been tricked. Try teaching and see if class size doesn't matter. Or maybe that would be too difficult to do. Take a foreign language or anything else that is difficult to learn and totally new. Take the class and see if class size matters. Then, imagine you were taking the class with fourth graders as fellow students. Still so sure class size doesn't matter?

Posted by: georgia198305 | March 1, 2011 8:48 PM | Report abuse

On another VS blog, axotolt informed readers that she/he/it wastes about 5~10 on the Post each day.

He/she/it has passed her/his/its quota.

Posted by: phillipmarlowe | March 1, 2011 8:58 PM | Report abuse

@DebbieS1
It would be great if your passion existed more in the parents/voters/taxpayers I've served, and maybe everywhere else. More importantly, that passion and concern must translate into votes and financial support for the education initiatives many claim they want. Many folks on this and other blogs lay the blame of our education woes on 'poverty,' yet I'm not sure what THEY'RE doing to mitigate that poverty. If you're going to spend time waiting on the government to 'fix' that problem then I'll repeat what my great aunt used to say:
"If you wish in one hand and sh@#$ in another, which one gets filled first?"

Posted by: pdexiii | March 1, 2011 9:34 PM | Report abuse

For sinz52: In case that was not enough on the critical importance of smaller class sizes:

http://www.classsizematters.org/research.html

Get yourself a snack, sinz52, it's a LONG list.

Posted by: CitizensArrest | March 1, 2011 10:14 PM | Report abuse

Bill Turque and Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post were recently honored by the Education Writers Association, the national professional organization of education reporters. Turque won first prize for Beat Reporting for his coverage of DCPS with his D.C. Schools Insider. Strauss won second prize in the Journalism Blogging category for her The Answer Sheet blog (Gotham Schools won first prize in that category).

Eat that axolotl and frankb1
and
Richard Whitmire.

Posted by: edlharris | March 1, 2011 11:41 PM | Report abuse

The conservative public education critics believe, against all evidence, that tax cuts pay for themselves (they don't).

Many of them, despite the scientific consensus, dispute that humans are contributing to accelerated climate change .

Some, despite the absolutely overwhelming cross-disciplinary research and evidence to support the scientific theory of evolution (which the National Academies calls "a fact"), don't believe that either.

The conservative critics do whatever they can to try and undermine funding for quality education. Class size is a favorite target of theirs, and economist Eric Hanushek is one of those who imposes his own arbitrary rules to distort class size research findings.

Here's Gerald Bracey taking apart just one of Hanushek's absurd contentions in trying to diminish the results of the Tennessee STAR class size study:

"Hanushek also objects to the fact that the kids were not tested before the program began. This objection can only be raised by an ivory tower researcher who knows nothing about children and schools. Hanushek is lamenting that the kids were not given "achievement tests" before they started kindergarten!?!?! Ignoring the logistic nightmare that such a program would cause, children that young cannot be tested with the kinds of tests used in schools (he actually, wrote that folks: "no achievement tests were given before kindergarten" (p. 31).

Posted by: DrDemocracy | March 2, 2011 8:17 AM | Report abuse

"the average salary of a Milwaukee public school teacher is $56,500"

$56,500 per year with at least 3 months of vacation time and a full pension for which you contribute little to nothing. You ask anyone working a regular job and that is an oustanding deal. I would say that a good teacher is worth every bit of that and probably more. The problem is that based on the results we are getting the good teachers are obviously few and far between. I don't see how the union mentality of promoting mediocrity and protecting the incompetent helps the situation.

Posted by: peterg73 | March 2, 2011 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, Diane, for your hard work on behalf of public education.

Last June I was on the surplus list, when Broward County, Florida laid off over 1,000 teachers and counselors. I had been a high school guidance counselor for 37 years, but only 10 were in Florida, so I didn't have the seniority to avoid the layoff. Sad to say, I have yet to find another job, and in this job market, I doubt that I will.

I am so discouraged with the state of education. In my career, I have met only a handful of fellow educators who were not hard working and dedicated. But schools and teachers have become the scapegoats for everything that is wrong, societally. No one ever asks teachers how to fix schools, instead we have business men, consultants, and politicians setting policy and advocating change. I have experienced this, personally, because I had the misfortune of working for a school district where Vick Phillips was superintendent, before she went on to become a guru with the Gates foundation!

There are a couple factors that seem to be constantly overlooked in this whole mess. One is, where does the money come from, to pay for the state testing? In Florida, when I first started there, there test (the FCAT) cost at least $4.00 per student, each time it was given (twice a year, at minimum). Couldn't that money be used more constructively?

Why is public tax money allowed to go to private school vouchers, when private schools do not have to test and, therefore, are not held "accountable"?

There are so many more points I'd like to make, but this is enough for one afternoon! Again, thank you for your hard work. I look forward to seeing you on John Stewart.

Posted by: gwynethharner | March 2, 2011 5:47 PM | Report abuse

As a former teacher and spokesman for teachers at Central Falls HS and one of the faculty members who was fired (all were), I stood at the Providence City Hall rally in support of the 2000 terminated teachers in Providence and wondered where this will all end. Mayor Taveras had been in office for 48 days when he fired the entire teaching force for this city. He is a political neophyte who has almost no sophisticated political experience, but he made a radical decision like this after only a month and a half? I don't think so. He was told what to do by Commissioner Gist and the EDUreformers and billionaire neo-liberal bully boys who are always standing in the shadows when it comes to teachers, unions and public education. What will save us? A beginning: we need Diane Ravitch in Little Rhody before we run out of air. God bless her for telling the truth!
George McLaughlin

Posted by: fearisgood | March 2, 2011 7:20 PM | Report abuse

The simple secret of education, contrary to what Ravitch writes, is to get kids in kindergarten able to write the alphabet at at least 40 letters per minute, and 2nd graders to give correct simple addition fact answers at a minimum of the same rate. For evidence, Google Robert V. Rose, MD

Posted by: rovarose | March 3, 2011 1:26 PM | Report abuse

What so many pro-teacher evals based on standardized test score supporters fail to recognize is that there are so many outside factors that play into a student's ability or willingness to learn.

Take, for example, the student I had to have committed to a psyc unit at a local hospital, because she had become suicidal and had the means with which to kill herself. She's been sexually abused by a step-parent, abandoned by her biological parents, and lives with a socio-pathic brother and an alocholic grandparent.

Or how about this case: mom died several years ago, dad of course is nowhere to be found, and now, grandma (the primary care giver) has died. The 18 year old is working three jobs to pay the rent & utilities so that he and a younger brother can survive. All this while trying to go to school every day.

Or another example: a first grader's mother is killed by her lover, and this child and her younger brother are left with no mother, no father, and only shattered dreams.

Or how about this situation: dad runs out on mom (or vice versa) leaving mom to deal with trying to work enough hours to provide for her family, while raising her children. Days are filled with will we have water or heat or lights tomorrow? Where will the next meal come from? Who will help me with my homework, because mom can't.

Or how about the multitudes now living in hotels, because they have lost their homes due to the economic breakdown in the United States.

I could go on and on with the listing of attrocities that the children of this generation must daily face. I work my butt off every day trying to teach my students what they need to know to be successful in school. Does this always translate into what will help them be successful people in an adult world? Rarely! If our students day-to-day needs aren't met, (safety, shelter, food, love) how then will they EVER be able to focus on school and the importance of it?

When will parents be held even remotely accountable for their responsibility in their child's education and development? You don't see parents who neglect their child's education being punished for things beyond their control. In other, more educationally advanced countries, you see parents that fully support their child's education. You see children that understand the value and necessity of education, not children that have been raised to believe they are entitled to whatever they want, without hard work.

It's easy for someone who has never spent a day in a classroom to judge those of us who have willing taken on that charge. You have no idea what challenges we face. And as for those "3 months off", most of the teachers I know spend that time going back to school and trying to recoup from the emotional drain that we have spent the last 9-10 months drowning in. And we do it willingly.

Walk a day in my shoes and then judge me!

Signed - one very frustrated public school teacher

Posted by: princessaj75 | March 5, 2011 8:45 AM | Report abuse

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