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Posted at 5:00 AM ET, 12/28/2010

Ravitch takes stock of education in 2010

By Valerie Strauss

This was written by education historian Diane Ravitch on 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,
As 2010 draws to a close, I must tell you that this was probably the most amazing and wonderful year of my life. I spent the previous three years writing a book [The Death and Life of the Great American School System], and I had no idea how it would turn out. One never knows, do one (to quote the eminent jazz philosopher Fats Waller, and to note also that Billie Holiday sang the grammatically correct "One Never Knows, Does One")? But I digress.

When I finished the book in 2009, my agent sent it to every major trade publisher; 15 of them turned it down. They said it had no audience. They said I had to either write a policy book (which they would not publish) or a personal memoir (which they would not publish), but it couldn't be a mixture of the two.

So, I eventually had the good fortune to land at Basic Books, which had published my very first book (The Great School Wars) in 1974; the new book appeared in March of this year, and it reached The New York Times bestseller list. He who laughs last, etc.

So, I have spent this year on a thrilling, grueling, exciting lecture tour. At first, I was invited to talk about the book, but after a couple of months, I no longer even mentioned the book. Instead I was talking about the present dangerous effort to distort the purposes of education, to hand vast numbers of public schools over to private corporations, and to treat children as data points to satisfy misguided politicians, policymakers, and economists. Even Wall Street hedge-fund managers now consider themselves "reformers" and tell their friends that they are leaders in the new civil rights movement of our time.

These "reform-y" groups—buttressed by the No Child Left Behind Act—insist that schools are failures if their test scores don't go up every year and if they can't reach 100 percent proficiency. By setting an unreachable goal, they (and NCLB) set the stage to close schools, for the benefit of for-profit and nonprofit entrepreneurs, all of whom wait like vultures for another public school to fail and close.

Since late February, I have spoken to 75 different audiences. I calculate that I have spoken to more than 60,000 people, mostly teachers, administrators, school board members, and parents, sometimes elected officials. I met with high-level White House staff, with congressmen and senators. I have not appeared on any national television programs. Yet I have been able to reach large numbers of people by writing and speaking.

At one point, a columnist in The New Republic accused me of speaking to "teacher-dominated audiences"; I plead guilty as charged. I can't figure out why this is a bad thing; I think it is a great thing, and I hope to speak to many more teachers in the coming year. Teachers today are so unjustly vilified, so little appreciated, and so eager for support. Their critics in the media and in "reform-y" think tanks are arrogant and ignorant. Teachers deserve our thanks.

I still remember vividly a meeting a few years ago, when I listened to several high-powered business leaders complain that teachers are overpaid and underworked; that was one of the crucial events that convinced me I was on the wrong side of the debate. I don't know of any teacher who makes even one-third what any of those guys are paid, and I am certain that the average teacher works harder and longer hours than any of them, while doing work of greater social value.

On my extended travels, I saw two interesting places. One was San Diego, where there is currently an amazing level of cooperation among teachers, administrators, the elected school board, and parents. Their goal is to develop "community-based school reform," in which the various constituencies agree to work together to promote improvement at every school. This is the spirit of "It takes a village," and I hope it lasts. It is very promising, and what a contrast to the bitter conflicts that the "reformers" have ignited in city after city, community after community.

The "reformers" pit parents against parents, charter parents vs. regular public school parents, competing for dollars and space; and they pit teacher against teacher, bringing in new teachers to take jobs from experienced teachers while the "reformers" demean the value of experience.

Their strategy is conflict, and it is hard to see how children will benefit when the grown-ups are fighting for control of the schools and the profession.

The other interesting place I visited was Cincinnati. I met with the Strive Partnership, a group that coordinates the efforts of civic organizations, businesses, social-service agencies, and others who want to improve the lives of children. I was impressed by the mobilization of community support on behalf of the children and by the breadth of Strive's outreach, as well as the scope of its vision. If there were more cities as organized as Cincinnati, the prospects for civic renewal and educational improvement would be far brighter.

We have much to be thankful for this year. As we count our blessings, we must remember those children and families who live in need and do not share our bounty. Let us try to convince those who demand 100 percent proficiency for the schools to extend their vision and their goals; let us try to persuade them to set a more ambitious goal: to bring health, justice, well-being, and comfort to 100 percent of our population. And to hold themselves accountable for doing so!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, dear Deborah, and to all who happen to read these words!

Diane

-0-

Follow my blog every day by bookmarking washingtonpost.com/answersheet. And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our Higher Education page at washingtonpost.com/higher-ed Bookmark it!

By Valerie Strauss  | December 28, 2010; 5:00 AM ET
Categories:  Diane Ravitch, Guest Bloggers, Teachers  | Tags:  diane ravitch, education policy, teacher assessment, teachers  
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Comments

The comparison of teachers and "high powered business leaders is the "knife fight for position" that gets us into trouble. There is no comparison and no need. It serves no one and improves nothing.

Reform is not the need for today. Return is the need. We have spent ourselves into the unpainted corner trying to "reform." Our kids suffer from educational whiplash after being jerked around so often and so hard. Let teachers use the computers to manage the administration, but return to pencils and paper.

Our children suffer from trying to learn too many things that are unimportant. Manipulating software to try and learn 1+1 is insane. The cost of pencil and paper over ever-changing software is incomparable. The cost of power and ancillary products only widens the gap.

I recall my grandson using a spelling program that was built into a game. When I asked about the spelling part, he told me he was only interested in winning. Seems to me we lost him on that attempt.

Posted by: jbeeler | December 28, 2010 7:55 AM | Report abuse

Diane Ravitch is indeed a hero, a scholar, an historian of unprecedented renown, and above all a great human being.

That being said, with her one hundred eighty degree turn on education reform over the past twelve months many (myself included) are waiting, not for Superman, but for solutions; at least suggestions for solutions/reforms as one of the most qualified individuals among us.

Sadly, her posture to date has been that of a contrarian, not unlike the NEA who criticizes most reforms to the status quo but offers nothing credible in return.

She is clearly the most favored among the educational establishment. Unfortunately, that is probably the main reason she has gotten nowhere in the all important debate on education reform.

Posted by: phoss1 | December 28, 2010 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for pointing out, Diane, that you haven't been featured on national television yet.

Hopefully there is an organized effort to get you on Oprah and other venues populated by "reformers."

Equal time is the American way, right?

Somewhere there must be a school teacher with connections to a national media mogul who could make it happen. The large audiences you've drawn should be a major selling point. Plus the rags to riches story of your book has universal appeal.

Posted by: efavorite | December 28, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Yes, as Dr. Ravitch says, "we have much to be thankful for this year".

I am thankful this year for the support Dr. Ravitch is giving the education community and I am thankful to have discovered "The Answer Sheet".

Thanks Valerie Strauss for the valuable information you have provided this year.

People may not always agree with your postings, but at least it exposes viewpoints that aren't often heard in other more visible forums.

Posted by: MisterRog | December 28, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

@Phoss1: Diane Ravitch does offer what she thinks is preferable to current reforms. She advocates for strong, well-rounded curriculum and support of strong instruction which includes mentoring new or struggling teachers and training teachers in researched based instructional methods. This is a direct contrast to the reformers' push for more testing and punishment of teachers whose students may not reach the testing benchmarks. The interesting thing is that the reformers treat teachers in a way that they would never allow the teachers to treat the students. Ravitch identifies two schools of thought: testing and accountability vs. curriculum and intruction. The reformers advocate the former whereas Ravitch advocates the latter.

Posted by: musiclady | December 28, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Her Republican roots and accomplishments rarely get the attention they deserve.

Posted by: axolotl | December 28, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Dr. Ravitch, for being the voice of reason to this utterly irresponsible "educational reform" movement. There is no reform taking place, only more testing and a narrowed curriculum. It's a travesty our kids have to suffer at the hands of hedge fund managers that want to make a buck off the backs of our children. Shame on them.

Posted by: chicogal | December 28, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Not let's consider the track record of bankers and Wall Street and analyze what is wrong with this picture whereby they think they should take the lead in education reform. When they "reformed" real estate with subprime mortgages, and "reformed" Wall St. with derivatives it led us to where? And there goals were preserving the democracy or stuffing as much money in their pockets? Do we recall which one?

It is time we substituted "bilk" for "reform" and we will know exactly what is going on in education. Check out WhiteChalkCrime.com and EndTeacherAbuse.org if you REALLY want to know what is going on. The alternative is to watch education implode as did real estate; the same type of agenda is in place. However, when it implodes it implodes our democracy as they are connected at the hip. And then who will pick up the pieces? Do we want the greedy creating a civil society in their image? Better yet, would the greedy even entertain the need for a civil society when money and power are their chosen tools for navigating in this world? Money and power substitute for a civil democracy, the former purpose of an educated populace.

If all of this sounds way too incredible, just think Bernie Madoff and his sinister Ponzi scheme. All it takes is charm, connections, and greed and one can fool a lot of people. We have a bunch of mini Bernie Madoff's at the helms of schools all over this nation with a press blaming teachers, unions, and parents rather than blaming these thieves in place to bilk all of us of the foundation of our democracy. (This is the same press that didn't notice the subprime scam.)

This brilliant strategy of pitting parents against teachers and their unions is at the core of this Ponzi-like success for it is true that unions are at the center of the "reform" that is really bilking, while it is not true that the unions represent or even care about dedicated teachers. And it is not true that the unions are on a different side than these mini Bernie Madoffs. As the unions and administrations play good cop, bad cop while reforming, no bilking, our schools with the media's blessings, the public is left clueless.

Become educated or expect an end to public education as we know it. Yes, the unions deserve our contempt, but not unless their bed partners - the administrators and school boards - are held in contempt equally. Learn about White Chalk Crime. It makes Bernie Madoff's antics seem like nothing. There is organized crime in education that Diane Ravitch has yet to bring to the surface. It keeps Diane Ravitch from television, stuck at the right fork of the road where if she could venture down it, her dedication and brilliance could solve these problems.

Instead we all speak in circles while our schools are being "reformed/bilked." Time to focus on White Chalk Crime as only then will any of this change.

Posted by: teacherkh | December 28, 2010 11:06 PM | Report abuse

I have lived through the "reform" movement in the classroom. NCLB indeed guaranteed the failure of the school system that politicians, at the behest of greedy corporations, seek. Race to the Top is no better. Our new principal bullied ALL of the senior staff, including two who had been nominated for statewide recognition for their superior work. Test scores dropped as the bullying continued and have never recovered because the new crop of teachers don't have the experience under their belts yet. It'll take 10 or 15 years and by then another "reform" movement may push them out just as they reach their peak of performance.

The physical and psychological damage from the bullying has been long lasting. More than one health professional has called the results PTSD. Imagine-teachers and soldiers suffering from the same psychological disorder. I was told by my doctor to get another job, that the stress of the bullying was killing me. Increased blood pressure, elevated heart rate, sleeplessness, irritability, depression, sudden shifts of mood, etc. Five years on, I am still on meds to control the damage. I'm not in the classroom. Nor are any of the other targets. One had a near-fatal pulmonary embolism. Most "retired" early and have taken a severe economic hit. My wife and I lost $600K in lost wages by "retiring" five years early to try to save our health.

Bullying as a personnel tool in the schoolhouse is moral mendacity. It is professional corruption. It is not a fitting example to set for our children. Bullying, whether it is student-on-student or adult-on-adult, has no place in the schoolhouse.

Bullying is education's dirty little secret. Teachers are easy targets because they are loyal and underpaid. The bullied teacher who had the embolism HAD to stay at the job because she had a poor divorce settlement and was paying for her daughter's college education alone. Even though she was recognized statewide for her teaching, she believed the bullying principal who told her she was a poor teacher and she should quit. Bullied teachers use more sick leave to try to cope. Students don't get the best teacher because the teacher is trying to survive the daily assault of bullying from the principal or his/her gang.

Student education suffers when their teachers are bullied. As a nation, do we want the best teachers in our classrooms or the ones who can't do their best because they are being bullied and are hiding in survival mode?

Posted by: bullied | December 29, 2010 2:05 AM | Report abuse

Making excuses for our current failed system is shameful, idiotic and a grave danger to our nation's future. Defending the unions and other evil vested interests that are hellbent on keeping our schools trapped in hopeless failure is immoral.

Ravitch complains about those "fighting for control of the schools." Well, sorry, that's the essence of politics. The only way to to take politics out of schools is the total separation of school and state.

Posted by: thebump | December 29, 2010 7:01 AM | Report abuse

@bullied: I've seen teachers bullied in schools where I've worked. Typically it seemed that older teachers were bullied by younger administrators. I've also seen teachers bullied for disagreeing with administration. It really creates an unhealthy earning environment. Would anyone want their child in a classroom taught by someone who is treated that way? The teacher is in survival mode. The kids come second in this case. The reformers treat teachers in ways that they would never tolerate teachers treating kids. It's all about compliance which is really the reason behind trying to eliminate tenure.

Posted by: musiclady | December 29, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

@bullied: I've seen teachers bullied in schools where I've worked. Typically it seemed that older teachers were bullied by younger administrators. I've also seen teachers bullied for disagreeing with administration. It really creates an unhealthy earning environment. Would anyone want their child in a classroom taught by someone who is treated that way? The teacher is in survival mode. The kids come second in this case. The reformers treat teachers in ways that they would never tolerate teachers treating kids. It's all about compliance which is really the reason behind trying to eliminate tenure.

Posted by: musiclady | December 29, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

excellent !!!!!!!!!!!!

you cited your source !!!

i bow.

Posted by: John_Chas_Webb | December 29, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuNRr7wcLxE&feature=related

for you Baby !

Posted by: John_Chas_Webb | December 29, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Translation: "bullied" means held accountable.

Get used to it.

Posted by: thebump | December 29, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

We spend a third more per pupil than Japan.

And we have the results to show for it, right?

If you think the people who created this disaster are going to fix it, consult a shrink.

http://mercatus.org/publication/k-12-spending-student-oecd

Posted by: thebump | December 29, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

For the troll who calls itself "the bump": Until you have actually taught in public schools and have been subjected to widespread bullying and abuse by principals and higher administrators, who are NEVER held accountable for ANYTHONG and abuse and game the legal system for their benefit while destroying teachers' careers, don't you DARE comment on something you know nothing about.

Posted by: tonysam | December 29, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Corrected my previous post to "ANYTHING."

Posted by: tonysam | December 29, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

For musiclady: Age discrimination is rampant in public education for the simple reason experienced, older teachers are more expensive. Contrary to widespread belief, it is very easy to fire or remove through forced retirements or "resignations" teachers in public education; administrative law isn't worth the paper it is written on, and districts flout state administrative law, union contracts dealing with disciplinary matters, and federal civil rights law with the knowledge teachers are typically too destitute to fight back. Principals and other administrators can simply fabricate charges and engage in character assassination of teachers, since that is usually all they have in their dubious defense. Administrators, beginning at the principal level, are virtually impossible to fire. It makes news when they are fired, so you know this is very, very rare. If principals, for example, get into trouble, they are merely reassigned to other schools making the same outrageous pay as before, even if they completely screw up and flout the law. Many of them, if they aren't reassigned to wreck havoc on another school, are actually promoted. This doesn't happen with other governmental entities and certainly private sector work. In the latter, it doesn't matter how high in rank you are: If you are seen as a liability, you are out the door. Not in public education and in many if not most private schools. The worse these administrators are, the better off they are. Their only job is really self-preservation, to preserve their "careers" at all costs, no matter who they step on to keep them, no matter how much districts violate the law or even commit crimes to keep them, no matter how much it costs taxpayers.

Posted by: tonysam | December 29, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

I am glad that we have watchdogs like yourself who are noticing trends in education. "They" are trying to run the schools like a business, and often refer to the students as "customers" esp. under the Baldridge Method. Just as business is corrupted by greed, our school systems are overrun with a different kind of greed; the lust for power and control. Not unlike organized crime bosses, school administrators are pushing their personal agendas onto the unprotected citizens and workers in the public school system. Using their positions of "power" they impose their own brand of education on the defenseless and trusting students and teachers at their disposal. I had the pleasure of meeting Karen Horowitz of Chicago, author of "White Chalk Crime, The Real Reason Schools Fail," in DC while protesting for school reform.
My hat is off to both you girls for being watchdogs for the rest of us. Thank you.

Posted by: wvrjn | December 29, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

For "Bullied"
I also have been a victim of bullying by school admin. I feel that the climate of our schools now put teachers and parents and admin in some adversarial triangle of blame. The kids are taught to blame the teachers and try to get them fired and tecachers blame the parents for such lousy kids and the admin is sitting back watching the show. Rarely standing behind the teacher, admin uses the student by any means to turn on the teacher: leaving a paper trail by twisting their words through multiple interviews, intimidation, and bribery. Then they hide behind their positions from any wrong doing by continually pointing their crooked finger at someone else. Our fate is in the hands of fools. Clowns are driving us at a high rate of speed, down a highway we don't want to go, to a destination unknown. God help us!!

Posted by: wvrjn | December 29, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

@tonysam: I've actually seen bad principals removed from schools in my district. Typically they are either demoted or moved to a central office somewhere which is fine as long as they aren't in charge of teachers or students. Sadly, it usually takes parents complaining before anything is done, however.

Posted by: musiclady | December 29, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

@thebump. Your ignorance is exceeded only by your arrogance. Would you say to a woman who has been raped, "You wanted it; get used to it?" This is the kind of verbage a bully uses.

It is NOT appropriate to have to endure being yelled at, having your job threatened, having your recommendations threatened, having 5 of the worst behaved students assigned to your last class of the day just to wear you down, having your principal deliberately yell at you just before your most difficult class of the day, have 39 students assigned to a class that has 32 seats and 33 sets of texts and then being written up for being a poor teacher or endure public humiliation about a congenital health problem you have. It does not mean that your rights, by contract, to a maternity leave should be violated and have the principal pressure you to let your contract go altogether, so that he has the freedom to have a "continuing contract" available to offer someone else. It does not mean that the principal is allowed to weaken student learning in order to get a senior teacher (and though I am in my 50's, I am only a fifth year teacher- so the economic "rationalization" doesn't fit) to leave his building because he is threatened by your presence/capabilities/popularity. It doesn't allow the principal to steal lesson plans, materials, and documents from your room so that you can't teach your students and look foolish in front of them. Hitting one teacher affects them all.

This principal didn't care about the students and they knew it. The students would "push his buttons" while he supervised the lunch room and get him upset and angry. This was a man for whom the faculty/student basketball assembly was an opportunity to smack down the students rather than have fun. This was a man who was not a successful teacher, who was promoted through the system and when I challenged him in a very public way, I was removed from my classroom and he moved on to another district at a 30% pay increase!

Accountability? I have no fear of accountability. Videotape my lessons, give me feedback, I am not afraid of accountability because I am a competent teacher. I did not deserve this treatment because I was a "bad" teacher. I was targeted because others respected me and not him. It had nothing to do with my competency.

What is frightening is the absolute power that a principal has over his staff and how he/she can crush/ruin people's lives. Perhaps you didn't note that a teacher ALMOST DIED because of this abuse. Have you ever been so anxious and fearful about the simple act of going to work that you had to pull the car over and vomit at the side of the road? Until you do, sir or madame, do not take pot shots at me about "accountability." Bring accountability on. Let's see how the principals perform on camera with a bunch of kids. Let them teach. Let's make the district administrators who covered up this principal's bullying accountable for the health issues that they allowed to happen

Posted by: bullied | December 29, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

Referring to the business people who complain about teachers being overpaid and underworked: we had a student teacher in our building once who was a former police officer making a career change. He was a good teacher but he went home exhausted every night and confided to his master teacher that he didn't understand "how you do it." He was totally unprepared to face 140 students every day.

The first five years of teaching are hell. You are totally unprepared for the work load. You are tired every day and you long for the next "vacation" (Christmas or winter or spring or summer break) to try to catch your breath. Most teachers have put in the equivalent of a full work year, 2000 hours, before the end of March. Then there is April, May ( testing months!!) and whatever part of June is on the schedule.

I challenge ANYONE who thinks that teachers have it easy to step into a classroom for a week and be totally responsible for the education, social growth, discipline and mentoring of 140 14-year olds. Figure out what they are supposed to learn because the district guides won't tell you. Figure out which student stepped over their drug addled mother as they left home for school. Figure out which ones had breakfast on any given morning, ready to learn.

And while you're doing that, fend off the bullying of your principal and his mob. When you are doing your job,following the IEP of a particular student, making accomodations for that student according to that IEP and one of the principal's mob tells you that you must violate that IEP (ie, NOT do your job) in order to FORCE the student to physically write a sentence even though the IEP acknowledges that the student CAN'T write, figure out a way to keep the student in the forefront while fending off the bullying attack. If you fail to placate the mob member, you will be written up by the principal FOR DOING YOUR JOB and you will not be able to defend yourself on those grounds because the principal doesn't give a rip. He wants to get rid of you because you are the union rep and he wants to make an example of you.

Other teachers come to you and ask, "If they can do that to YOU, what can they do to ME?" or they just avoid you in the halls, refusing to be seen with you for fear of becoming the next victim.

That's how bullying works. Assault one teacher and the rest will fall into line. That's what the Khmer Rouge did in Cambodia. Kill the doctors and university professors and the rest will fall into line. Hyperbole? No, sorry. That is what is happening in many schools of this country. It is not just in the big cities; we have seen it in a local rural district as well. Attack several teachers, watch them go to the union rep, then bully the rep for being the "center of the discontent."

Cowards and fools run many of our schools. Parents need to be made aware of what's happening. They are the only hope for making schools a place to teach and learn again. If they don't the system is already lost.

Posted by: bullied | December 29, 2010 10:33 PM | Report abuse

The reading/teaching/thinking/parenting public is definitely grateful for you Ms. Ravitch. Despite the wealth and pomposity of your critics, the majority of parents, students, teachers, and citizens of all stripes are behind you 100%! Please continue your good work!

Posted by: Jennifer88 | December 30, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Dear Diane,

Have you ever considered this supreme irony: never once, in all the talk on school reform, do we ever ask the views and opinions of the number one stakeholder in the world of education. I surmise that you are on a journey to understanding. So I invite you to walk a little further down that road to a special place: inside the mind of a child.

I have been to this place many times over the last thirty-five years, as a classroom teacher. I have come to understand this about Children:
That education is a journey whose goal is to discover who they are and what they are meant to do in this world,
That the only curriculum they need is locked away in their DNA,
That their only required textbook is the world around them,
That they were born with the only two things necessary for learning to happen: desire and curiosity,
That they can only discover what’s in their DNA through exploration and play and hands-on projects and activities,
That they are learning machines and there are no off buttons,
That they are the masterpiece of all learning machines on this planet,
That they are perfectly capable of deciding what and how they want to learn,
That they don’t need to be motivated; they were born motivated,
That each one learns at a different rate.

This I have also come to understand:
That school should be a place of discovery, not memorizing,
That play IS learning,
That schools who don’t recognize this fact fail to understand learning
That Standardized Tests are detrimental to children’s intellectual well-being,
That the teacher’s only job is to create the environment in which learning can take place,
That the role of teachers and adults is to give our children a safe environment in which to discover themselves,
That this vital period of discovery extends all the way through college,
That, if we want to end the horrendous high school drop-out rates, we must put children in charge of their own learning,
That school as we know it is a hindrance to real and meaningful learning,
That school in general is boring and NCLB (No Child Loves Boring).

Of course, none of this is new thinking:

School children--small though they are--are people, and as people they have the same needs we do, and they follow the same trains of thought. They all want to learn, and come to school for this reason alone, and so they will naturally arrive at the conclusion that they must submit to certain conditions in order to learn…When they submit only to natural laws, such as result from their natures, they do not revolt and grumble, but when they submit to your premeditated interference, they will not believe in the legality of your bells, schedules, and regulations.

-Leo Tolstoy, circa 1860 - The School at Yasnaya Polyana

These understandings will lead you to the real goal of school reform. We don’t need a new definition of school reform, we need a revolution. I believe children will lead it.

I wish you a rewarding journey.

Posted by: KidsAreRevolting | December 30, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

On the one hand, I really respect Diane Ravitch and I agree with much of what she says. On the other hand, I do not trust her. Why has she suddenly had a change of opinion on NCLB and standardized testing? Why in 2010? (hmm.. book to sell?) As an expert in education for over 30 years, she should have known, had the foresight and expertise to know, that forcing schools to be accountable via standardized testing would be the downfall of public education. In fact, 10 years ago, even the lowliest teachers were trying to blow these whistles. Many other experts forecasted doom. At least 5 years ago, NCLB had negative unintended consequences. Everyone knows that school system will throw all under the bus to get the funding, throwing accountability out with it all. But Ravitch still supported testing and accountability. Now at the point of implosion of public schools (and also at the point an desperate audience will scramble to buy her book), all of sudden she has done the 180. hmm. Too convenient. As an expert, she should also be suggesting viable solutions. Instead, she seems to be walking the tightrope trying to ensure popularity with all parties with a vested interest.
Also, as an expert, surely Ravitch knows the corrupt culture of most districts - The Lottery, The Cartel, White Chalk Crime, Waiting for Superman. Yah think this just might have an affect on student achievement - DUH! We are busy these days comparing American education with other OECD countries, and has anyone bothered to ask if other OECD school systems operate like mini mafia organizations? Why does everyone ignore the obvious? It's truly unbelievable! No wonder other countries laugh at the stupidity and naivete of Americans!!!

Posted by: concerned36 | December 30, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

@bullied and other bullied teachers: My heart goes out to you. I feel that I know what you are going through. For I am a parent who has also been bullied by the school principal. Know that I have been working as hard as I can to make the public aware of your plight. It is hard. Folks do NOT care. They don't believe it. They are glazed over. They think it is my fault, that I am some noisy bad parent. Or they believe this is perfectly acceptable and normal behavior. (I admit I am from another generation, small rural community where folks don't behave this way!) I am a parent victim of White Chalk Crime. I asked too many questions, reported unlawful and unethical situations (cheating to make AYP among other things), and my children and I were washed out of the school. I was an active parent volunteer for 11 years in the same school. Room parent every year for at least one of my 4 children. I made the "mistake" of becoming an advocate for students with disabilities and discovered the mislabeling and harmful practices (restraint and seclusion for punishment) against children with disabilities. Public schools are no place for children with disabilities. You have no IDEA! Spoke to State SEAC, local SEAC, state Board of Education, friend at the state DOE, school board, etc. After having good relationships with 24+ great teachers, the last year the principal bullied us and carried out 40+ acts of retaliation against us, mostly acts of retribuation against one of my twins. Now that I know about White Chalk Crime, thanks to Karen Horwitz, I understand that the principal forced the teacher to carry out these things to pit us against one another. I also suspect the other teacher refused to go along. She was the one who was supposed to be let go during budget cuts. I have lots of evidence, but media will not report. I know this, only bullied teacher victims know what I, a parent, have been through. It is psychological warfare and terrorism - using our softest spot, our children, against us!

I applaud teachers for speaking out and informing the public, and I do my best to educate the public as to what is happening to teachers today. What is going on is truly a mafia-style organization, using our tax dollars to terrorize us if we exercise our free speech rights.

Posted by: concerned36 | December 30, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

@concerned36. Yes, I do understand what you are going through. We know several parents who have been mistreated by school administrators because they bravely stood up for what was right. Parents are targeted, too, usually for the same reasons. Conversely, administrators will violate their own district policy that places them as a buffer between parents and teachers; they will allow angry parents to directly bully targeted teachers. Been there, done that.

The media tells us that the schools are full of "bad" teachers, but when you talk to people they think their teachers are just fine. It's propaganda. It's even worse in smaller towns; the newspaper publisher/editor goes to the same chamber of commerce meetings that the school superintendent does. They're in it together. It's the reason that media will not run stories about the bullying. They can't run stories about how "bad" teachers are at the same time that they run stories about how administrators are running the good ones out of the system.

By the same token, we know many more good, hard working administrators. They are smart, fair, and concerned about the students as well as their staff. They listen; and they listen some more. Those who bully aren't interested in listening; they only hear their own voice in their head. They have a "my way or the highway" attitude. That just doesn't work in the school setting. I watched as our principal turned our democraticly run school into a dictatorship in less than 18 months. We no longer were allowed to choose our department chairs-you had to apply to the master. Only allies of the principal were allowed to go to professional conferences on the district's dime. Makes it really hard to teach kids about democracy when you work in a dictatorship. The list of abuses goes on and on.

There is no path to follow for redress of grievances. Upper levels of reporting do not take complaints directly from teachers; it has to go through the district superintendent which will never happen because they are most likely either initiating the bullying or covering for their administrators who do. Unions don't help ("You're the only one complaining" A lie; others did, too).

And all the time it is the students who are negatively affected by these actions. Administrators go around talking the talk of "what's best for the students" when their actions result in the exact opposite. Hypocrites. Liars and hypocrites.

Reading assignment: "Breaking the Silence: Overcoming the Problem of Principal Mistreatment of Teachers" by Joseph and Jo Blase. Especially pages 24-27 describing various bullying acts in ascending order of violence. We experienced 90% of them. No exageration. Available on Amazon. Academic investigation of the issue.

Posted by: bullied | December 30, 2010 10:01 PM | Report abuse

@concerned36. Yes, I do understand what you are going through. We know several parents who have been mistreated by school administrators because they bravely stood up for what was right. Parents are targeted, too, usually for the same reasons. Conversely, administrators will violate their own district policy that places them as a buffer between parents and teachers; they will allow angry parents to directly bully targeted teachers. Been there, done that.

The media tells us that the schools are full of "bad" teachers, but when you talk to people they think their teachers are just fine. It's propaganda. It's even worse in smaller towns; the newspaper publisher/editor goes to the same chamber of commerce meetings that the school superintendent does. They're in it together. It's the reason that media will not run stories about the bullying. They can't run stories about how "bad" teachers are at the same time that they run stories about how administrators are running the good ones out of the system.

By the same token, we know many more good, hard working administrators. They are smart, fair, and concerned about the students as well as their staff. They listen; and they listen some more. Those who bully aren't interested in listening; they only hear their own voice in their head. They have a "my way or the highway" attitude. That just doesn't work in the school setting. I watched as our principal turned our democraticly run school into a dictatorship in less than 18 months. We no longer were allowed to choose our department chairs-you had to apply to the master. Only allies of the principal were allowed to go to professional conferences on the district's dime. Makes it really hard to teach kids about democracy when you work in a dictatorship. The list of abuses goes on and on.

There is no path to follow for redress of grievances. Upper levels of reporting do not take complaints directly from teachers; it has to go through the district superintendent which will never happen because they are most likely either initiating the bullying or covering for their administrators who do. Unions don't help ("You're the only one complaining" A lie; others did, too).

And all the time it is the students who are negatively affected by these actions. Administrators go around talking the talk of "what's best for the students" when their actions result in the exact opposite. Hypocrites. Liars and hypocrites.

Reading assignment: "Breaking the Silence: Overcoming the Problem of Principal Mistreatment of Teachers" by Joseph and Jo Blase. Especially pages 24-27 describing various bullying acts in ascending order of violence. We experienced 90% of them. No exageration. Available on Amazon. Academic investigation of the issue.

Posted by: bullied | December 30, 2010 10:04 PM | Report abuse

@bullied, yep, and no redress for parents either. They tried their best to provoke us to go due process. Then tried to get us to enter mediation. (Do I look like somone who negotiates with the devil?) I thought, if you are not going to follow the IEP, if you blatantly violate procedural safeguards of IDEA, then why in the world would we ever trust you to abide by a mediation agreement???? We know of parents whose mediation agreement was a piece of paper and that's all. Totally bogus!

They also suggested I file a complaint with the state DOE. Once I realized they wanted me to go a legal route, I knew it was all for their benefit. Now I know parents who have filed valid complaints. First, all complaints are unfounded. The complaint can be truly frivolous and unfounded where the parent has no hard evidence. Those complaints are unfounded and thrown out. There must be a violation of procedure. If a parent has a valid complaint backed up with hard evidence, then DOE views this as a "documentation problem". They go back to the school and have the school get their "documentation" straight to "prove" that the violation did not occur. This is via fabricated, bogus, and falsified records. This type of complaint is also designated by DOE as an unfounded complaint and having filed this complaint, the parents are now prevented from ever going due process on this issue because now the "documentation" proves that the complaint issue is unfounded. So all a complaint does is alert the administration to get the records in order to hide the violation. My kids' records are falsified right now, missing our letters of concern, our wish lists, stuff in there that should not be in there, bogus testing, etc. There is no trace that we were involved parents, who actively collaborated in our children's education. Nothing we can do about it. Heck, we could not even obtain records via FERPA. They put a very high price tag on the records, they knew we would not pay. One parent was charged $4,000 for a hearing transcript that is supposed to be provided for free.

If a parent goes due process, the powers love that. They love most to wear parents out financially, emotionally, mentally. Mediation is also a joke. The desired and only outcome of due process or mediation is the parents' signature on a gag order which also is an agreement which signs away the parents' and their childrens' civil rights. I have seen a copy of this 6 page "contract".

It is best for parents not to follow any advice made by educRAT$ once they have become targets of retribution.

Our local newspaper editor also sits on the board of the Chamber of Commerce and as such will not print negative stories against the school systems.

Posted by: concerned36 | December 30, 2010 11:12 PM | Report abuse

@ concerned36. Bingo! School districts have lawyers on retainer whose job it is to wear down anyone who challenges the system-student, parent, teacher. The unions are of little value. I was handed the distirct's "settlement offer" by a union leader who told me "that's the best offer you're going to get." He was not even entertaining the thought of a counter offer. He was not going to negotiate or fight for me or try to protect my rights to a healthy workplace. I was dirt in his world. I made a counter-offer and told him to go to the district. They accepted it. Of course, it says that I can never talk about what was done to us or bring legal actions. This is simply a gag order with union complicity. The union is screwing their own members. At one point, a lawyer told me that I had a better case against the union for "failure to represent" that I had against the district for the bullying. I was told by the union that they can't do anything about it because there is no language in the contract regarding bullying. I said, "So negotiate some." They just laughed.

There is really no reason for teachers to go to work Monday morning. They are unappreciated by parents, targeted by administrators, reviled by politicians. We no longer encourage students to become teachers. Why should anyone take a job where they can legally be driven crazy by a bullying administrator while starting out at 1/2 to 2/3 the pay that their other college friends will make?

The head of certificated personnel told us as we left that "everything that was done to you was perfectly legal." This is an admission that we were deliberately targeted for mistreatment and that the system is set up so that administration can bully teachers with impunity and with no fear of punishment. It's really sick behavior. Their mothers probably don't know what they do for a living; I'm sure they teach them to treat others like that.

Posted by: bullied | January 1, 2011 9:03 PM | Report abuse

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