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Posted at 5:30 AM ET, 06/22/2010

Ravitch to Obama: 'Change course before it is too late"

By Valerie Strauss

Education historian Diane Ravitch has been talking with thousands of people as she crisscrosses the country talking about education reform and her New York Times best-selling book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System.”

I have written a lot about Ravitch recently because I think she occupies a unique place in the world of education. For years, she was part of the conservative wing of the education world, serving as an assistant secretary in the administration of President George H.W. Bush, and becoming a vocal backer of the second President Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiative.

But after looking at the data -- one of the mantras of today’s misguided education leaders -- Ravitch reversed her position on NCLB, calling it a failure. And she has become a strong critic of using business principles to run public school districts.

It is the rarest of education book that makes the best seller list, but Ravitch’s reads like a scary novel with a plot that drives you to keep turning the page. It would be a great thriller -- if it weren’t true.

I conducted an email interview with Ravitch to get an update on what she is encountering as she meets teachers and parents:

Q) I am interested in hearing what you are hearing and learning as you go around the country. Are you getting an earful?
A) Over the past three months I have traveled from one end of the country to the other. All told, I have spoken to about 20,000 people, mostly teachers. They are deeply demoralized. They don’t like [the $4 billion competition called Race to the Top; they don’t like NCLB. They feel that education has been turned into a testing game, with all the life and creativity sucked out of it. Most of them worked for the election of [President] Obama and were hopeful that NCLB was finished.

Imagine how shocked they were to discover that Race to the Top continues the testing regime, expands the Republican push for charters, and now demands that teachers be evaluated by their students’ test scores. So, teachers feel trapped. Wherever I go, people ask the same question: "What can we do to stop this madness? Who can we turn to? Who will speak for us?" I don’t have very good answers for them, though I do my best to encourage them not to lose hope. Bottom line is that I have yet to encounter a teacher who feels hopeful about what is called "education reform" today. Instead, they see it as an attack on public education and on the teaching profession.

Q) Why do you think your book became a best seller? What space is it filling?
A) My book is in its 7th printing in its first three months and it continues to do well. The book has a couple of important pluses: As a historian of education, I am able to explain the historical background of many current policies; readers like that. Also, I write for non-specialists; I avoid jargon. Readers like that too.

I truly think that its popularity has been driven by teachers and parents who are looking for an alternative narrative about the current era of "school reform." Teachers and parents don’t understand why President Obama latched onto charters and testing, and my book provides historical context. I have received literally hundreds of emails from teachers thanking me for giving them hope. I am not sure why they find it hopeful, because the situation these days looks hopeless.

As a historian, I cling to the belief that bad ideas eventually lose steam and that evidence will eventually prevail. So much is at stake -- really, our children and our future as a nation -- that we can’t afford to lose hope, to stop pushing for a broader, more generous conception of education. We must stop blaming the schools and teachers for social conditions that are beyond their control. We need a far better vision of education than NCLB, the Race or Obama’s Blueprint [for school reform] offers.

Critics say that I am defending the status quo, but nothing could be farther from the truth. I have been a critic of the status quo since long before most of today’s so-called reformers were born. We must lift our sights and recognize that no high-performing nation is tying its education system to basic skills testing and privatization.

Q) Who have you been meeting as you’ve been traveling?
A) I have talked to anyone who wants to hear me, within the limits of my energy. My audiences are usually dominated by teachers. Many have already read my book. Frequently, I get a standing ovation before I begin speaking and then again when I conclude. I have been around for many, many years, and believe me, this is not what I expected or what I am used to. I have talked at universities, to administrators, to teachers’ unions, to school board members, to students in education programs.

Wherever I have gone, the response has been the same: People are worried about what is happening today; they detest NCLB and they now realize that Race to the Top is more of the same and probably worse. My most interesting experience recently was as the keynote speaker at the Reverend Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow-PUSH Coalition conference. The audience of parents, teachers, and students was very warm and welcoming. They are fearful for the future of public education. They are concerned that public schools in minority communities have been targeted for privatization, and they don’t think this is a positive development.

Q) What specifically have teachers been saying to you? Parents? Principals?
A) The story everywhere is the same. I hear that schools have become totally focused on state tests. People are sick of seeing education reduced to test scores. Everyone seems to recognize that standardized tests should be an indicator, not the end of education. They hate the idea that schools are being closed because of low test scores. They know that the schools likeliest to suffer are in low-income communities. They don’t want to lose public education. Yet everyone--teachers, parents, administrators--feels helpless, not knowing where to turn because they are now up against a bipartisan consensus around bad ideas. Who will be their champion?

Every teacher knew about the firing of the entire staff at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island; every teacher that I encountered was dismayed that the mass firing was applauded by Secretary Duncan and President Obama. Even though the firing was eventually canceled, teachers got the message; what they heard was mean-spirited, punitive, and deeply indifferent to the real problems that teachers face today in struggling schools. I met young people preparing to teach who wondered whether they had chosen the wrong career, given the way that teachers are to blame if students don’t get high scores.

Q) You know the history of education policy -- and the effects -- as well or better than anyone. What are the biggest mistakes the Obama administration is making right now?
A) The biggest mistake they have made is that they bought into the consensus around high-stakes testing, this NCLB belief that someone must be punished if scores don’t rise every year, especially "bad" teachers. They adopted Republican ideas about accountability and choice, and they have used Race to the Top to promote more privately managed schools and more high-stakes testing.

Living outside the Beltway, I am struck by the fact that the education think tanks in DC are like an echo chamber. Almost all share the "consensus," and because they agree with one another, they think they are right. The Obama administration bought into that consensus, and seems utterly tone-deaf to how their agenda is received outside the Beltway.

Teachers -- not just union leaders -- are unhappy, frustrated, and demoralized. So are parents, because they don’t like the high-stakes testing regime either. They don’t like that their children are losing time for the arts, science, history, geography, physical education, foreign languages, and everything that is not tested. They may not be well-informed, yet they know that their children are missing out on a good education.

Q) Have you met with any Obama administration officials? Members of Congress? What do you say? What did they say?
A) I was recently invited to meet with high-level administration officials in the White House. I told them my concerns. I told them what I have heard from teachers and parents. They told me I was misinformed. I think they should listen more to the grassroots, not just to the think tanks and the media. Over the past few weeks, I have met with many Democratic members of Congress. I have met some really impressive members who understand how destructive the current "reform" movement is. Many agree with me that the emphasis on evaluating teachers will simply produce more teaching to the test, more narrowing the curriculum, more gaming the system. They have heard from their constituents, and they don’t like what is going on.

But frankly, these same Congressmen and women tell me that they are probably helpless to stop the President’s agenda. The Democratic leadership will give the President and Secretary Duncan what they want, and they will have the support of Republicans. That leaves the Democrats in a quandary. They were not happy to see Secretary Duncan campaigning for his approach with Newt Gingrich. Maybe it will turn out to be a winning strategy for Secretary Duncan. He may get what he wants. It just won’t be good for American education or our kids.

Q) When the administration officials told you you were mistaken, what did they say you were mistaken about?
A) I asked why they are pushing states to increase the number of charter schools, when studies and NAEP show that charters don’t get better results on average than regular public schools; they said they are not pushing states to increase the number of charter schools. I was incredulous because many states lifted their charter caps in hopes of getting RTTT money. When I asked if they thought it was a good idea for state legislatures to set professional standards for evaluating teachers, they again disclaimed any connection with what states are doing to get RTTT money, even though the administration wrote the criteria and the states are responding to them.

Q) If you got a chance to talk to President Obama, what would you tell him?
A) I would urge him to change course before it is too late. I would tell him that charter schools in the aggregate don’t get better results than regular public schools. I would tell him that his push to have teachers evaluated by student test scores is wrong, and that standards for evaluation should be designed by professionals, not by politicians. I would urge him to stop using language of failing, punishing, closing, and firing and speak instead of improving, building, supporting, and encouraging.

I would urge him to think about ways of strengthening American public education because it is one of the foundational elements of our democracy. I would urge him to speak about the importance of a strong curriculum for all kids in every school, one that includes the arts, history, literature, foreign languages, civics, economics, physical education, science, and mathematics. I would urge him to recognize that high-stakes testing in basic skills steals time from everything else that should be taught and that it is thus undermining education. I would also implore him not to recommend testing every other subject, as there would soon be no time for instruction, only testing.

Q) Do you think there will be political consequences for the administration’s education policy?
A) The administration’s alienation of teachers is a really bad idea politically. There are four million teachers, and they vote. They have families. There are retired teachers, who care deeply about our public education system. The President is heading into a tough mid-term election. I don’t see the point of cultivating Republicans and endorsing their agenda of privatization and tough accountability, because they won’t vote for him anyway. And I don’t see the point of disrespecting public school teachers, who are one of his core constituencies.

Q) What should parents, teachers and concerned citizens do now?
A) I hope that everyone who cares about these issues will write to their elected officials--their Congressman, their Senators, their state and local legislators. I hope they write letters to the editor. Speak up, protest, demonstrate, make your voice heard. Citizen action is needed. Don't agonize, organize.

-0-

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By Valerie Strauss  | June 22, 2010; 5:30 AM ET
Categories:  Diane Ravitch, Education Secretary Duncan, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Teachers  | Tags:  arne duncan, death and life of the great american school system, diane ravitch, diane ravitch's book, no child left behind, obama blueprint for reform, race to the top, teachers, teachers unions and reform  
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Comments

Failing schools are in failing communities in failing economies within a failed national economy. Further most of the failures of schools can be traced to failed one parent families, teen Moms, violence and drugs, gangs and alarming levels of incarceration of minorities. Poverty-racism are overwhelming education reform. The blind reliance on corporate business models and corporate testing regimes are clear signs that Obama has been co-opted by the powerful corporate interests. How can you teach when so many kids are living in dysfunctional families, dysfunctional neighborhoods and under an apartheid like social policy in major urban areas? It is so easy to preach the gospel of testing and more testing and more testing. It is so much more difficult to work as a community to raise our neighbors out of poverty and confront racism. Education reform without the rejection of dehumanizing globalization is pointless. We are either all brothers and sisters or all fighting over the scraps from the corporate table of savage competition. Kudos to Ravitch for her work but Washington's neo-fascists dominate the national economic forum. Federal money will corrupt all of our values!

Posted by: fsg2118 | June 22, 2010 6:57 AM | Report abuse

"....Living outside the Beltway, I am struck by the fact that the education think tanks in DC are like an echo chamber. Almost all share the "consensus," and because they agree with one another, they think they are right...."
______________

Diane Ravitch, thank you again for all of your tireless work on behalf of education.

Your statement above brings to mind this chilling quote from the Ibsen play, "An Enemy of the People", about a doctor trying to do the right thing for a town and the town's politician's turning people against him because he threatens their interests. The good doctor cries out as he is being mobbed by an angry crowd,
"Was the majority right when they crucified Christ?"

I feel like the public schools and teachers particularly, have become villified in much the same way as the good doctor.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | June 22, 2010 8:21 AM | Report abuse

May God Bless Diane Ravitch & Valerie Strauss. You are champions for millions of voiceless Americans--not just teachers, but parents, business leaders and entire communities. This article says it all.

What was Arne Duncan setting out to fix? Was it the quality of public education, or was it, unions? The DOE has lost their focus. We know NCLB didn't work, doesn't work, and will not work the way it remains.

It is ok to change course when you are headed for demise.

Valerie & Diane, you inspire hope to continue. Your brilliance and courage are beacons of light we all need to continue this crusade. We must put public schools in this country back on track towards quality education.

Thank you for helping us put the 'public' back in public education!

With great admiration to you both!

Posted by: rsolnet | June 22, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

I have talked with a number of Democratic members of the House, including several senior members of the House Committee on Education and Labor, who at a minimum are skeptical about Race to the Top, were quite challenging in their questioning of Duncan the last time he was before them, but who are not particularly sanguine about stopping the freight train of RttT because George Miller and Nancy Pelosi are willing to back the President and Duncan on this. As a teacher, I have to say I am worried that this administration is doing more that will damage public education than occurred in the 8 years of the Bush administration. I do not think either the President or Duncan fully understands public education. And it is not just the remarks about the firings at Central Falls that antagonizes teachers. I remember Duncan saying that Katrina was the best thing to happen to New Orleans public schools.

Gen McCrystal might get fired over his reckless remarks in the Rolling Stone piece. But then, he was critical of key figures in the administration. Duncan can make truly stupid remarks about New Orleans and Central Falls, but he has the complete backing of the President.

I continue to try to change minds, but increasingly I am seeing this as attempting a quixotic charge on windmills when the real war may already be over. I worry for future generations of students, and I feel for those teachers who are being pummeled by poorly conceived policy. So far I am lucky in having enough freedom to teach with integrity, although if the (Democratic) governor of the state in which I teach gets his way, that will also soon be restricted.

Posted by: teacherken | June 22, 2010 9:21 AM | Report abuse

This is hyperbole.... education turning into business? That is laughable. The greater point here, is that teaching profession is one with near zero accountability. Teachers can show up for work, and get a pay check. Do most teachers do this? No. But the point is that some do, and no matter which school district you visit, there is no effective and complete mechanism for removing these under-performing teachers. And where there are systems for removal, there is usually more disincentive than incentive to comlete the dismisal process. Now a good debate would be the extent to which testing should serve as an indicator of teacher effectiveness- and I grant tha Ravitch does make this argument as well- but we should also focus on moving this debate forward by considering other metrics that might serve as valuable evidence of teacher(and principal!) effectiveness. As long as the youngest teachers are removed as opposed to the least effective, and as long as teachers are awarded based on seniority as opposed to their ability (however we measure it), it seems to me Ravitch's argument is going to be on shakey moral footing.

Posted by: Mccrabster | June 22, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

teacherken,

The Obama adiministration is also doing more to help education. But I'm afraid you may be right "this administration is doing more that will damage public education than occurred in the 8 years of the Bush."

Being a teacher, I suspect you have seen a pattern that noneducators often don't understand. Progress is slow and incremental. But mistakes can quickly produce huge amounts of untintended damage.

Regardless, we must be thankful for Diane Ravitch and Valerie Strauss.

Posted by: johnt4853 | June 22, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Diane is correct. We are astonished and extremely disappointed with this administration and their deficit stance on public education.
Diane is correct. We do vote-our friends, neighbors and families vote too.

Posted by: olas10 | June 22, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

So,
I'd like to know what everyone is doing to help Dr. Ravitch in this cause?
Please tell me so I can look at doing some of the same.
Here is what I've done so far.

I've written a post card to Mrs. Obama and sent this "campaign" to as many people that I thought would do it. My hubby wrote one as well.

I've attended a town hall meeting and quoted a lot of information I've gathered from the "Bridging Differences" blog on Education Week in which Dr. Ravitch and Dr. Deborah Meier are corresponding.

I sent a letter with the above information to my representatives.

I've gone to Congress.org and shared my thinking with President Obama and Secretary Duncan. Maybe we should all call in requesting President Obama talk to Dr. Ravitch. He should also talk to all sorts of assessment experts like Dr. Allington and Dr. Peter Johnston. He should be talking to the people at Forum for Education and Democracy as well.

I've written an article, that will be published, around the power behind classroom assessment and why it's better than a computerized, multiple choice test.

I've gone to John Stewart's web page requesting that he have Dr. Ravitch on.

I do want to write a letter to the editor but am not sure what the best theme would be out of so many. Any ideas?

I plan to go to congress.org, and call the House and Senate Education committee since they don't take e-mails from outside their districts.

I read the Forum for Education and Democracy to also keep updated on information.

Tell me what you are doing? What more can we do? Please contact John Stewart and encourage him to have Dr. Ravitch on.

Posted by: tutucker | June 22, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Ravitch describes her discussions with teachers, yet clarifies that these discussions do not necessarily mean union leaders. This is the 'gathering storm' teachers must face: standing up for what should be done even if it means countering your own union/school administrators/politicians.

While I enjoyed reading her book, Ms. Ravitch was general at best on what should be done, and how it could be done. I disagree with her fear of 'privitization'; Charter schools offer parents, low income parents particularly, that cherished American value of liberty: the freedom to choose what's best for your child. You only get one chance to rear them, and when you're trapped in a horrid school system you can't 'hope' for 'change'; charters give parents that choice, and with all things you must choose wisely.

Posted by: pdfordiii | June 22, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Mccrabster wrote: Teachers can show up for work, and get a pay check. Do most teachers do this? No. But the point is that some do, and no matter which school district you visit, there is no effective and complete mechanism for removing these under-performing teachers. . . As long as the youngest teachers are removed as opposed to the least effective, and as long as teachers are awarded based on seniority as opposed to their ability (however we measure it), it seems to me Ravitch's argument is going to be on shakey moral footing.
-----------------
There are mechanisms for removing ineffective teachers. It takes a committed administrator to do so. Removal involves documentation of the teacher's ineffectiveness and observations by administration and outside observers. Some administrators just don't want to be bothered. Also, I've heard districts criticized for not firing teachers when, in reality, teachers resigned prior to being fired. If ineffective teachers are removed, does it matter whether it is by resignation or dismissal as long as they are gone?

I am always incensed by the assumption that younger = effective and senior = ineffective. Research shows that teachers aren't generally capable of teaching on their own for at least 2 years. Is someone with one year experience more effective than someone with 25? Teaching seems to be the only profession in which those outside the profession think that experience is a negative.

Posted by: musiclady | June 22, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

The national and state Democratic party leaderships are to blame in the seriously flawed thinking about public education. While my state of Washington had planks in the state Democratic party platform to get rid of the high stakes tests for high school graduation, the governor and party leadership continued to promote it. The Democrat controlled state legislature continued to promote it.

That this state is also the home of Microsoft and the Gates Foundation, which also promoted many untested educational strategies and created more business products schools felt they couldn't live without, is probably no coincidence.

The one good thing about NCLB was that it forced states like Washington to disaggregate test scores for sub-groups. Before this many of us knew but had more difficulty proving the inequitable education outcomes for students of color and ESPECIALLY students in poverty.

What education policy makers have done with the information though has either been to ignore it, address it with gimmicks, or blame the teachers. (FYI-I was a school board member and have never been a teacher.)

Posted by: speakuplouder | June 22, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

The Congressmen and women that Diane met with have stated that they are likely "powerless" to stop the President's education agenda. What they are really saying is they are powerless to stop the corporate agenda for education.

No Child Left and Behind and now Race to the Top have very little to do with meaningful reform and everything to do with profit and the privatization of education. The President has given Arne Duncan carte blanche because the corporate backers who put him in the White House demand nothing less.

No amount of data or proof that what the DOE is proposing won't achieve successful reform falls on deaf ears. The people running the DOE do not define successful reform as in-depth education that leads to problem solving ability, critical thinking ability or the ability to be actively involved in a democratic society. Rather, they define reform as the elimination of the teaching profession and the creation of an industrial testing complex that ensures compliance and conformity.

And the current teacher-bashing that lays all of education's problems at their feet is a carefully orchestrated part of the plan. Academic success, as defined by a single high-stakes test score is a powerful tool to weed out not the so-called bad teachers than Duncan is fond of calling attention to, but rather the excellent ones who really do make a difference.

Educators and the children they serve were sold down the river the moment President Obama appointed Arne Duncan to define national education policy. And there is not a boat or raft in sight to make it to shore. Godspeed to each and everyone of us...

Posted by: PGutierrez1 | June 22, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

What we need, is a march on Washington equal to the anti-war marches of the Viet-Nam era. We need teachers and parents and kids in huge numbers shaking their fists at this stupid, destructive excuse for school reform.

We need reporters constantly badgering the president about why he supports reforms shown not to work.

Maybe even boycotting school for a week would work, to make the point that so much more than a week of school time is wasted on teaching to the test.

Posted by: efavorite | June 22, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Music Lady- I've been teaching for 10 years. I'll take an unpolished new teacher w/ promise over some of the people I've seen show up for work (late) any day of the week.

Administrators don't remove teachers b/c they have no incentive to do so. If their job depended on whether or not there was effective instrction going on in their building, more of the bottom could get shuffled out.

Posted by: Mccrabster | June 22, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Music Lady- I've been teaching for 10 years. I'll take an unpolished new teacher w/ promise over some of the people I've seen show up for work (late) any day of the week.

Administrators don't remove teachers b/c they have no incentive to do so. If their job depended on whether or not there was effective instrction going on in their building, more of the bottom could get shuffled out.

Posted by: Mccrabster | June 22, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

tutucker- You are awesome for taking the time to express your views to Congress. I could not tell if you are/were a teacher but my suggestion is that you just write a letter to your paper from your own personal point-of-view as an educator, parent, grandparent, or concerned citizen around the theme that concerns you most. It might be standardized testing, teacher bashing, corporate/foundation/DOE decision-making excluding local/parent/school input or research on proven practices, etc. Tell your story, give examples and maybe cite research, facts, or reputable quotes, then encourage your neighbors to ask Obama to tweak his generous support to better serve the children in your community.
Thank you Valerie and Diane for keeping us informed!

Posted by: redrockin | June 22, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

my concerns with ravitch have to do with her seeming lack of humility regarding the long period of time in which she espoused the approaches she now derides, and her lack of political strategy for making anything constructive happen on the reform front. we don't need more kozols and wellstones -- we need people like ravitch to be pushing for politically viable (compelling) alternatives to the current reform environment.

http://scholasticadministrator.typepad.com/thisweekineducation/2010/06/reform-ravitch-critique-lacks-humility-political-savvy.html

Posted by: alexanderrusso | June 22, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

How can we vote against Obama's education plan without voting for republican's who support it?

We do need a march on Washington. How do we organize it?

Posted by: aby1 | June 22, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I wish I could see 2 books written and titled as follows:

Arne Duncan: No Accountability (The Chicago years)

Arne Duncan: No Accountability (The Washington Years)

Posted by: aby1 | June 22, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Mccrabster--I understand where you are coming from. My problem is that you equate effectiveness with youth which may be the case where you teach. I've seen it work both ways. The least effective teachers that my kids had were 3 with less than 5 years experience. One of the best teachers they had was one who had been in the school for over 25 years. I've taught 34 years, with the last 25 being in the same school. It's interesting for me to note that effective teachers have run the gamut from those who are new to those who have as much experience as I have. Likewise, I've seen a number of burnouts--two of which had 3 years experience--who either quit or needed to. I've also seen my principal have teachers removed through following the evaluation system diligently. I simply object to older, experienced teachers assumed to be ineffective and younger teachers assumed to be effective merely on the basis of age.

Many of us continue to work tirelessly at improving our performance in the classroom regardless of number of years at the job.

Posted by: musiclady | June 22, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

In her Bridging Differences blog today at EdWeek, professor Ravitch states, "I stated my views, they stated theirs. We disagree on things like merit pay, high-stakes testing, evaluating teachers by their students' test scores, and giving public dollars to privately managed charters. I think Race to the Top will turn out badly, they don't. I don't think I changed anyone's mind, and they didn't try to change mine."

Sounds like she hit a wall. While they were polite enough to invite her into the conversation and seemingly listen to what she had to say, it sounds as though they essentially ignored her thoughts. Wonder why?

Her book complains about many of today's proposed reforms without offering anything substantive it/her/self.

Yes, she has the support of countless teachers from coast to coast but that's because they're scared to death of the stuff Obama is pushing for in RttT: CHANGE to the status quo.

Posted by: phoss1 | June 22, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Yes, a march on Washington and a boycott are really fine ideas, efavorite.

But you gotta deal with the teacher issues as well as all the other important issues.

Ravitch does not deal frontally w the teacher quality issues.

And remember, she is a Bushie first and foremost and cannot be trusted to be objective as a result.

Posted by: axolotl | June 22, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

To: Tutucker

You have done a great deal and I hope others read and follow in your footsteps.

One suggestion I had while reading your list of action steps was this:

--Visit your Congressmen and Senator in your area. Bring a teacher, (if you are not one) a parent, a business leader and a oopy of Diane's book or, at the very least, this article and links to her on camera interviews. All bases are covered.

Then, have a conversation about the real world.

And, be sure all attendees bring their voters cards and put those on the table! (kidding!)

And, yes, call JON STEWART (THE DAILY SHOW) & SUGGEST DIANE RAVITCH AS A GUEST !! (212) 468-1700

Posted by: rsolnet | June 22, 2010 5:46 PM | Report abuse

If this continues, teachers across America will not be supporting Obama in 2012, although I don't know if the other side is going to be much better. 2010..the year of the jihad against teachers...and I don't even know why. Please move on to another group to pick on.

Posted by: veteranteacher1 | June 22, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Boy, everyone's objections to charter schools means Obama has finally found something he's doing right. All three of my children attend charter schools in Rochester NY. I would not have even THOUGHT of putting them in a public school where 36% of the students graduate, after moving from a suburban area to the city. Maybe there is a lot of focus on testing, but there has to be some type of measurment and accountablity. I teach Pre-k and the "experts" continue to make choices that will not benefit the kids in the long run.
Veteran teacher: There are A LOT of teachers who did not support Obama the first time around who will NOT support him (or his party) in future elections.
Musiclady: Because of teacher's unions it doesn't matter if the administrator wants to remove someone. The union protects poor teachers/teachers who don't care/teachers waiting until retirement.
The "for-profit" schools should be looked at as the "American Way" The successful ones are producing students who are learning, graduating, going on to college or further education. Public education has been in trouble for a LONG time now.

Posted by: rochesternative | June 22, 2010 11:24 PM | Report abuse

from efavorite:

What we need, is a march on Washington equal to the anti-war marches of the Viet-Nam era. We need teachers and parents and kids in huge numbers shaking their fists at this stupid, destructive excuse for school reform.

We need reporters constantly badgering the president about why he supports reforms shown not to work.

Maybe even boycotting school for a week would work, to make the point that so much more than a week of school time is wasted on teaching to the test.
_______________________

I second these motions, exept in the last one, think boycotting school for a week isn't enough; boycott until teachers win some major concessions, i.e., Arne Duncan resigns.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | June 22, 2010 11:25 PM | Report abuse

from efavorite:

What we need, is a march on Washington equal to the anti-war marches of the Viet-Nam era. We need teachers and parents and kids in huge numbers shaking their fists at this stupid, destructive excuse for school reform.

We need reporters constantly badgering the president about why he supports reforms shown not to work.

Maybe even boycotting school for a week would work, to make the point that so much more than a week of school time is wasted on teaching to the test.
_______________________

I second these motions, except in the last one, think boycotting school for a week isn't enough; boycott until teachers win some major concessions, i.e., Arne Duncan resigns.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | June 22, 2010 11:30 PM | Report abuse

I've been teaching for 12 years, and have both a Master's Degree in Education and a National Board Certification. I worked on these to improve my skills as well as, frankly, to make a decent living. Teaching students in my own neighborhood is my life, but I must say that, with 2010's attacks on public school teachers, especially inner city teachers like myself, I have seriously considered changing professions.

I also am a parent of two inner-city students: one of the few who has faith enough to send them to a feeder school of Garfield High School, the school I serve. They have always been Advanced in their state test scores.

Is it because of the teaching? I expect so: my kids are getting a great education with wonderful teachers who have each been teaching for at least 15 years (I asked). How much of it is that both of my childrens' parents are highly educated Chicanos who work diligently on their skills in a happy, loving home?
The fact is that at least half of the 130 students that I serve are from broken homes. Several are undocumented and so living the stress of this daily challenge, and most have English as their second language. Some don't know where their next meal will come from, so how can I expect them to make homework first? BTW: their daily homework is to read for 30 minutes from a book I've helped them choose at their reading level and to write a short reflection on their reading. Their writing skills tend to be so low that the vast majority of the learning is done in class. I've tried (as other teachers have) to have them do work at home: doesn't happen.

I try, try, try. I keep them in at lunch, nutrition, and afterschool. I call parents who tell me their children don't want to come to school. I get lauded for being "one of the good ones" at Green Dot meetings when I try to tell parents the error of assuming that Garfield is a "bad" school with "bad" influences (the main reason why many choose charters), yet MY STUDENTS SCORES RARELY GO UP.
So I should be fired?

I am a bad teacher for not helping all of my students rise above their challenges.

Posted by: EastLosAngelesTeacher | June 22, 2010 11:37 PM | Report abuse

rochesternative wrote: Musiclady: Because of teacher's unions it doesn't matter if the administrator wants to remove someone. The union protects poor teachers/teachers who don't care/teachers waiting until retirement.
_________________
That simply is not true. The union guarantees due process. Anyone who has ever watched a vindictive administrator harass teachers for reasons not related to classroom performance understands that.

Posted by: musiclady | June 23, 2010 12:41 AM | Report abuse

Please note that there are two possible "Million Teacher Marchs" happening soon. Check out the website/FB SOS Million Teacher March. I also beleive AFT may be sponsoring a march as well. Teachers have been docile for far too long!

Posted by: grace_antunes | June 23, 2010 6:53 AM | Report abuse

I was just reading an article in Forbes about Obama's biggest mistake. It stated that his biggest problem was continuing so many of Bush's policies . This is particularly ironic after winning an election on "Change We Can Believe In". Having worked under Arnie Duncan in Chicago, I know that he has no background in Education. His biggest accomplishment seems to be that he played basketball with Obama when they both lived there.

Posted by: roosboys | June 23, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

You can't really discuss de facto school privatization disguised as school chartering and its financial influence in corrupting education policy without mentioning the billionaire foundations: principally the Walton, Broad and Gates foundation's "venture philanthropy" although there are many more, including hedge funds. Won't it be wonderful when shares in your kids school are traded on Wall Street?

Posted by: eclark1 | June 23, 2010 8:12 PM | Report abuse

The nation’s education collectives require arbitration before teachers can be fired. Those guilds select arbiters who are reluctant to recommend firing their employers for incompetence. It is virtually impossible to fire teachers for poor performance. Education unions should be disenfranchised so that educators can bear the same employment prospects as the vast majority of the people who provide their salaries and benefits.
In this article, Ravitch’s arguments lack rational deliberation. Her appeals are to pathos, or emotion, rather than to logos, or intellect. She reveals that the people with whom she interacted, “don’t like…feel that…were hopeful…were shocked…feel trapped.” Ravitch lacks plausible arguments to support her demands that taxpayers should support the arbitrary, subjective, and affectively chosen beliefs of these so-called professionals.

Posted by: linsim | June 25, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Diane Ravitch and Valerie Strauss.
With money being so tight it seems like an enormous waste to be putting so much money into state tests. Why not just have national tests and take it off the state's budget.
About 15 years ago I sat in a teacher's room and I said if we don't improve on the quality of education on our own we are going to lose our autonomy and government is going to script our jobs. But what I didn't see coming was the direct disrespect that is prevalent among politicians towards teachers. It's not all our fault. Testing not teaching is a detriment to quality instruction.

Posted by: ananna | June 25, 2010 8:31 PM | Report abuse

If one wants to reform education, the biggest evidence is before your eyes. Do you not see it? In any given city, which PUBLIC schools do the best? The affluent schools do the best. 'Failing' schools start improving, why? The neighborhood is gentrifying. Are the teachers better in these schools, NO! In fact I have seen far better teaching in the 'failing' schools. Why? The pressure is so great there. The teachers are expected to do far more than someone in the 'good' schools. Students can make a teacher look good or look bad. The students are not PRODUCTS, they are not assembled like a factory assembles a car. Are the teachers failing? Probably not, why? The assembly line worker (teacher) in a car factory may be the best worker ever, if the product, its design, the raw materials are faulty, etc. (curriculum, leadership, lack of supplies)is bad the great worker will not make the car (student) any better. Look at the systemic problems. Clean up the neighborhoods, educate the parents, involve th ecommunity, restore discipline in the classroom and 'VOILA!' a better school. The problem is systemic, ask the teachers, they have the answers for they are "faces on the front line." The business model fails because they don't go to where the problem lies: the common worker who deals with failing policies and ideas of the "experts." Clean up the community and the schools will follow WITHOUT any reform. I have seen it and you have, too.

Diane, they turn a blind eye for one reason, 'If one attends an 'elitest' school they become 'elite.'" That is the real popularity of charters. Why not give public schools the breaks they give charters with RTTT? The schools really don't determine the altitude of students, their attitude does! I attended both, give me pulic schools any day. THe constitution guarantees "free PUBLIC, education" not public monies going to private schools. The founding fathers were very clear about that. They were trying to prevent a caste system in America that existed in England. Do the research.

Posted by: pcrabtree | June 28, 2010 8:20 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone ask the question: Who is profitinf from all the tests and is that the best use of our tax dollars? Any slueth will tell you, follow the money and you will find the REAL reason,ie. education reform. WHo is really profitting?

Posted by: pcrabtree | June 28, 2010 8:25 AM | Report abuse

My last comment, if all of you are such 'experts' on education, whay aren't you in the classroom, especially Mr, Duncan? We chose teaching because we love teaching and children. The commemnt, 'teachers work for only a paycheck', what teacher makes that kind of money? Why should we give up our private time, family time, and G-ds time without compensation, do you or would you? 'Experts,' join the education family and THEN tell us the way it should be done.

Posted by: pcrabtree | June 28, 2010 8:43 AM | Report abuse

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