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Posted at 5:00 AM ET, 03/ 3/2011

The Diane Ravitch myth

By Valerie Strauss

Anybody reading much of the commentary written on education policy could be forgiven for thinking that education historian Diane Ravitch is somehow the Wizardess of Ed, the woman behind the curtain secretly pulling the strings.

So many commentators take verbal shots at her that you’d think she had the policy-making power of, say, President Obama, or Education Secretary Arne Duncan, or billionaire education philanthropist Bill Gates. (When Gates decides to fund a particular initiative, it immediately becomes the reform approach of the hour.)

Gates has, in fact, mocked her. Billionaire Whitney Tilson has made a second career out of attacking her. Even my colleague Jay Mathews wrote a column on his Class Struggle blog that called “erudite” a Tilson piece in which Tilson personally attacked Ravitch, and then Jay took Ravitch to task for something she said about Teach for America about which I don't think she was wrong.

Ravitch has developed a powerful following among public school teachers, who have found in her a champion amidst what they see as a governmental assault on their profession. She is the most prominent voice articulating opposition to the corporate-driven reforms being pursued by the Obama administration, with Republican approval.

But having support from teachers doesn’t equal an ounce of policy-making power, of which she has none. And let’s be clear, her viewpoint isn’t exactly winning the day.

School “reform” in this country is well down a specific road, one that seeks to view the public school system as something of a business rather than a civic institution and that promotes choice in the form of charter schools, vouchers, etc., as well as standardized tests as the key measurement of student achievement and teacher effectiveness.

You can like the road that we are on, or you can dislike the road that we are on, but you can’t, with any credibility, deny that we are on it:

* The Obama administration’s central education initiative to date, the $4.3 billion Race to the Top competition, sent money to 11 states and the District of Columbia, all of which promised to implement these reforms. Other states are passing laws to implement them, too, in some cases with more support from teachers unions than the public is led to believe.

* New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg installed Cathleen Black, a woman with no experience in public schools, as chancellor of the country’s largest public school system. She was tapped because she was an excellent media executive who knows how to run a business.

* The superstar in education is Michelle Rhee, who, after a 3 1/2-year run as D.C. schools chancellor in which she had mixed results, is fronting a new organization that is raising $1 billion to take on teachers unions. Rhee has been on “The Colbert Report,” not Ravitch. (Jon Stewart is hosting Ravitch tonight on "The Daily Show" for the first time since 2003.)

* Gates gives speeches that sound like they were written by Duncan’s speechwriter. (Both men, for example, have recently been promoting the idea of raising class size.)

Who controls policy? Who controls the debate? Not Diane Ravitch.

Ravitch is a 72-year-old grandmother, education historian, New York University research professor, policy analyst, former deputy education secretary and author who essentially works alone. Her book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” became a best-seller last year and injected into the country's reform narrative a smart, dissenting voice.

Teachers look to her because she says:

* Public schools should not be run like businesses.

* Teachers alone cannot be held responsible for poverty, apathy, neglect, abuse, hunger, sickness and uneven distribution of resources that leaves some of them spending their own money to buy pencils for their students. But in our rush to make standardized testing the measure of how students and teachers perform, we pretend they are.

* Public schools should be funded by the public, not super-wealthy Americans and foundations who set the education agenda for the rest of us.

* Charter schools, many of them run by private companies trying to make a profit, are not the the answer to the country's educational problems.

Ravitch was recently tapped as the recipient of the 2011 Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize from the American Academy of Political and Social Science, an award created to "recognize social scientists and other leaders in the public arena who champion the use of informed judgment to advance the public good." And her book was named by readers of Education Next -- a publication that does NOT subscribe to Ravitch’s education views -- as the most important book of the last decade by a wide margin.

Ravitch is a tough lady, and she knows that her public position opens her up to attack. Still, I can’t help wondering why she is so often the target of things that don’t matter. In recent months:

* She’s been attacked for having changed her positions; she was once a supporter of No Child Left Behind but changed her mind after looking at the results. Big-time activists and fundraisers in the Democratic Party, the longtime supporter of traditional public schools, are pouring millions into the reforms that they once would have repudiated at the same time some of them belittle Ravitch for changing her own positions.

* She’s been attacked for not having a step-by-step program for fixing broken schools, as if one exists, as if any of her attackers really know the answer, and as if she claimed to be anything other than a historian.

* She’s been accused of tweeting too much. (When I think of too much tweeting, frankly, Ashton Kutcher comes to mind, but maybe that’s just me.)

* Her opinions have been pronounced to be personal vendettas as opposed to legitimate policy positions based on her own research.

Attacking Ravitch has become almost reflexive for Tilson; he recently wrote a post on his blog defending Joel Klein against a piece I published on my blog by a New York City teacher, but started it by saying that it sounded like Ravitch had written it. [Tilson asked me to publish his Klein defense, which I have not yet done.] Ravitch, incidentally, hasn’t ever written about Tilson, who is one of the founding members of Teach for America.

At least nobody has accused Ravitch of mistreating her dog. Yet.

This all underscores the sad level of debate on education policy in this question. We can’t even agree on the questions, much less the answers. And those that dare deviate from the official line find themselves open to attack, much of it not fair. At least if you are Diane Ravitch.

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By Valerie Strauss  | March 3, 2011; 5:00 AM ET
Categories:  Diane Ravitch  | Tags:  arne duncan, bill gates, charter schools, colbert report, diane ravitch, jon stewart, president obama, school reform, whitney tilson  
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This weekend, my high school debate students will be tackling many of the issues raised by Race to the Top. In preparing for the competition, they have found the issues as raised by Ms. Ravitch an invaluable tool. My students, so often focused on their daily agendas, found much with which to agree in her clear analysis on educational policy. I appreciate her contributions and look forward to Saturday's contest.

To find out how it all went, please visit my blog at

Posted by: dcproud1 | March 3, 2011 7:38 AM | Report abuse

Diane Ravitch is a giant in the education industry. She is also the champion of teachers nationwide for her much publicized views on contemporary education. She's the most prominent educational historian since her predecessor, Lawrence Cremin from Teachers College and somehow people believe this should somehow enable her to lead our schools down the path of credible reform in her name's sake. For these reasons many are puzzled by her apparent inability to define a "cure" for what ails our public schools.

There are simply too many variables negatively impacting our public schools for a single magic bullet to handle them all. She knows that as do most who have followed the ed reform trail since A Nation At Risk was published in 1983. She has eluded to perhaps the best suggestion to date to fix our schools, a comprehensive and challenging curriculum in every discipline at every grade, but somehow this message has been lost in all the hoopla over merit pay, charter schools, evaluating teachers based on their students' test scores, collective bargaining rights, etc.

Will any of this ever be resolved to the point where our schools are reformed and the achievement gap is wiped out? I certainly hope so, but unfortunately it doesn't appear as though it's going to happen this week.

Posted by: paulhoss | March 3, 2011 8:08 AM | Report abuse

Here's what Ravitch is--and Whitney Tilson, Arne Duncan and Bill Gates aren't: evidence-based. Ravitch is first and foremost a scholar, and it shows in her writing and her tireless campaign to keep America from trashing its public school system.

Posted by: nflanagan2 | March 3, 2011 8:18 AM | Report abuse

Stunning to me is that we have been careless to note that Diane personifies for us all what the intellectual life can bring.

I suspect that Diane has spent her life much like mine--in academia, taking knowledge, knowing, and coming to know very seriously. We have been afforded the luxury and privilege of that pursuit.

And Diane has had the unique opportunity to be a PUBLIC intellectual. The gift she is offering to those with closed minds and their hands clamped over their ears (the know-it-alls who run this world) is the art of changing ones mind based on the evidence.

That is not an easy thing to do.

I beat my head against a wall I built myself over the first ten years as a classroom ELA teacher in my approach to teaching writing. Then through the National Writing Project, I was forced to admit I WAS WRONG, and set out on a journey that continues to this day, almost 20 years later. . .with no end in sight.

It takes humility to acknowledge Diane's lesson for us all. Humility is a rare thing among winners and leaders, I fear, but it would be a welcomed quality we should all embrace and even expect.

Ironically (or "coincidentally" is more accurate), I suspect Diane would recommend Gates, Duncan, et al., take a few moments to read some classic literature and come to grips with the dangers of hubris.

Thank you, Valerie, for this post, and thank you, Diane, for asking us to see this as a journey, not a destination.

Posted by: plthomas3 | March 3, 2011 8:42 AM | Report abuse

As a giant in public education, Ravitch indeed is implicated in the Great Decline. Did you mention her Republican ed policy roots and role?

And why couch it as a "government" assault on teachers? The people elected executive and legislative branch officials at local and federal levels. The officials are doing what the people want.

Parents are demanding that the quality of the teacher corps be upgraded by letting the less than effective teachers go and developing further our effective teachers. Parents and other citizens won't stand for years of further delay in increasing the number of effective teachers.

Ravitch appears to want to bring this process to a halt, but she is fighting the vast majority of the American people.

Posted by: axolotl | March 3, 2011 8:52 AM | Report abuse

I can respect where Diane Ravitch is coming from, but even as a historian, if you are going to assert strong viewpoints about education in this country, you need to have more than just an opinion - you need to have a plan. I'm a former teacher in a high-poverty school, and I agree that teachers can't be expected to single-handedly overcome everything that underprivileged children bring with them to school. However, I don't understand the sense in talking about poverty unless you can provide some SUSTAINABLE solution to poverty that doesn't involve fixing education. Perhaps Ravitch, as a historian, should be spending more of her time talking about American schools of decades past when there were health professionals on hand to help treat the health challenges that poor students have. That is one step towards overcoming poverty without placing all of the burden on teachers.

Too many American schools fail their students - period. Pointing fingers at those pushing for change doesn't help, nor does being closed-minded to innovative solutions. We've known for decades that our schools don't provide the opportunities we want for all of our children, so let's stop pretending that maintaining the status quo will fix that. Teachers need respect, but we can give them that while also raising expectations. (Check out my blog,, for some of my thoughts on teacher quality.) I applaud Ravitch for giving us food for thought, but we're supposed to study history to help us avoid the same mistakes in the future, and I'm not seeing any solutions from her so far that will help us do that.

Posted by: eduescritora | March 3, 2011 9:09 AM | Report abuse

"she(Diane) is fighting the vast majority of the American people."

This is the most idiotic and misleading conclusion. Majority of the American people actually have no idea what Race to the Top is. They can't tell you what NCLB is either. Majority of middle class Americans are very happy about the teachers of their kids. Read some studies before opening your mouth so you don't look stupid. You accurately represent those reformers who make things up and ignore reality and facts.

Posted by: washingtonian2011 | March 3, 2011 9:37 AM | Report abuse

From Tilson:

"My goal is to expose her for what I believe she is: a thinly disguised shill for the teachers’ unions, advancing their agenda of entrenching the unacceptable status quo that’s working very well for the adults, but hurting millions of children, especially the most disadvantaged ones."

Is he writing about Valerie Strauss?

Posted by: frankb1 | March 3, 2011 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Ha.... More charter school scandal:,0,3016315.story

Posted by: washingtonian2011 | March 3, 2011 9:53 AM | Report abuse

if you want to attach Diane, why don't you use some statistics, numbers, research and evidence? All you can do is run your mouth like Tilson and Rhee? Trust me, the public will see what's really going on very soon.

Posted by: washingtonian2011 | March 3, 2011 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Washingtonian2011--the last person to use the "oh, you don't understand" defense, referring to the American people, was Geo. W. Bush.

If he's not your idol, you still sound like him.

You should recognize: We are all experts in education, and we are not going to let the inmates run the asylum.

The anti-reformers only produce delay in improvements and insulation from the people whose kids are being victimized in our large urban districts by putting teachers first in too many ways. Leave No Teacher Behind is not what the people want (Democrats, Republicans, Tea Partiers, etc. BTW--this is not about collective bargaining rights--teachers deserve them, but not primacy over the interests of students or taxpayers.)


Its been grand. Am joining a new organization with a deep involvement in education. I treasure every exchange on this blogue, and wish you all the best. I look forward to "meeting" some of you again.

Posted by: axolotl | March 3, 2011 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Title: Puerile Reasoning Skills

Frank's argument type
Is to quote a lame passage
And include a gripe.

Posted by: DHume1 | March 3, 2011 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Mayor Bloomberg has also used his new attack dog press secretary to attack her in the media.

But what I don't understand is why more broadcast shows like Oprah, Charlie Rose and the Sunday talk shows are not booking her. Is it because these billionaires also control the airways??

Posted by: Schoolgal | March 3, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

LMAO!!! hahahaha....still same old tricks you got. If you think you are really an education expert like Diane, then act like one. Do your research, find your evidence, do investigation, analyze statistics...wait, you probably even don't know how to because you never even learn how to. Talk is soooo cheap!

Posted by: washingtonian2011 | March 3, 2011 10:42 AM | Report abuse

This is a pretty good link, thanks for the pointer. It shows that Ravitch just cherry picks research that has the results she wants.

I find this "anti-corporatism" from Strauss to be over top hypocrisy- in addition to being insipid. Does Strauss realize she works for a publicly traded corporation? Corporations aren't evil.

The core problem remains a cultural one, where many subcultures do not put enough value on education. The school system is effective for many students. More objective standards, more clear goals for students, and a system that optimizes those results is the goal.

Posted by: staticvars | March 3, 2011 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Apparently any article with Dr. Ravitch's name in the title becomes a troll magnet! Of course, they vilify Dr. Ravitch! When evidence, experience, common sense and fairness back all of your arguments and opinions, then the only recourse left for the corporatists, their shills and minions is to scapegoat and resort to ad hominem attacks. I look forward to see what she has to say tonight on the Daily Show!

Posted by: buckbuck11 | March 3, 2011 11:35 AM | Report abuse

"The core problem remains a cultural one, where many subcultures do not put enough value on education"

Bingo! That's exactly the problem. And that's exactly why poverty is always an issue in certain communities.

I grew up in east Asia, went to graduate school in the US with students from all over the world. Then I taught public school in northern Virginia where you see all types of, white, asian, hispanic, rich, poor, middle class..... I had first-hand observation on how cultures and subcultures effect parenting and students achievement.

And of course such things couldn't be discussed anywhere because they were 'racist'. However how poverty and social economic status effected learning were acceptable topics and there has been a lot of researches done.

Now in 2011, you aren't even allowed to discuss the relation between poverty and student achievement while everyone knows there's a strong connection. Self-proclaimed reformers want teachers to be responsible for everything. Teachers should be evaluated by things they can't control and can be fired by factors outside school. Such ideas are not only ridiculous but also impossible in countries like Finland, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan...well-known for high education equality. In where I grew up, we never blame teachers for the laziness of students and the ignorance of parents. Everyone's participation is important and crucial to education.

In the US, parents and students are off the hook. Teachers are the people who have to make everything happen. Politicians don't bother solving the real problems but blame teachers for everything. It's just sad ....and sick.

Posted by: washingtonian2011 | March 3, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

staticvars: "This is a pretty good link, thanks for the pointer. It shows that Ravitch just cherry picks research that has the results she wants."

This link only proves that Ravitch's evidence-based skepticism of charter schools as miracles (the claim by the NYT and Waiting for Superman)--CREDO: 17% of charters superior to public with 50% the same and 33% inferior--forces charter ADVOCATES to attack her.

It doesn't change the facts.

Posted by: plthomas3 | March 3, 2011 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Diane Ravitch is my hero!!!!!

Posted by: jlp19 | March 3, 2011 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Last night I was part of a discussion group that discussed the revolution in Egypt. We talked about how this unexpected event could have all kinds of repercussions for the entire world, many of which are unknown at this time.

The same is true for education. Although we DO know the path we are on at this time, there are several developments that might occur to change the course of this path. These are the two that I see happening:

Parents are starting to react to the "test prep" mentality that is becoming dominant in many schools. Involved and knowledgeable parents will not accept the current miseducation for long. It's only a matter of time before its effects are felt. Many schools are showing the documentary Race to Nowhere, which I'll see tonight:

The women who used to form the foundation of the K-12 workforce are now going into all other fields. As we can see from the "reformers" many want to make money from education, but few want to teach. As a result, a huge teacher shortage in my state is predicted. When the economy improves and all the Baby Boomers have retired, I think we'll see a huge shortage in all states.

So, as I see it, education can go in one or more ways. If the effects of this recession continue, we'll see teachers and other public employees lose many of the benefits they've worked so hard to earn. Many veteran and outspoken teachers will be deemed "ineffective" and will lose their jobs.

The other scenario is a huge teacher shortage for schools, especially those in urban areas. Places like D.C. will be unable to attract and retain qualified people. Most districts will be reluctant to hire anyone with " a warm body" as they sometimes did when I was employed. Instead they'll offer teachers improved working conditions, professional autonomy and higher salaries.

This latter possibility will result in K-12 teaching emerging as a full profession. Teachers will manage their own schools (back to head teachers) select and evaluate their colleagues through peer review, and (most important) be free to teach their students to the best of their abilities without interference from Mr. Rich Man or Governor Know Nothing. There will be strict requirements into the profession and no "emergency" credentials will be tolerated. Poor kids will get the same highly-qualified, experienced teachers that their privileged peers expect. Teachers unions will become the professional organizations that they were originally intended to be. Not only will teachers be invited to the table to discuss all aspects of schooling, but they will become "the table."

Yes, I am optimistic for teachers. I get my optimism from the fact that people like Rhee, Gates, Bloomberg, Klein, Henderson, etc. all share one thing in common: They would "die" if they had to teach.

It will all come down to supply and demand. If there is a glut of teachers, we'll continue down the road we're on. If there is a shortage, teachers will become full professionals at last

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | March 3, 2011 1:55 PM | Report abuse

My personal favorite part of the Diane Ravitch myth is when, clad in the raiment of Athena, she upbraided King Eurystheus for setting the 12 labors before Heracles, calling it a "dangerous overemphasis on testing."

Posted by: gardyloo | March 3, 2011 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Diane Ravitch is attacked because she has power, the power of moral authority. Those who do not understand this might reread Covey's "The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness," Chapt 15.

"In short, in a bad economy, we may go back to the carrot-and-stick, great jackass theory of human motivation because it works. But though it may enable survival, it will not optimize results." p 302

Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, President Obama, and a few others in leadership positions could also use a refresher.

Posted by: speakuplouder | March 3, 2011 2:18 PM | Report abuse

As a teacher at a public charter school and a Teach for America Corps Member, Ravitch, while respected in the field, continually belittles the work I do in the classroom.

She (and you) claim that charters are for-profit enterprises run by corporations. You infer to others that our motives are based in money, not in the success of our students. That is rude, insulting and frankly not true. It is further irresponsible of her (and you) to lump charters as a catch-all enemy of public education. Good schools are good schools and bad schools are bad schools regardless of their status as public neighborhood, public charter, magnet or otherwise.

My charter network, one that is recognized as being high-performing, is a public school run by non-profit 503c organization serving low-income communities in the northeast. Over 85% of our children qualify for free or reduced lunch. 96% of our high school students went to 4 year colleges last year. We simply think that we can do things better than they are now, because our kids deserve it, and we want the chance (and high accountability) to do so. And by the way, we do it.

-104 days into our 200 day school year, my readers have moved on average.75 years. 56% of my readers are on pace to be advanced by the end of the year. According to the Fountas and Pinnell benchmarks, all of my scholars are already “proficient” at the end of year level with half the year to go.

-On a recent math assessment aligned to the 3rd grade state exam, my students averaged 85% with 100% above the “passing” zone with raised cut scores.
-Standardized exams are not our sole focus as Ravitch claims. We have specific character goals ranging from respect, citizenship, curiosity, collaboration, and problem solving with planned components of our day aimed at growing our scholars into community leaders.

So while Diane rails against my school and my skills as a Teach for America corps member I would urge you to look again at the "reformers" you so despise. Maybe you don't like the background of Gates, Bloomberg, and Tilson, but does that immediately reduce their ideas to irrelevance? Am I not allowed to have perspectives on what works for students? Are traditionally trained educators the ONLY ones that are allowed to contribute to public discourse? It's not like the traditional system has worked that well the past 5 decades.

So while I, a TFA corps member and charter school teacher work to produce measurable results that show there is no excuse for low-income students to underperform and no excuse for our schools to remain an embarrassment, I am criticized. Yet the systems and paradigms supported by Diane Ravitch, the UFT, and NEA which have existed unsuccessfully for 50 years are kept as the ONLY way we can serve our children! While I don't expect Diane (or you) to agree with me, I do expect you to see me as a respected equal in this work and trust that my criticsm of Ravitch is presented to advocate for my students.

Posted by: grantanewman | March 3, 2011 4:37 PM | Report abuse


You are quite adept with the following: exaggeration and victimage.

Posted by: DHume1 | March 3, 2011 5:43 PM | Report abuse


Diane Ravitch always states, as she did in her book, that there are successful charter schools. Her point is that there are too few to be the panacea that they are portrayed to be. You mention mainly scores as the measure of success. That's another concern, that both charter public schools and traditional public schools are being driven more and more by standardized testing, not educating the whole child.

You mention character education, but do you also teach...the arts, science, literature, history, geography, civics....? Do you have unstructured learning where debate, discussion, critical thinking and creativity occur?

Do your students endure a lottery?

Does your school provide special education services? Do you accept students who are English language learners? One of the other concerns is that children with special needs, do not speak English and/or have discipline issues are frequently sorted out of charter schools. Many are worried, especially in urban districts, that traditional public schools will have greater and greater concentrations of these hardest-to-teach children. A new form of "segregation" and isolation.

Does your school, like other charter schools these days, benefit from lots of outside money, influential board members, media coverage, or other advantage?

The overall issue is that charter schools were originally created to be laboratories of innovation that would be in collaborative relationships with "sister" traditional schools or an entire school district.

When it shifted instead to a model of competition, we lost something very, very fundamental in what used to be our community-based, democratic public education system. That we should all be working together to educate all children, not sorting kids or competing with each other to get higher scores.

Posted by: jesse13 | March 3, 2011 6:58 PM | Report abuse

grantanewman: you are saying infer when you mean imply. Things that make you go hmmm.

Posted by: mcnyc | March 3, 2011 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Good post, Valerie. I think part of the reason that Diane Ravitch is such a lightning rod for criticism is that she's effective, and fairly isolated. Too few people in academics have the time, opportunity, or visibility to get out on the road and take on this fight. Beyond academia, teachers can't afford to hire anyone to take on the job of generating PR and countering Gates, Rhee, Tilson, Parent Revolution, and now our own DOE. Of course, Gates, Broad, Walton, et. al. have tons of money to finance the PR effort against public schools, teachers, and unions. The only collective voice we have on these issues is usually through a union, and that's making it easier for critics to dismiss the arguments - attack the messenger. It takes no analytical skill or thinking for anti-union punditry; they just say something snarky about unions and the status quo and trust that people won't think too deeply about the substance of the issues. Ed writers bear some responsibility too. It's all too easy now to pick your quotes from the usual cast of characters. Say the issue is performance pay: Duncan says... Rhee says... AFT/NEA says... There's another story done, all wrapped up.

To hear from some fresh voices and not leave it all to the unions or Diane Ravitch, ed writers might turn more to teacher leaders by way of Teacher Leaders Network and the Center for Teaching Quality, national and state level networks associated with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and state networks of teacher leaders, which can be found in many states including Washington, California, New Mexico, Arizona. (Disclosure: I'm affiliated with the national organizations I mentioned and with a network called Accomplished California Teachers).

Posted by: DavidBCohen | March 3, 2011 7:43 PM | Report abuse

the gall of those who would raise misgivings (much less outright criticism) against the saintly ravitch for commentary that can be careless, an about-face that she has never fully explained, and a certainty that is disconcerting (to me at least)

Posted by: alexanderrusso | March 3, 2011 7:49 PM | Report abuse

First, Ms. Ravitch responds to my tweets occasionally, and I appreciate that!
I disagree with her position on charter schools, but after reading her 'Death and Life' book I agree philosophically about what we should teach in schools.
I wish those who agree with her approach for reforming schools would actually exploit charter school laws and create a family of public schools run per her vision. Sitting around waiting for the government to reform is slower than sap in the winter, so it's past time for folks to exploit the current momentum for reform and prove your vision is best.
As for Mr. Gates, well, I've always been a Mac person; need I say more?

Posted by: pdexiii | March 3, 2011 8:00 PM | Report abuse

I am confused...I thought she helped cause the mess in government er forced schooling we have she is back tracking fast for something she helped cause. I have read her most recent book...really didn't find any conclusions or solid, innovative recommendations. when she finally made recommendations on her blog it sure sounded a lot like what KIPP and other quality charter, which is it...cannot have it both ways...

I prefer her work Left Behind.

Posted by: knoxelcomcastnet | March 3, 2011 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Dhume1, sorry if it seemed I was exaggerating, I hope it was clear that I was only writing from my own experiences in the classroom. Let me know if there is something specific I could clarify.

mcnyc, unfortunate typo, hate when the fingers go faster than the brain.

Jesse13, great points as the issue of charters is so complex. My school does offer full arts education (music, physical education, social skills and art)on a daily rotating cycle from wonderful teachers (I wish they were mine when I was in elem. school!). Additionally there is a huge emphasis on becoming a life-long learner within the school culture. All students receive full balanced-literacy instruction aligned to the F&P Continuum along with a reading comprehension (genre-based) block in the schedule. Math is taught through an investigatory curriculum. Upper elementary (3 & 4) students receive social studies and science education from specialists each day who have crafted curricula that focus on critical thinking, analysis and exploration.

Our school does provide special education services through an inclusion model. Each grade has at least one team-taught class with a special education and general education teacher responsible for all student's achievement. I teach in that classroom in 3rd grade with students that have special needs ranging from autism and asperger's, to ADD/ADHD and speech. Additionally all required services such as OT and PT are met at school.

Additionally, 20% of students are designated as English Language Learners. The neighborhood demographics are shifting suggesting that number will continue to rise. All notices that are send home are written in both English and Spanish, all parent teacher conferences or workshops are done in both languages and many staff members of bilingual.

In our 5th year, we have never counseled out a child.

Fortunately, in my state we receive equal per-pupil funding and don't rely on philanthropy for school operations.

I completely agree that we all should be working together to educate all children. This is exactly why it troubles me that that because of my background (TFA) or school (charter) or experience (2 years) I am told by the education establishment that the work I do for my students and the successes of my students are not helping education reform, or that my perspectives are less than those of someone who went through a traditional school, teaches in a neighborhood school or has many years of experience. All of that without ever looking at actually how effective I am at leading students to transformational learning and measurable achievement.

I love what I do and where I work because we do anything and everything for our kids, including changes to the traditional system that may make the adults less secure in their job or challenge a previously held idea. We make decisions based on one thing: what is best for children learn, and for that I couldn’t be prouder to be a product of TFA and a charter school teacher.

Posted by: grantanewman | March 3, 2011 8:44 PM | Report abuse

grantanewman: Your program sounds similar to great public school programs that do exist. If we were really committed to a great education for everyone we would stop this back and forth over unions, charters, effectiveness, etc, etc and get on with figuring out how to educate everyone. I don't think people should paint you or your school with a broad brush any more than traditional teachers and the unions that represent them. But in some places, where I live, for example, real estate is tight and charters are squeezing out traditional schools without accepting the displaced students.

Posted by: mcnyc | March 3, 2011 8:56 PM | Report abuse

"And her book was named by readers of Education Next -- a publication that does NOT subscribe to Ravitch’s education views -- as the most important book of the last decade by a wide margin."

What a dumb*** Valerie is. Education Next ran an internet poll, but the voters were almost certainly not "readers" of Education Next. Given how often Ravitch tweeted to tell her followers to go vote, she might as well have rigged that poll.

Posted by: educationobserver | March 4, 2011 8:57 AM | Report abuse

The way the Fox news has portrayed Wisconsin teachers has opened my eyes. They even showed a violent protest with palm trees in the background showing it as the "Wisconsin protests". Bill O' Reilly has been railing against teachers. Someone is paying for this. It just doesn't make sense.

Diane Ravitch tells the truth.

Posted by: georgia198305 | March 4, 2011 9:26 AM | Report abuse

I can't take the comments made by the TFA teacher seriously, first because of her use of straw men and secondly because she, like my brilliant TFA nephew, will move on to better career opportunities within a few years.

Posted by: fran12567 | March 4, 2011 10:13 AM | Report abuse

This is a ridiculous post: Valerie is arguing that words and ideas have no power, only money and government. I believe many of the people in the streets of the Middle East would disagree with you.

Valerie also uses incredibly twisted logic, full of contradictions: On the one hand she argues that Ravitch doesn’t have "an ounce of policy-making power." But then she describes the awards Ravitch has received as one of the "leaders in the public arena who champion the use of informed judgment to advance the public good." Can a leader advancing the public good be someone with no power. Is someone with a best-selling book someone with no power. I think not. She describes Ravitch as nothing but a historian, but then goes on to describe someone with policy positions. Ravitch is looking backwards at history, she's an active participant in current debates.

Valerie also characterizes Ravitch as someone merely supported by teachers who have no power. But teachers are not a monolithic voice and it seems to escape her that many of Ravitch's positions align with the teachers' unions, which do in fact have significant power and money, though they don't speak for all teachers. I don't think Ravitch is a shill, nor am I opposed to unions, but she's certainly carrying water for powerful organizations.

Using Valerie's logic, Sarah Palin has no power. But the fact that she can communicate with so many people and inspire them to action is power, plain and simple. Palin amassing wealth by writing books and speaking at events. So is Ravitch.

Finally, I wish Valerie would commit to evidence-based statements: For instance, stating that many charter schools are run by private companies is just false. Look at the numbers Valerie: according to data from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, in 2009-10 74% of charter schools were not affiliated with a management organization of any kind. Another 13% were run by non-profit management organization, leaving just 13% run by for-profit companies. This is hardly "many charter schools."

Posted by: gideon4ed | March 4, 2011 11:08 AM | Report abuse

I would have a tad more respect for Michele Rhee if she would immediately vow that she will never take a penny from her forthcoming "billion dollar foundation" aimed at school reform. I fear that she will use the issue to keep her name at the forefront of alleged educational reform, and in the process, continue to garner the attention and prominence she so craves.
If she is sincerely concerned about educational reform, she should find a needy school somewhere, and get her teaching credentials in order, and prove that she can raise student scores. Oh, and be evaluated based on how well her charges do on those assessments she so covets.

Posted by: TheShadowKnows | March 4, 2011 8:32 PM | Report abuse

An excellent column in summarizing so well so many issues.

Education cannot be improved by people who are not educators, and will be destroyed by the business-oriented people who presume to model it on usually quasi- or pseudo-business models, methods, and means.

The harm being done by Obama and Duncan, especially following on and learning nothing from Bush, can hardly be appreciated. What strikes me as that so few even know what an education is, what it is for, and what is essential to it.

Posted by: MichaelLHays | March 5, 2011 12:50 AM | Report abuse

@gideon4ed wrote:

"National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, in 2009-10 74% of charter schools were not affiliated with a management organization of any kind. Another 13% were run by non-profit management organization, leaving just 13% run by for-profit companies. This is hardly "many charter schools."

You may want to dig a little deeper than that single sympathetic reference. I suppose you go to Monsanto for the scoop on the safety of GMO foods, too - huh?

Waiting for Superfraud by Michael T. Martin

Posted by: spasticarex | March 5, 2011 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Ravitch has a huge teacher following because we live every day what she speaks about. Teachers KNOW that a child from a middle and upper middle class home has an extreme advantage over a child from a poor home. Teachers KNOW that even if a child comes from poverty, if he or she has a parent(s) that cares about education and supports their child and teaacher, then it is very possible for that child to have a shot at learning and passing each year. Teachers KNOW that the last scenario is very unlikely because numbers don't lie.... we see the repercussions of it in a huge population of poverty everyday (at least those of us who teach in Title I schools do). I can't believe the denial about charter schools either. BTW, charters are fine, but if the people who start them recruit families who care about education, OF COURSE there will be successful students! But I ask you... where do the children go who come from homes that could care less about school or their child's welfare?! Do you really think they disappeared? or that the charter schools converted them? Newsflash! They still exist... they just keep going to the neighborhood public schools. What does that mean? It means that the numbers of impoverished and disadvantaged students grow in numbers in those public schools and for some reason, "brilliant" businessmen like Bill Gates equates this scenario to continually failing public schools because of "bad" teachers. Oh jeez the ignorance of these people. That's why when someone like Ravitch speaks the truth, they still can't see it. Paradigms and beliefs are so incredibly hard to change even in so called brilliant minds like Bill Gates. If he would shut his mouth and quit speaking his "truth" maybe he would see these childrens' truth. But that would take setting aside a HUGE ego wouldn't it? Something I am thinking billionaires have a hard time doing. :o)

Posted by: ETexOpinion | March 9, 2011 12:58 AM | Report abuse

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