Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Diane Ravitch at NCSS 2011

“If enough people care, the public may learn the course is not wise, not reform and backed by no evidence.  Public Education is a precious resource that must be preserved and improved for future generations.” 
-Diane Ravitch, NCSS 2011

Diane Ravitch is a voice of reason and sanity in the politically charged and reckless world of education policy and so-called reform.  The Teaching Underground had the privilege of hearing a lecture from Dr. Ravitch at the NCSS national convention this weekend in Washington, D.C.

Conventional wisdom might brand her “anti-reform,” but in reality the term educational reform has been high-jacked and turned into “testing, accountability, and choice” at the exclusion of meaningful reform seeking appropriate ways to “develop qualities of heart and mind and character to sustain our democracy for future generations.”  The Teaching Underground is ready to steal the term back and label Diane Ravitch as the voice of true reform in American education.

After hearing Ravitch’s talk we jokingly said to each other, “she stole all of her material from the Underground.”  Since our arrival in the blogging world in October 2010, we’ve learned that every challenge we’ve faced at the local level is rooted in the national education landscape.  Like Ravitch, our primary hope is that people would care, and by caring, the public will learn that our present course of educational policy in the United States often guised as reform is really no reform at all.

Ravitch’s lecture at the NCSS Convention centered around a dozen or so questions.  (I was typing fast, if you were there and see that we missed a question let us know.)  Below are the questions Ravitch addressed.  We've included a few links to related posts on the Teaching Underground.  Feel free to offer your reactions to the questions, and if you were at the talk, let us know what you thought.  We'll post about some of these topics in the months to come.

Are we in crisis?
-one of the very first posts on TU: Are We Failing?

Should public schools be turned over to private management?

Why not have a free market of choices for parents and students?
-these two questions were addressed in our post Breaking the Public Schools

Should public funded schools be allowed to make a profit?
-in April we discussed The Education Marketplace

Should teachers get a bonus for higher test scores?

Will test scores go up if teacher evaluations are tied to them?

Should student test scores ever be a part of teacher evaluation?
-each of these three questions remind me of the post Why You Should Care

Should NCLB be reauthorized?
-among other posts addressing NCLB, here is 2012 or 2014

Will Race to the Top transform?
-it will certainly transform something, here's a post on NCLB Waivers and Race to the Top

Should teachers and principals have professional training?

Will competition improve schools?


  1. Should teachers and principals have professional training?
    Dr. Ravitch stated "Of course they should...that's a stupid question."

    Then she briefly went further on into the issues that arise from alternative licensure and the weeks of preparation that Teach For America members receive. Acknowledging they do valuable work, but pointing out that for too many it amounts to a "temp" job. Not what we need.

    All I know is everyone in our division talks about adding more "professional development" time into our calendar and what I am often forced to endure does little to increase my ability or skills. It merely undermines my confidence and annoys me. Not all is like that, but a lot is. Great post.

    Should she seek Arne Duncan's job?

  2. Will competition improve schools?
    Hasn't yet. Guess we'll have to give it 10 more years.
    Answer will still be no.
    Should children compete for care and love?

  3. I have more questions that I wrote down than you. Will schools improve if states eliminate job protections?
    She responded that it will make the profession less secure and docile. It is an effort to destroy the profession and she asked the question, who will want to teach?

    How did we become so obsessed with testing and evaluation? She went on to talk about how there used to be two agendas, a Dem and a Rep now their is only one agenda and she asked who lost the dem agenda (pd)? She mentioned Finland and made some key points: they have no standardized test, they use teacher made tests, every teacher has a master's degree, they ID students in early grades, higher education is free, less than 4% of children live in poverty, it is a capitalist country and they say they borrowed most of their education system from the U.S.

    Last question - Why have we reduced education to test scores? She said a heavy reliance on this distorts their value and makes them less reliable. So what next?

  4. Sorry should have proofread...change their to there! I know you all will catch that!!

  5. Norm Shacochis MCSS President-electJanuary 30, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    Wish Massachusetts DESE had sat in on Ravitch's address. We are seeing the marginalization, the demise of SS education statewide & nationwide, and all anyone cares about are test scores in math and ELA. Shameful. Her address was on target, and thank you for putting your take out there.

  6. Norm, wish on...
    I can't help but think that Ravitch's message is accessible to most educators and/or policy makers who wish to hear it. Even if they'd sat in I'm not sure how much difference it would make. Policy makers seem to be pretty narrowly focused on a "corporate reform minded" agenda.

    As for the demise of SS education, you might find our recent post "Victory or Defeat" interesting. It's about the Virginia plan to eliminate social studies testing in third grade in order to better prepare for math and reading.