Articles tagged with Diane Ravitch

Interview with NSBA Conference speaker Diane Ravitch: ‘Schools belong to the people and not to corporations’

From 1991 to 1993, Diane Ravitch served as Assistant Secretary of Education in President George H.W. Bush’s administration. Today, the author and education historian says the institution she served at the federal level is under an unprecedented threat from powerful interests intent on privatizing public schools.

In 2010, Ravitch published The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Undermine Education. A keynote speaker at the 2013 NSBA Annual Conference in San Diego, she recently talked with ASBJ Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy.

Why is this a dangerous time for the public schools?

I see the trends intensifying, and there is now a full-blown privatization movement. At the time I wrote my last book, I thought there was some kind of an accidental convergence between, on the one hand, the testing movement associated with No Child Left Behind, and a growing, nascent privatization movement. I now have concluded that these are not an accidental convergence, and that one feeds into the other: The testing is being used as part of a larger narrative about the alleged failure of American education.

Charter schools — especially for-profit ones — are a challenge to public schools, but they still serve only a small fraction of students. Why are they such a big threat?

We’re going to cross a threshold. The charter movement began with the idea that educators were so incompetent that if you could just turn over the schools to private managers, whether they were educators or not, they would do a better job, and that they would perform miracles. It began with this rhetoric of saving minority kids from failing schools — that’s sort of standard lingo. And so there are many cities now where charters are not an inconsequential part of the education spectrum.

Proponents of vouchers and privately run charter schools say they want to give parents more choice. Isn’t that a positive message?

They use all the progressive language to do things that, distinctly, are not progressive. When you close down public education, that’s not progressive. If the American public understood what was really happening, there would be this huge outcry, but it’s always bathed in the rhetoric of, “We want to help minority kids, save them from failing schools.”

And public education’s response?

We don’t have all that wonderful messaging. Instead, we’re constantly playing a game of saying, “Stop saying these things. You’re wrong.” It makes you sound very defensive. And they say, if you don’t agree with them — this is one of their favorite lines — you’re a defender of the status quo.

So if you believe in public education, if you believe in democratic control of local schools, if you believe in local school boards and state school boards, if you believe the people who are members of the community should have some say in what happens to the schools their children attend, you’re a defender of the status quo. If you believe that teachers should have a professional preparation and that they should be committed to the classroom, you’re a defender of the status quo. If you believe teachers should have some academic freedom and some protection for their freedom of speech and their right to teach, then you’re a defender of the status quo.

How should supporters of public education respond?

First of all to call it what it is, to recognize that what’s going on is a conscious effort to privatize American public education — and the public doesn’t want that. I think it helps to show that, even by the “reformers’” own measures, privatization does not produce better education. It leads to terrible consequences.

You say charters are already weeding out disabled children, who cost more to educate and tend to bring test scores down. What are some other consequences?

We now have many studies showing that charter schools are more segregated than public schools, even in districts that already have a high degree of segregation. This is something that under Brown v. Board of Education shouldn’t be permitted. And yet it’s going on. The UCLA Civil Rights Project has done studies showing that charters are more segregated, both for black and Hispanic kids. We’re rolling back some of the most important gains in our history.

What’s the role of school board members in confronting all this?

We have to reclaim the democratic aspect of public education: Schools belong to the people and not to corporations.

Lawrence Hardy|March 14th, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance, Charter Schools, Leadership, No Child Left Behind, NSBA Annual Conference 2013, Privatization, School Boards, School Reform, School Vouchers|Tags: |

Ravitch wants school boards to speak up for their rights

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch

Education researcher Diane Ravitch has posted in a recent blog some provocative questions for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and other federal officials when they speak at the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Federal Relations Network conference later today. Ravitch, who will be a keynote speaker at NSBA’s 73rd Annual Conference in San Diego in April, wants to query the leaders about their stands on local governance and school boards. She writes:

In the last few years, there has been an all-out attack on local control. Most of the attack comes from the privatization movement, which thinks that school boards debate too much, listen too much, move too slowly. The privatizers prefer mayoral control in cities to get fast action. And they push laws and constitutional amendments allowing the governor to create a commission to override local school boards that reject charters. This is the ALEC agenda.

Happily, leading members of NSBA will have a chance to ask Arne Duncan why he pushes mayoral control, which has done so little for Cleveland and Chicago–and is now approved in NYC by only 18 percent of the public.

And they can ask Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia what he thinks about that state’s recent drive to strip local school boards of control of their districts. They might also ask him what he thinks of the re segregation that charters are promoting.

Stay tuned for more coverage of the federal leaders’ speeches at the 2013 FRN Conference, taking place Jan. 27 to 29 in Washington.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 28th, 2013|Categories: Federal Advocacy, FRN Conference 2013, Leadership, NSBA Annual Conference 2013, Privatization, Public Advocacy, School Boards|Tags: , , , , , |

Annual Conference early registration discounts end Jan. 10–see you in San Diego!

January 10 is the last day to receive early registration discounts for NSBA’s 73rd Annual Conference, to be held April 13-15 in San Diego. Join thousands of school board members, school administrators, vendors and other school leaders at this premier event. The General Sessions boast three superstars who will discuss their work in education:

Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis, founder of the non-profit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, will speak at the opening General Session on April 13. The star of “A League of Their Own,” “Thelma and Louise,” and “The Accidental Tourist” now works with film and television creators to reduce gender stereotyping and increase the number of female characters in media targeted for young children. Davis will speak about the key role media plays in children’s development.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the world’s most engaging and passionate science advocates. From PBS to NASA to Presidential Commissions, organizations have depended on Tyson’s down-to-earth approach to astrophysics. Last year, Tyson notoriously persuaded director James Cameron to change a scene in the 3D version of his legendary film, Titanic. Turns out the night sky in the heartbreaking scene where the main characters meet their fates in the frigid sea had a totally wrong starfield. (Get a sneak peek of Tyson’s expertise and entertaining style in this YouTube video where he explains the mistake.

Researcher Diane Ravitch, one of the most passionate and knowledgeable advocates for public education, will share her expertise on past and present education issues. Her most recent book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, makes the case that public education today is in peril and offers a clear prescription for improving public schools. Attendees who scored a seat to see Ravitch speak at NSBA’s 2010 Annual Conference were thrilled with her lecture.

In addition to the General Sessions, more than 200 topical sessions are scheduled on issues such as: Common Core State Standards, budgeting in tight economic times, new technologies, school climate and safety, and many others. Go to the annual conference website to view the full schedule of general session speakers, Focus on lectures, more than 200 topical sessions, and preconference workshops.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 10th, 2013|Categories: Announcements, Conferences and Events, Educational Technology, NSBA Annual Conference 2013, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , , , |

NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference to feature Geena Davis, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Diane Ravitch

Registration and housing for the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) 73rd Annual Conference, to be held April 13 to 15 in San Diego, is now open. Join more than 5,000 school board members and administrators for an event with hundreds of sessions, workshops, and exhibits that will help your school district programs and help you hone your leadership and management skills.

General Session speakers include Academy Award winning speaker Geena Davis, who will be speaking about her work off-screen as founder of the non-profit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Davis works with film and television creators to reduce gender stereotyping and increase the number of female characters in media targeted for children 11 and under. She will explain how media plays a key role in children’s development, and how her organization is making a difference.

Television star Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the world’s most engaging and passionate science advocates, will headline Sunday’s General Session. From PBS to NASA to Presidential Commissions, organizations have depended on Tyson’s down-to-earth approach to astrophysics. He has been a frequent guest on “The Daily Show”, “The Colbert Report”, R”eal Time with Bill Maher”, and “Jeopardy!”. Tyson hopes to reach “all the people who never knew how much they’d love learning about space and science.”

Monday’s General Session features acclaimed researcher and author Diane Ravitch, who has become one of the most passionate voices for public schools. Her most recent book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, makes the case that public education today is in peril and offers a clear prescription for improving public schools.

Learn more about the common core standards, new research on differentiated learning styles, and teaching “unteachable” children at the Focus On lecture series. Learn about new technologies for your classrooms as part of the Technology + Learning programs.

Special discounted rates are available for early registrants who sign up by Jan. 10, 2013. NSBA National Affiliate and Technology Leadership Network Districts save even more.

View the conference brochure for more details. Be sure to check the Annual Conference website for updates and more information.

 

 

The week in blogs: High school reports spark more discussion

Two reports on high school rigor, which came out within hours of each other last week, have sparked an online discussion about the need to make secondary school more relevant for all students. 

“Are Disparities Creating an Educational Caste System?” the provocative title of Maureen Downey’s Get Schooled blog in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, quoted reports on the status of high school from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, and NSBA’s Center for Public Education. Among the more striking statistics from the government report — 3,000 high schools serving almost 500,000 students don’t offer algebra II – a gateway course to college and career success.

“Without algebra II, you probably don’t go to college,” Center director Patte Barth told Downey and other reporters. “If you go, you are probably going to end up in remediation. Without it, you don’t become an auto mechanic. You don’t get into one of the growing service jobs in growing fields like communications.”

The Center’s report notes that a rigorous math curricula, Advanced Placement courses, dual high school-college enrollment, and early college programs can all enhance the curricula of American high schools.

Moving on, we turn to a blog we missed last week but is too important to let slide: Diane Ravitch, who recently addressed the Louisiana School Boards Association, speaking on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s truly draconian plan to privatize education.

And lastly, concerning the latest skirmishes in the parenting wars, we’ve written about “Tiger Mothers” and the new homeschooling trend among progressives (or is that “mini-trend?”). Now it’s time to consider the French. The French? Well, do they do parenting any better over there? Apparently not, writes blogger Joanne Jacobs, who links to a new commentary in the Atlantic magazine.

 

Lawrence Hardy|March 16th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Center for Public Education, High Schools, Privatization, School Vouchers|Tags: , , , |

Analysis: NBC learned its lesson with this Education Nation

Glenn Cook, American School Board Journal’s editor-in-chief, attended NBC’s Education Nation summit in New York for the second straight year. Here are his observations.

You can’t blame traditional public school advocates if they were filled with dread when NBC announced that Education Nation would return this fall. Last year the network bought into the hype surrounding the documentary “Waiting for Superman,” inexplicably tying the event to a flawed film that exhorted charters as the pancea for public education’s ills.

Thankfully, NBC has learned its lesson. This year’s event took pains to correct past wrongs as it recognized the complexities school leaders face in managing a public system that is open to all.

Starting with a screening of “American Teacher,” a documentary that helped erase some of the “bad teachers” taste left by “Superman,” and ending with an appearance by former President Bill Clinton, Education Nation featured a strong balance of heavy hitters from education, philanthropy, and politics.

You also had a touch of celebrity — basketball player Lebron James, actress Jennifer Garner, and what amounted to a family reunion with former Gov. Jeb Bush and First Lady Laura Bush participating in sessions — but in this case, it fit the overall tone.

The key word here is balance. Last year’s programming was flawed because it exhorted simple antidotes to complex problems. This year, silver bullets were nowhere to be found, but calls for more effective teaching and improvements to early education were.

You can watch many of the sessions online at www.educationnation.com, but here is my list of highlights:

• Start with “Brain Power: Why Early Learning Matters,” a fascinating hour-long session featuring Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s chief medical editor, and three university professors. Held on Monday morning, it was the best, most concise presentation I’ve seen yet on why we need to reach children much, much earlier than we do.

• The dramatic rise in poverty rates was a focus throughout, especially in the session “What’s in a Zip Code?” moderated by Brian Williams. Poverty is reality for many people in today’s economy — Clinton was eloquent on this topic in the closing session — and communities must come together to do more.

• Education Secretary Arne Duncan was everywhere this year, participating in interviews with Tom Brokaw and responding to questions during various panels (a nice touch).

• We saw an entertaining back and forth between Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone and Diane Ravitch, author and professor of education at New York University. Their approaches are so different, but both made excellent points. Canada and Sal Khan, another Education Nation speaker, are scheduled to keynote NSBA’s 2012 Annual Conference.

• Teacher and student accountability, as you might expect, was a recurring theme. Michelle Shearer, the current National Teacher of the Year from Maryland’s Urbana High School, said teachers “want to be evaluated on things that really matter.”

“There are all sorts of different ways of looking at student growth,” she said. “Whatever evaluation looks like in the end, it has to be a system of multiple measures, because often what’s most important are those intangibles … that are tough to put on a check list.”

• At the same session, Khaatim El, a former member of the Atlanta school board, addressed the cheating scandal that has plagued the district he served for almost a decade. “We wanted to be the hype,” he said of the allegations, which are based on the state assessments. “We wanted to be the first to get it right so bad.”

But El noted the district also made huge gains in NAEP scores during that time, an achievement untouched but overshadowed by the scandal. “I would be remiss if I didn’t point to the hard work that many educators put in,” he said. “We focused on the basics. Literacy instruction in elementary school. Autonomy for principals. We invested in professional development. Those things were overshadowed by the cheating scandal. And they were good things for kids.”

The setting for Education Nation was not perfect — the big tent in Rockefeller Plaza is a good idea in theory, but the humidity and poor audio were ever-present distractions. And while this year’s session was far more substantive, future years should stop belaboring the problems and focus instead on how to solve them. Panels featuring districts that have been successful at “what works,” with ideas and content that are easily imitated and replicated, would be a valuable start.

Chances are good that will happen. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) had a strong presence in the planning and execution of the meeting. Anne L. Bryant, our executive director, met with NBC officials about the content and answered audience questions in a video Q&A format prior to the event. Mary Broderick, NSBA’s president, was featured in a panel session with the mayors of Albuquerque, Baltimore, and Newark.

“What we’ve heard from the last two days of this conference is that we need to come together around a sense of urgency,” Broderick said during her session, noting that it takes a shared vision between the school board, the mayor’s office, and the community. “The vision needs to be of excellence. If that cohesive message can be carried through our schools … there’s nothing off the table.”

The week in blogs

No jokes today — not even lame ones.  And no trenchant analysis. (And if you say, “What trenchant analysis?” please reread Sentence #1, carefully.)

I’m a very busy man. I’ve got a debt ceiling to worry about. No, actually, I’ve got a story to finish, and a meeting to go to, and tomorrow we’re taking our kids to Colonial Williamsburg. Really early. But not as early as it was for my elder daughter’s class trip a few weeks ago, when she traveled to the same destination. The buses left the elementary school parking lot at 7 a.m., for a three-hour trip. Several classes of fourth graders. On a bus. For three hours.  One way. My neighbor volunteered to chaperone; and, yes, he is a saint.

Now, just the facts — or rather, the blogs. Read Alexander Russo’s This Week in Education for an insightful critique on Paul Tough’s recent New York Times commentary, “No Seriously: NO Excuses.”

Anne O’Brien, blogging for The Learning First Alliance, comments on the recent back-and-forth between Times Columnist David Brooks and education historian Diane Ravitch, as well as Brooks’ penchant for falling for the “reformers” versus “establishment” construct. I don’t have to tell you what he means by these terms (or why they’re off base).

In The Quick and the Ed, Richard Lee Colvin writes an illuminating blog about the cheating scandal in the Atlanta schools and how to recover from what could only be described as an educational tragedy. (The two responses are also worth reading.)

And finally, back to Ravitch again, but this time in lighter vein: Read The Answer Sheet’s Valerie Strauss on “Ravitch Rage” and its symptoms.

Lawrence Hardy|July 8th, 2011|Categories: Assessment, Board governance, School Boards, School Reform, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , , , , |

Big names, big moments, all a part of NSBA annual conference

DSC_43591-e1271009270864-199x300Let me preface this blog with a confession: I missed Wynton Marsalis’ speech at NSBA’s 70th Annual Conference last weekend in Chicago. I’ve since heard that his speech and performance was one of the best in recent memory at an NSBA event, and we’ve had some pretty darn good speakers in recent years (Bill Clinton, Sydney Portier, Sandra Day O’Connor, to drop a few names).

For me, the most important speech of the conference wasn’t a General Session headliner, it actually took place in a jam-packed room on the fourth floor. But I believe what Diane Ravitch had to say was pretty close to revolutionary in the 15 years I’ve covered education policy. My former NSBA colleague, attorney Tom Hutton, called it a “watershed” moment in education reform.

My second confession: I hadn’t read Ravitch’s new book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” before listening to her speech. I had read lots about it, and how she’s changed her views on issues such as school choice, testing and accountability models, and free enterprise as a model for K-12 education reform.

Fortunately, Ravitch walked the audience through the chapters of the book and explained how she had changed her mind about a lot of the concepts she’d previously endorsed (there’s been a lot more research since the inception of standards-based reform in the 1990s and No Child Left Behind, for one thing).

It all started when she decided to have her home office repainted and had to pack up and sort through some 30 years worth of books, papers and memorabilia. It was then that Ravitch, who began her career as an education historian, served in the George H.W. Bush administration, and later became a conservative-leaning analyst, began examining the ideals versus the implementation of NCLB and current political climate.
(more…)

Naomi Dillon|April 19th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Educational Research, Governance, Policy Formation|Tags: , , |
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