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Articles tagged with Richard Rothstein

Are public schools really failing? Two views

Are public schools failing or are they the victims of bad press? Two education commentators debated the issue at the third general session at NSBA’s FRN meeting on Sunday in front of an audience of school board members in Washington to learn about federal issues and meet with their members of Congress.

Richard Rothstein, author and research associate of the Economic Policy Institute, outlined what he called the “conventional story of public education” – our schools are failing and after 20 years, the achievement gap has not budged. Public schools must make radical changes by removing underperforming teachers, create more competition, and increase testing at every level.

“As you know, the system can be cured of its problems if the diagnosis is faulty,” said Rothstein. “We have a flawed diagnosis so our reforms have little to do with the real problems.”

In fact, Rothstein said, NAEP scores show that black children are scoring higher today than white children did 20 years ago. But the achievement gap has not moved much because white children are doing better, too. “A full standard deviation improvement in a generation,” said Rothstein. “There is no other area of social policy where any set of reforms have achieved that kind of improvement.”

So why does the idea that public schools are failing persist?

“You have been doing poorly telling your story,” Rothstein told the audience. “Your reaction is to say you’ll do better instead of refuting it on the grounds that the charges are false. The conversation won’t be turned around unless you speak up more loudly about your accomplishments.”

Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, was on hand to offer a counterpoint to the argument that public schools were indeed not doing the best job that they could do in educating all children. He said that while he agreed with Rothstein that there has been improvement over the past two decades, he said it’s been in part because of the reform movement, not in spite of it.

“Charter schools for some of us are fresh start,” said Petrilli. “A chance to push away red tape and regulations, get central office and union contracts out of the way and give these schools space to be good schools. It has created some really good schools.”

Fordham’s mission is to promote school choice, including a network of charter schools in Ohio, and its leaders have frequently called to abolish school boards.

Rothstein countered Petrilli’s arguments about charter schools. “We know from data that disadvantaged students in charters don’t do better than public schools on average. If you leave out the great schools, the averages show that as many or more great public schools exist. We already have good public schools. What have we gained from the big push to charter schools?”

Kathleen Vail|January 27th, 2013|Categories: School Boards, Charter Schools, School Reform, Student Achievement, FRN Conference 2013|Tags: , |

Negative narrative hounds education, despite evidence of good work, big challenges

Diane Ravitch speaks at 70th annual NSBA conference

Diane Ravitch one of many speakers at 70th annual NSBA conference

I came away from Chicago feeling much like I have after other NSBA annual conferences: inspired — and frustrated.

Inspired because, corny as it might sound, I really am impressed with the work that you — school board members and administrators – are doing. You know what makes a good school system and, if Chicago’s conference is any indication, are working diligently against difficult odds to improve the education of all students.

I could cite any number of examples, but will just mention one interactive workshop I covered at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday (well-attended, by the way), led by Rob Delane, deputy executive director of the Ohio School Boards Association, titled “What Makes A Great Workplace: The Board’s Role in Ensuring a Positive School Climate.”  If you had listened to the questions and comments, you would have heard board members who were intently focused on improving the climate in their schools and their communication with the public.

Naomi Dillon|April 14th, 2010|Categories: Governance, Educational Research, School Climate, Policy Formation, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , |
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