Friday, November 15, 2013

“Public education is not broken; it is not failing or declining” –Diane Ravitch


from Diane Ravitch’s latest book, “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools”:
 
Public education is not broken. It is not failing or declining. The diagnosis is wrong, and the solutions of the corporate reformers are wrong. Public education is in a crisis only so far as society is, and only so far as this new narrative of crisis has destabilized it. The solutions proposed by the self-proclaimed ‘reformers’ have not worked as promised… Their reforms have had a destructive impact on education as a whole… These changes have been the ultimate fulfillment of a longstanding reactionary dream to destroy public education, rooted in an implacable hostility to the public sector. The transfer of public funds to private management has created thousands of deregulated schools and opened the public coffers to profits, fraud, and exploitation by large and small entrepreneurs…
 
Ravitch’s solutions to improve school and society:

·         From the day they are born, young children need a loving caregiver, good nutrition and medical care; their parents should get the help they need to learn how to care for their babies.

·         Children need pre-kindergarten classes that teach them how to socialize with others, how to listen and learn, how to communicate well, and how to care for themselves while engaging in the joyful pursuit of play and learning that is appropriate to their age and development and builds their background knowledge and vocabulary.

·         Children in the early elementary grades need teachers who set appropriate goals for their age. They should learn to read, write, calculate and explore nature, and they should have plenty of time to sing and dance and draw and play and giggle.

·         Classes in these grades should be small enough—ideally fewer than twenty—so that students get the individual attention they need. Classes should be small enough to ensure that every teacher knows his or her students and can provide the sort of feedback to strengthen their ability to write, their non-cognitive skills, their critical thinking, and their mathematical and scientific acumen.

·         Testing in the early grades should be used sparingly, not to rank students, but diagnostically to help determine what they know and what they still need to learn. Test scores should remain a private matter between parents and teachers, not shared with the district or the state for any individual student. The district or state may aggregate scores for entire schools but should not rank individual students by test scores or judge teachers or schools on the basis of these scores.

·         Teachers should write their own tests and use standardized tests only for diagnostic purposes.

·         As students enter the upper elementary grades and middle school and high school, they should have a balanced curriculum that includes not only reading, writing, and mathematics but also the sciences, literature, history, geography, civics, and foreign languages. Their school should have a rich arts program, where students may learn to sing, dance, play an instrument, join an orchestra or a band, perform in a play, sculpt, or use technology to design structures, conduct research, or create fanciful artworks.

·         Every student should have time for physical education every day. Every student should have a library with librarians and media specialists. Every student should have a nurse, a psychologist, a guidance counselor, and a social worker. And every student should have after-school programs where students may explore their interests, whether in athletics, chess, robotics, history club, science club, nature study, Scouting, or other activities.

As a society, we must establish goals, strategies and programs to reduce poverty and racial segregation. Only by eliminating opportunity gaps can we eliminate achievement gaps. Poor and immigrant children need the same sort of schools that wealthy children receive—only more so…

[Ravitch’s] premise is straightforward: You can’t do the right things until you stop doing the wrong things… Stop promoting competition and choice as answers to the very inequality that was created by competition and choice…

We need to build a strong and respected education profession. The federal government and states must develop policies to recruit, support, and retain career educators, both in the classroom and in position of leadership… We must recognize that the root causes of poor academic performance are segregation and poverty, along with inequitably resourced schools. We must act decisively to reduce the causes of inequity…

The challenge to our society today is to repair public policy and to give our public schools the care and support they need to thrive, in all communities and for all children, rather than abandon them to the idiosyncrasies of the free market…

The way forward requires that education policy be shaped by evidence and by the knowledge and wisdom of educators, not by a business plan shaped by free-market ideologues and entrepreneurs… If we truly care about the welfare of the most vulnerable children in our society, we will turn our efforts to reducing segregation and poverty…

Only well-qualified, well-prepared teachers should be hired to work in our schools. We must stop giving teachers orders and scripts and let them teach. In turn, teachers need to be evaluated by human beings, including their principals and their peers, rather than computer-driven metrics…

Genuine school reform must be built on hope, not fear; on encouragement, not threats; on inspiration, not compulsion; on trust, not carrots and sticks; on belief in the dignity of the human person, not a lavish devotion to data; on support and mutual respect, not on a regime of punishment and blame. To be lasting, school reform must rely on collaboration and teamwork among students, parents, teachers, principals, administrators, and local communities…

Protecting our public schools against privatization and saving them for future generations of American children is the civil rights issue of our time…


Diane Ravitch is research professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. In 2010, Ravitch wrote “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.” The aforementioned excerpts are from her latest book, “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.”

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