Diane Ravitch, a former Assistant Secretary of Education, says the education reform movement — which began with Dubya’s No Child Left Behind and continued under Obama’s Race To The Top through Trump’s push for school choice — has been an abject failure. Much of the blame lies in the constant demands for tests, tests, and more tests. Meanwhile, overall scores have remained unchanged for the last decade, while those of the lowest-ranked students have declined.
Things must be better in charter schools, right? Nope! On average, their students don’t perform any better than those in public schools. In fact, they do worse in some.
Ravitch has been assailing these harmful non-solutions for a long time and was a frequent guest on my radio show — including in 2010, when I interviewed her about her book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.” Her newest is entitled, “Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America’s Public Schools.”
Which brings Ravitch to the big question that remains today: how do we improve our schools? Here’s what she says in this week’s Time magazine:
We begin by recognizing that poverty and affluence are the most important determinants of test scores. This strong correlation shows up on every standardized test. Every standardized test is normed on a bell curve that reflects family income and education; affluent kids always dominate the top, and poor kids dominate the bottom. Nearly half the students in this country now qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, which is the federal measure of poverty. We can ameliorate the impact of poverty on children and families by making sure that they have access to nutrition, medical care, and decent housing.
If the billionaires supporting charter schools and vouchers are serious about improving education, they would insist that the federal government fully fund the education of students with disabilities and triple the funding for schools in low-income districts. Teachers should be paid as the professionals that they are, instead of having to work at second or third jobs to make ends meet. Teachers should write their own tests, as they did for generations. States and districts should save the billions now wasted on standardized testing and spend it instead to reduce class sizes so children can get individualized help from their teacher.
Children and schools need stability, not disruption. They need experienced teachers and well-maintained schools. All children need schools that have a nurse, counselors, and a library with a librarian. Children need time to play every day. They need nutrition and regular medical check-ups.
All of this is common sense. These are reforms that work.
Previously on Harris Online:
- My conversation with Diane Ravitch about the documentary “Waiting For Superman” (10/2/10).
- My conversation with Diane Ravitch about her book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education” (3/29/10).
- My conversation with Diane Ravitch about her book, “The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn” (5/29/03).