Friday, March 15, 2013

Ravitch Exposes Reform Myths

Diane Ravitch visited Baton Rouge yesterday, and participated in a forum with BESE president Chas Roemer sponsored by Leaders With Vision.  In this forum and in a town hall meeting with teachers later in the afternoon Dr Ravitch discredited the myths upon which the Jindal education reforms are based.

To summarize, Ravitch used the latest educational research findings to point out that (1) vouchers have never improved education, and in the longest running voucher program in Milwaukee have actually resulted in substandard results (2) Charter schools generally perform worse than average pubic schools and are creating chaos in school systems all over the country (3) Closing schools in poor communities has become an epidemic that dislocates and damages the education of at risk students (4) Virtual charter schools are the worst performing schools in the country and are draining public school systems of vital funding while making their owners rich. (5) Evaluating teachers using student test scores is not educationally sound and is based on junk science. (6) Merit pay for teachers has never been proven to work in almost 100 years of testing. The most recent major research study of merit pay in Nashville where teachers were given extra pay of up to 12 thousand dollars to raise student scores showed absolutely no results when compared to a control group that got no merit pay.

Ravitch also disputed the current assumption by reformers and some news media that educational achievement has declined in our country. She gave statistics showing that American students on average perform much better than they did years ago. Ravitch pointed out however that high poverty students are struggling in this country just as they are in all other countries. The major problem for the US and particularly for Louisiana is that we have a much larger proportion of high poverty students than other industrialized countries. The reforms we have instituted will be more harmful than good for those at risk students she asserted.

All of the above so called reforms have been launched recently in Louisiana by the Jindal and White reform laws with the approval of BESE. Ravitch concluded by warning the overflow audience of educators and business leaders that Louisiana is on the wrong path in education reform and that if continued it will result in the destruction of our public school system!

After the Ravitch expose' of the Jindal and BESE reforms, a flustered Chas Roemer was left to claim that no matter what, parents in Louisiana deserved a "choice" about how their children should be educated. He tried to claim that there had been some successes in the New Orleans Recovery district but was called down by audience members who pointed out that Roemer was quoting erroneous and misleading data on the RSD.

Later Ravitch met in a town hall meeting with enthusiastic teachers where she encouraged teachers to take charge of their own destinies by getting involved in the legislative process and insisting that Louisiana legislators start listening to the real experts in eduction, the classroom teachers. She said that the initial undue influence of the wealthy power brokers who have bought our politicians can be reversed by the great potential people power of teachers, parents and friends they can claim as allies. But Ravitch warned that positive changes will not happen until large numbers of teachers realize that they must become politically active. That's why Ravitch and other teacher leaders are forming a national group to encourage the support of pro public education candidates for public office. It is called The network for Public Education, and you can join by going to the following website:

That's also why you should sign up for my Defenders of Public Education data base. Just send me an email to and give me your name, the names of your state senator and representative and your preferred email address. Soon I will start sending you emails describing important education issues before the legislature. You can then make contact with your legislators to ask that they support your position on these issues. Please make the commitment now to actively defend and promote effective education reform by signing up for the "Defenders" data base. It is free and confidential.


Karla Kiper said...

Great piece, Michael. I was unable to attend the debate, but I have enjoyed reading the different views from those of you who did. How is it that so many reform groups seem so out of touch with reality? The choice that has been thrust upon us (who care about public schools) is to become active politically; Diane notes this. Those of us who value public education would seem to be on the right side... 2012 fall election voters clearly voted from a more progressive, and ethnically diverse place. Keeping public schools doors open to all is in step with what the "Millenials" want who turned out in HUGE numbers and turned the tide for the Dems. My question is: how do we connect to these voters (they are age 18-30), listen to their concerns, and show them that public schools are strong and viable?

Anonymous said...

In reply to Karla: Tell the voters, as Ravitch mentioned, that the problem is that there is an achievement gap between lower and higher income students IN EVERY NATION. Middle and high income students are doing fine in school, while low income students typically lag. The primary issue is poverty, across the globe, not American schools or teachers, as politicians and corporate "reformers" here would like people to believe. Claiming that all our schools are failing sets the stage for politicians to privatize public education, so that entrepreneurs and corporations can swoop in and get their hands on $500 billion of public school funds, as traditional neighborhood schools are closed and charters are opened. That is not school "reform." It's a business plan.

In America, the achievement gap issue is exacerbated by the fact that we have the highest level of child poverty of all developed countries. Furthermore, public schools in low income areas here are often under-resourced and receive less funding than schools in higher income areas. Therefore, equitable funding must be assured for our neediest students in low income schools. And, rather than calling poverty an "excuse," politicians need to address the inequitable income distribution in this country and the dearth of jobs with livable wages, since 60% of families in poverty are the working poor.