Diante Ravitch - Rein of Error

published by Scott Haselwood

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Reign of
The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools
by Diane Ravitch
Ravitch, D. (2013). Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools. New York: Vintage Books
This infographic is intended to give a brief overview of Ravitch's book "Reign of Error."  The top half of the infographic will be focused on those things that are challenging issues public education faces.  The bottom half will be ideas for helping public education be the best that it can possibly be for every student in every school.
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There are four questions that Ravitch seeks to answer with this book (pg. xi):
1. Is American Education in Crisis? 2. Is American Education failing and declining? 3. What evidence for reforms now being promoted by the federal government and adopted in many states? 4. What should we do to improve our schools and the lives of children?
"Public education is not broken. It is not failing or declining...Our urban schools are in trouble because of concentrated poverty and racial segregation" (p. 4). "What began as a movement for testing and accountability has turned into a privatization movement" (p. 6). "We know what works.  What works are the very opportunities that advantaged families provide for their children" (p. 6).
Our Schools are at Risk
"As 2014 neared, states were spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year on testing and test preparation materials; the schools in some districts and states were allocating 20% of the school year to preparing for state tests" (p. 13). "The thirst for data became unquenchable.  Policy makers in Washington and the state capitals apparently assumed that more testing would produce more learning" (p. 13). "The combination of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top redefined the meaning of education reform.  In this new environment, education reformers support testing, accountability, and choice.  Education reformers rely on data derived from standardized testing" (p. 16).
Big Data
The reform movement "is determined to cut costs and maximize competition among schools and among teachers.  It seeks to eliminate the geographically based system of public education as we have known it for the past 150 years and replace it with a competitive market-based system of school choice..." (p. 19). "The corporate reform movement has a well-honed message: We are the reformers.  We have solutions.  The public schools are failing.  The public schools are in decline.  The public schools don't work.  The public schools are obsolete and broken.  We want to innovate.  We know how to fix schools.  We know how to close the achievement gap...Class size doesn't matter...Testing works..." (p. 24)
Corporate Reformers
Test scores are falling, and the educational system is broken and obsolete. (p. 44) The achievement gaps are large and getting worse. (p. 55) We are falling behind other nations, putting our economy and our national security at risk. (p. 63)
Test scores are at their highest point every recorded. (p. 44) We have made genuine progress in narrowing the achievement gaps, but they will remain large if we do nothing about the causes of the gaps. (p. 55) An old lament, not true then, not true now. (p. 63)
Claim v. Reality
"...American students in schools with low poverty - the schools where less than 10% of the students were poor - had scores that were equal to those of Shanghai and significantly better than those of high-scoring Finland, the Republic of Korea, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, and Australia" (p. 64). Results of the 2012 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) given in 57 different countries (pgs. 66-67): *4th Grade Reading: The United States was only outperformed by South Korea, Singapore, and Japan. *8th Grade Math: The United States were only outperformed by Singapore, Japan, South Korea, and Russia. ++Black students in Massachusetts received the same scores as students in Israel and Finland. *4th Grade Science: Students from the United States ranked in the top ten out of the 57 nations tested. *8th Grade Science: The United States were only outperformed by six other nations. ++Massechusetts would have ranked second in the world, right behind Singapore.
International Test Scores
The nation has a drop out crisis, and high school graduation rates are falling (p. 74). Our economy will suffer unless we have the highest college graduation rate in the world (p. 82).
High school dropouts are at an all-time low, and high school graduation rates are at an all-time high (p. 74). There is no evidence for this claim (p. 82).
Claim v. Reality
"Without additional investments in pre-school education, dropout prevention, counseling, and other strategies to keep students on track to high school graduation, it is unlikely that more students will stay in school and enroll in postsecondary education" (p. 86). "What is painfully obvious is that the policy makers' discussion of college completion rates hinges completely on the economic gains of getting a college degree...Many who accept this as their goal will be disappointed.  They will not get the job or the income that they hoped for.  They will get a degree and be burdened with debt without getting a job commensurate with their time or investment or aspirations" (p. 89). "If we expect to increase the rate of degree completion, we must invest in early childhood education and enhance the quality of precollegiate education, especially for students who are African American, Hispanic, and low income" (p. 89).
Facts about College
Poverty is an excuse for ineffective teaching and failing schools (p. 90). Teachers determine student test scores, and test scores may be used to identify and reward effective teachers and fire those who are not effective (p. 99).
Poverty is highly correlated with low academic achievement (p. 90). Test scores are not the best way to identify the best teachers (p. 90)
Claim v. Reality
"Educators say that every child can learn, but they understand that children learn at different rates and that some inevitably learn more than others.  Educators recognize that some children have more advantages and a faster start than others.  Some have disabilities that interfere with their learning" (p. 98). "None of the enthusiasts of value-added assessment recognized that nations at the top of the international league tables did not get there by 'deselecting' teachers whose students got low test scores.  Nations such as Finland, Canada, Japan, and South Korea spend time and resources improving the skills of their teachers, not selectively firing them in relation to student test scores" (p. 106). "...teachers are not factory workers who can be shifted from spot to spot as if they were on an assembly line.  The teacher who is highly effective in one school may not be equally effective in another" (p. 107).
About Teachers
Merit pay will improve achievement (p. 114). Schools will improve if tenure and seniority are abolished (p. 125).
Merit pay has never improved achievement (p. 114). There is not evidence for this claim (p. 125).
Claim v. Reality
"Reformers believe that schools will be more successful if teachers serve as the will of their supervisors, who may dismiss them at any time for any reason...Reformers assume that if teachers can be easily fired, schools can quickly get rid of the low performers, and those who remain will work harder and produce higher test scores...The reformers are convinced that experience, credentials, and degrees don't matter" (p. 125). According to results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the "highest ranking states have strong teachers' unions and until recently had strong protections for teachers.  The lowest-ranking states do not have strong teachers' unions, and their teachers have few or no job protections" (p. 126). Teachers fought for tenure - and won it - long before they had collective bargaining and unions.  Until the 1960's, teachers had no political power and their unions were disorganized and weak, but they agreed on one principle; they needed to be protected from unjust firing" (p. 127). "No teacher should win tenure automatically.  Even tenured teachers should be regularly evaluated by their supervisors" (p. 131).
Teach for America recruits teachers and leaders whose high expectations will one day ensure that every child has an excellent education (p. 133). Charter schools will revolutionize American education by their freedom to innovate and produce dramatically better results (p. 156).
Teach for America sends bright young people into tough classrooms where they get about the same results as other bright young people in similar classrooms but leave the profession sooner (p. 133). Charter schools run the gamut from excellent to awful and are, on average, no more innovative or successful than public schools (p. 156).
Claim v. Reality
"NCLB's demand for testing and ever-rising scores determined the direction of the charter school movement.  With rare exceptions, charters would not seek out and enroll the weakest students, because to do so would endanger their survival and their reputation as panaceas" (p. 160). "Charter operators want to have it both ways.  When it is time for funds to be distributed, they want to be considered public schools.  But when they are involved in litigation, charter operators insist they are private organizations, not public schools" (p. 163). "Most studies consistently conclude that on average the academic results of charters are not better than those of traditional public schools serving the same sorts of students.  Nor have charter schools produced cost savings" (p. 167). "Most studies conclude that on average the scores are no different if charter schools or public schools enroll the same kinds of students.  No generalization is true for all charter schools.  Some charter schools are excellent schools by any measure" (p. 174).
Virtual schools will bring the promise of personalized, customized learning to every student and usher in an age of educational excellence for all (p. 181). If parents seize control of their school, they can make it better (p. 181).
Virtual schools are cash cows for their owners but poor substitutes for real teachers and real schools (p. 181). There is no evidence for this claim (p. 199).
Claim v. Reality
"A public school belongs to the public whose taxes built it and maintain it.  It does not belong to the parents whose children are enrolled this year.  Parents whose children are enrolled this year should not be given ownership of a school that belongs to the entire community and to future students and parents" (p. 203). "Somehow the public got it, even if the politicians did not.  There is no evidence that schools will improve if parents seize control, fire the staff and turn the school over to privately managed charter corporations" (p. 205).
Parent Triggers
Students who receive vouchers for private and religious schools will experience dramatic success (p. 206). Schools can be dramatically improved by firing the principal, firing half or all of the teachers, or closing the school and starting fresh (p. 214).
There is no evidence for this claim (p. 206). There is no evidence for this claim (p. 214).
Claim v. Reality
"Inherent in the idea of public education was a clear understanding that educating the younger generation was a public responsibility, shared by all, whether or not they had children in public schools, whether or not they even had children" (p. 207). "In 1990, Milwaukee launched a voucher program...In 1995, Cleveland was permitted to offer vouchers...In 2003, Republicans in Congress created a voucher the District of Columbia.  All of these voucher programs were initiated by legislators, not by voters" (p. 207). "...over time, the results become clear.  They [vouchers] didn't make any difference in terms of test scores.  Competition between voucher schools, charter schools, and public schools did not cause public schools to get better.  Instead, the competing programs drained the public schools of both students and funding and weakened them" (p. 208).
"...public schools are rooted in their communities.  They exist to serve the children of the communities.  If they are doing a poor job, the leadership of the school system must do whatever is necessary to improve the schools - supply more staff, more specialists, more resources - not close them and replace them with new schools and new names" (p. 220). "The California study showed that deep change is never accomplished in a year or two.  It requires patience, persistence, good leadership, and collaboration, not mass firings" (p. 220). " research showing that teacher turnover, or churn, had a bad effect on schools..." (p. 221). "Instead of firing teachers, he [Anthony Cody] wrote, 'we are likely to gain much more by creating schools capable of supporting, developing and retain them.'  Certainly there will still be teachers who should be fired, but that is the job of an effective principal, not state or federal policy" (p. 222).
Closing Schools
Out of 184 countries assessed, the U.S. ranked 131st for its failure to prevent premature births (p. 227).
Researchers have concluded that early childhood is more successful in narrowing learning gaps than most other interventions (p. 230).
This should include arts, science, history, literature, civics, geography, foreign language, mathematics, and physical education (p. 234).
Provide good prenatal care for every pregnant woman.
Make high quality early childhood education available to all children.
Every school should have a full, balanced, and rich curriculum.
As classes become more diverse, students require more time.  Teachers can't give them that time if the classes are unmanageable (p. 244).
Ensure that charter schools collaborate with public schools to support better education for all children (p. 247).
If we don't act to remedy the social and economic conditions that cause disadvantage, we are unlikely to see any large-scale change in the achievement gaps (p. 253).
Reduce class sizes to improve student achievement and behavior.
Ban for-profit charters and charter chains.
Provide the medical and social services that poor children need to keep up with their advantaged peers.
Instead rely on assessments that allow students to demonstrate what they know and can do (p. 261).
Eliminate high-stakes standardized testing.
One of the most disheartening aspects of the current reform movement is its disdain for the education profession (p. 274).
Insist that teachers, principals, and superintendents be professional educators.
Public schools should be controlled by elected school boards or by boards in large cities appointed for a set term by more than one elected official (p. 278).
Protect democratic control of public schools.
There is one conclusion that can be drawn from studies of educational achievement: poverty has a negative effect on student learning (p. 289).
Devise actionable strategies and specific goals to reduce racial segregation and poverty.
Recognize that public education is a public responsibility, not a consumer good (p. 300).
Privatization of pubic education is wrong.
This map is interactive.  It shows the average ACT composite score for each state.  The map will also tell you what percentage of graduates took the ACT.  All data is for 2015.
What does it all mean?
Diane Ravitch in Reign of Error, makes a strong case against the current dynamics that are influencing education in the United States.  Each chapter well researched, with an appendix to each study she cites.  There is also a complete list of all of the testing data that she cites, as well as several different graphics that compare the testing data. Is public education in the United States broken?  Not according to what Ravitch details, but it is at risk.  After detailing several issues that public education is facing, she offers some very practical solutions. After reading her book, I am more convinced than ever that our schools are working miracles every single day.  I am waiting for our political leaders and policy creators to attack poverty with the zeal that they attack public education.  Ravitch, although not in so many words, also feels that poverty must be addressed.  What are we doing to eliminate childhood poverty?  What are we doing to ensure that each child is guaranteed to have three nutritious meals each day?  Or quality healthcare?  Or a safe place to call home? It is my strong belief that when we take care of these issues, we will see even more amazing things happen in our schools.