Ravitch Responds!

The battle is on in Gotham. Per Tuesday’s NY Post op-ed, Diane Ravitch responds in today’s NY Post. Big winner so far? The NY Post…If my email from partisans on both sides is any gauge I’d say questions have been raised but minds not changed.

Update: Sol Stern here and Gadfly jumps-in here with a full-throated defense (but they don’t mention that Ravitch is on their board) plus some between the lines stuff if you’re following this closely. They also link to this NRO defense. Let me get this straight, overall the NRO crowd thought that the Valerie Plame affair was much ado about nothing but an apparent memo about the public statements of a prominent critic is “Berlin circa 1935”?

4 Replies to “Ravitch Responds!”

  1. I have always felt a kinship with Joel Klein. I became a teacher at the same moment he became chancellor, and I wondered at the time if the sense of mission I felt in leaving corporate life to teach in the South Bronx was anything like what my father felt leaving home to fight in World War II. Under Klein, I felt like I was going off not merely to teach, but to fight the good fight. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of meeting with the Chancellor several times, and I believe him to be not a businessman, a lawyer, a politician, but a true change agent, in the best sense of that hackneyed phrase. I sat with him once and heard him say that his goal is “to change the world.” I don’t doubt his earnestness for a second.

    I’m also acquainted with Diane Ravitch. Her place in the education pantheon is beyond doubt. Her only accomplishment is a lifetime of clear thinking, public service and passionate advocacy. What to make then of this proxy battle pitting Ravitch against Kathryn Wylde? I believe that the city schools are in much better shape now than they would have been without Klein and Mayor Bloomberg. But I also believe it is important to pay careful attention to ones critics, especially when they have earned their place in the marketplace of ideas with a lifetime of first-rate work.

    The worst thing that can happen to any reform movement is complacency. And one of the worst habits of mind is lock-step agreement with partisans on one’s own side. Ravitch is right when she says the curriculum in NYC schools has narrowed to an unacceptable degree. Her skepticism in test results is well-placed and valid. Her point that tests are poor measures to dole out rewards and punishments is solid. These criticisms and others that she has leveled are validated by my first-hand experience in the classroom. Those of us who consider ourselves reformers, I think, tend to fear that to agree with critics is to align ourselves with those who oppose reform. This is sloppy thinking. I don’t believe in making the perfect the enemy of the good. But it does not follow from that that I should therefore oppose the perfect.

    New York’s schools are riding a wave of positive publicity from the Broad Prize. I pray that the DOE not fall victim to another bad habit of mind: reading and believing its press clips. Progress is being made, but it is vital that we not declare victory and quit the field. The victory that has been won is to show that a massive bureaucracy can be mobilized and directed. But to date, that has not resulted in a sea change in results. Test scores are directional; they are not proof of a well-educated child. Graduation rates are a positive indicator, but they are not a guarantee of educational attainment or future success. We need to be reminded of this, and reminded often, if we are truly interested in changing outcomes and lives. We cannot afford to become mere cheerleaders for individuals and institutions.

    Have we come to the point in the education revolution when we will devour our own? Let’s hope not. The battle is nowhere near over. We need all the ideas and constructive criticism we can muster.


  2. I’m not one who would say you have to teach for 20 years before you can comment on education but those of us who put our careers into the classroom did learn some perspective as to the kinds of things that work. There is massive outrage from so many teachers (and I don’t mean the UFT outrage) and principals who speak privately and even top level people around Tweed at the results of BloomKlein’s leadership in terms of day to day operation of schools due to these constant shakeups – especially in terms of special ed kids.

    I spent my final few years in the system as a technology specialist and know all the players. What Klein has done (or let’s say allowed to happen) in that area is a total scandal.

  3. Diane Ravitch is good at criticizing everyone’s attempts to improve schools. Has she ever made a positive suggestion for what we actually should do? I am tired of hearing from her. Either advocate for something or go away.

    And her “I will not be silenced; I will not be marginalized,” is really pathetic.

  4. If you feel Ravitch should go away, how about joining her? I would apply the same principal to a number of people, since many of us don’t consider market-based suggestions for education and cheer leading for the Bloomberg’s “creative destruction” theories as in any way positive. How about positive suggestions for things that will make a difference?

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