Carey On Ravitch

Save yourself some time, via TNR here’s the article everyone is going to be chattering about. (OK, not such a time-saver, but now updated with a non-subscriber link!)

38 Replies to “Carey On Ravitch”

  1. Many of us have deep respect for people who change their minds when they get new information.

  2. Ultimately all people and ideas get the reputation they deserve. At this point, I’m content to await the verdict of history. Betcha I’m not alone.

  3. TFT, your link didn’t work.
    So, for all, here is the comment:

    I. Old Ravitch, New Ravitch
    I was so looking forward to this article. And then I saw it was by Kevin Carey. I wish it were by Richard Kahlenberg, but I don’t suppose TNR will give us a more thoroughly liberal voice on education policy. In any case, much of the history and biography dredged up here is pretty good. It’s the latter half–the judgments and prescriptions–where I start to get upset. Here you use the notion that because Ravitch has repudiated her past work, she cannot be trusted as a straight shooter and past Ravitch basically annihilates present Ravitch. This is more cute than clever, and I think it’s somewhat more successfully used against Arianna Huffington, who switched from trenchantly conservative to trenchantly liberal with not nearly as substantive a defence of this polarity switch. If Death and Life is “also an explanation of sorts for her apostasy” then it’s hard to argue that over the course of 352 pages, Ravitch ignores her past work for conservatives and has inexplicably dropped all pretence of consistency.
    Also note that one of the halfway decent defences of Ravitch comes from the notion that those conservative approaches of charter schools and vouchers were as-of-yet untried in the 1980s. It’s easier to fall in love with the theory of an idea and sour on it as an empirical reality. Perhaps that’s what Huffington did, too, when the Gingrich Revolution started to make good on its harebrained Heritage fantasies. But it’s assuredly what Ravitch herself chalks her change of heart out to: if the most favourable studies show that after a tedious and long-thought-out intervention, outcomes had failed to improve (“charter schools perform evenly with regular public schools”) then that is, regardless of what OldDianeRavitch may have said, not incontrovertible support for pursuing that line of reform. It certainly isn’t an adequate justification for a new line of medical treatment unless there is a clear economic benefit. And I’m pretty sure that “costs much less than traditional public school” is not one of the chief pillars of charter schools. In fact, their tendency to be bankrolled by the support of outside foundations or donors suggests otherwise.
    The key point here is that if your educational reform intervention fails to improve upon the status quo, you need to glom onto better models of education reform. You can’t hoodwink parents for a decade saying that you have the silver bullet to fixing our schools and fail to improve them. This is the kind of thing that has soured parents on the No Child Left Behind project.
    II. Won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children?!
    If you chastise Ravitch for being too Manichaean in her history and policy recommendations, you probably should re-examine the entire education reform movement. Here you have what Ravitch more or less accurately highlights as a coalition of conservative think tankers who have widened their circles to include hedge funders and other multi-millionaires pushing their brand of education reform and painting all dissidents as pro-status quo. And what about draping your cause in the flag of caring only about the kids? Cue the “think of the children” character from “The Simpsons”, because guess what Michelle Rhee’s political advocacy organization is called? StudentsFirst.
    And, not quite hilariously, because we are talking about children’s lives here, what does StudentsFirst push for? The market-driven solution that is school vouchers. In American education, our first order problem lies with the fact that we crowd our poor children into their own neighbourhoods with substandard educational expectations and sometimes disempowered (and occasionally criminally negligent) parents. Does anyone really think that by giving these children’s parents a voucher for better schools, we will be able to force the high achieving, usually suburban (and mostly white and upper middle class) public schools to take them? ARE YOU SERIOUS? It quickly becomes apparent how little we’ve moved from the days of desegregated busing. Vouchers aren’t a solution to education inequity. They are a mockery of a solution.
    III. Gotta crush that union
    Now, you would do well to note that Ravitch’s teaming up with Weingarten probably presaged the current moment, with Weingarten leading teachers’ unions to embrace some educational reforms. There is the current Obama-Duncan-formerly-conservative education reform movement, championed by rich people who sometimes barely conceal their desire to profit from the march to privatizing the system. On the other hand there is a more institutionally bound set of education reformers supported by wary, unionized teachers who fear the likes of what is effectively the neoliberal “Washington consensus” on education reform. They also draw support from a more diffuse network of individuals in their own little silos, like Diane Ravitch.
    The way liberalism is supposed to work is to marry an intent to make the system better for most without heedlessly jettisoning the inherent advancements and benefits of the structure of public education itself. I think that people like Randi Weingarten and Diane Ravitch are crucial to this effort and that the more they (and especially Weingarten) are able to articulate policy frameworks that are properly liberal in outlook, the better our hopes for advancing a truly liberal education policy agenda in Washington. And you should can the market-speak. We’ve seen “market forces” lead to higher education inflation set against a bubble mentality that has steadily pushed an affordable college education out of the reach of many families. Has this made our colleges better? No. If anything, the trend of states to reduce higher education investments and push them onto the backs of students and parents (customers!) has us actively gutting the University of California, our best state system.
    IV. Dubious and selective
    Your one example of Ravitch on international comparisons is actually pretty egregious. We have traditionally done poorly at these, and worse at higher educational levels. However, it should be noted that our educational system isn’t a monolith of failure. You can point out that our rich schools are actually quite successful. You can also point out that this has been true for a while. This supports a grander argument that the problem lies with how we educate poorer children–that since our high Gini coefficient and very weak social safety net show that we have a lot more poor children than other peer countries, they don’t get much help through economic hardship, and our economic policies tend to keep them in this mire over generations.
    Given all of this, maybe the fault lies not in our education policy itself but in our wider social policy. In a place like Finland, the gap between education for rich and poor isn’t so great, so if you could magically put a poor kid in school with richer kids, it wouldn’t make as large a difference as if you could orchestrate the same intervention here. Even though American twelfth-graders are still doing abysmally (no evidence for NCLB improvement on this front yet) and this is dubious and selective line of attack on Ravitch for you to use, the grander point is more significant here: maybe we need to zoom out to see the wider problem afflicting the system before we waste another decade of time, political capital, and human capital trying and failing to fix an incompletely construed problem.

  4. Carey seems fixated on Ravitch and her lover.

    I don’t know of Carey’s experience with woman/woman love, but for those interested, Laura Riehman has produced some wonderful poetry.

    I’m not 100% sure, but I believe she didn’t attend public school in New Jersey, thus she wasn’t failed by the union teachers who are only interested in protecting their pension and really dislike kids.

  5. I ventured to the neighborhood around Sousa Middle School, the former home of the rock star principal Dwan Jordon, who did wonderful things in the name of Michelle Rhee, according to Richard Whit mire.
    People hadn’t started talking about the article, but considering how Richard Whit mire described them as ignorant, that’s not surprising.

  6. Very disappointing profile substantively. One learns who Diane Ravitch has liked and criticized, lived with and commented on, aligned with and turned away. We are told just how wrong she was to have changed her mind, to have written polemics, and to have fiercely defended her views. What we are not offered are the reasons for her transformation, the evidence she has examined and found compelling. Whether one agrees with every Ravitch argument, to suggest that she is intellectually dishonest requires far more evidence than Mr. Carey took time to produce. Ridicule, after all, requires less research, results in a more lubricious read, and enlightens not.

  7. Max, how many examples are required to suggest that “the problem is that Ravitch’s use of evidence to support her new positions is often dubious, selective, and inconsistent”?

  8. I ventured around Hardy Middle School in NW Washington, DC, whose principal, Patrick Pope, was punished by not swallowing Michelle Johnson’s KoolAid.
    No one was talking about this.

    However, people are beginning to talk about the Mass. high school english teacher who did porn (and not of the fish variety that Andy favors):

  9. Chris Smyr Says:
    November 30th, 2011 at 12:53 pm
    Never, but I don’t think that’s what I’d call all the examples on page 5

    Hilarious, coming from the guy who drops the call for research and evidence when it doesn’t go his way (namely, Michelle Jonhson’s lie that she took her 2nd graders from the 13th percentile on the CTBS to 90% of them at the 90th percentile on the CTBS at the end of 3rd grade. Of course, Chris doesn’t ask why she failed with 7 students who didn’t score at the 90th percentile. By her own standards, she was a failure.)

  10. TFT is easily amused and Phillip is obsessing over past debates that remain unfinished. I will thus post the obligatory link to said debates without humoring him further, and await a response from Max (or anyone else?) about the examples on page 5.

  11. Carey’s torpedoes hit below the water line, although I will say that it doesn’t really matter whether her vendetta against Klein was personally motivated or not, so I think it best not to bring the subject up.

    Regardless of the origins of her jihad, the point is that she went way off the deep end. If you go to the NAEP, you’ll see for instance that NYC kids made a grade level worth of progress on 4th grade reading between 2002 and 2009, and that NYC 4th graders outperformed or tied about 12 statewide averages for all children despite being a district whose student demographics are dominated by low-income and minority children.

    While this of course does not mean that Klein did everything right, it does make those who chose to accuse a person who got NYC kids reading at about the same level as the students in Oregon of trying to “destroy public education” look utterly foolish. Ravitch is entitled to her opinions, Klein has NAEP scoreboard.

    These days Ravitch seems to have crowd-sourced her Twitter account to a group of Occupy Wall Street kids. Or more likely to a team of strident AFT operatives. She is free to have a good time basking in the approval of her fellow travellers but I fail to see any impact that she is having on serious discussion over education policy.

  12. Diane Ravitch has the support of the people who actually teach the children. That’s her impact.

  13. ^ Regardless of whether or not her “use of evidence to support her new positions is often dubious, selective, and inconsistent”?

    If she were still arguing in favor of reform, would you also castigate her for never having been a teacher?

  14. I’ve been in the teachers lounge enough to know precisely how many, and I’d be kidding everyone if I said that there’s a good amount of teachers against the “ed reform” movement, or at least what they perceive to be the ed reform movement. Once you cut through the misconceptions around the topic though, that number dwindles further than I think you realize.

    Even if it is as large of a number as I think you’d like to pretend it is, I just want you to know that you aren’t speaking for all teachers when you comment on this blog, so comments like the one you made above are disingenuous and misleading to those new to the debate.

  15. I meant to say that I’d be kidding if I said there wasn’t a good amount of teachers against ed reform. Sorry for the slip in typing.

  16. Don’t accept what I say, just read the comments by other teachers who respond to this blog.

    Most teachers are against the status quo of education by zip code. We want equity for all children, and to me that means medical and social supports along with excellent and EXPERIENCED teachers. Most schools for poor children have more inexperienced teachers and fewer resources.

    Please join other teachers in advocating for positive change for our neediest students. Down with the status quo and up with research-based reform! Teachers ARE for reform – the right kind!

  17. Linda,

    You’re crazy if you think you’ll find many people against your vague statements in the last comment. When you’re ready to present solid policy prescriptions for getting to your ideal vision for schools, let me know. What you and I disagree on isn’t the end game, it’s how we get there.

  18. Some people are starting to speak, but it’s the usual suspects.
    No parent.
    No students.
    No teachers
    Jay Mathews:
    And Mike Petrilli:

    But I’m friendly with Kevin, and I’m friends with Diane, so I was disappointed that, respectful tone aside, Carey nonetheless pursues a vicious attack on Diane’s personal integrity, hinting that her criticism of Joel Klein in particular and school reform in general was sparked by Klein’s decision not to hire her long-time partner.’t-say-about-diane-ravitch-but-should-have/

  19. Great comment on Jay’s blog:

    11:06 AM EST
    (part 1)

    If anyone ever doubted it, Jay Mathews has “outed” himself in this column as the corporate-style “reformer” that he is. In other columns, Mathews has pimped for such conservative “luminaries” as Fred Hess and Eric Hanushek and Jay Greene and Paul Peterson and Mark Bauerlein.

    In essence, Mathews writes here that he is one with them. Mathews says that the corporate-style “reformers” that Diane Ravitch and others (including me) criticize are:

    “people who like me support more charter schools, test accountability, changes in the recruitment, training and compensation of teachers and alterations in the size and structure of public schools. Ravitch was once on our side, but turned against us. She is particularly hard on wealthy reformers like Bill Gates and Eli Broad.”

    Like the corporate-style “reformers, Mathews cares little for research and facts. Indeed, here is little if any research to support more standardized testing, and more charter schools, and merit pay tied to test scores, and school vouchers. But the corporate-style “reformers” advocate for all of them.

    Nor does research support Mathews’ incessant pandering for more Advanced Placement courses and tests. In a lengthy column on May 23, 2011, Mathews laid out the rationale for AP courses and tests, and for his Challenge Index rankings of high schools. And, in a length series of comments, I took apart Mathews’ assertions and cited all of the relevant research (Mathews, however, clings to College Board-paid-for-and-non-peer-reviewed “studies” and his twenty-plus-year-old book on Jaime Escalante). Those comments can be found here:

    As to Kevin Carey, even conservative Michael Petrelli –– of the conservative Thomas Fordham Foundation and Hoover Institute –– said that Kevin Carey’s irresponsible hit piece on Ravitch amounted to “a vicious attack on Diane’s personal integrity.” Mathews calls the Carey polemic “balanced and deep.” Uh-huh.

    As Petrilli points out, Ravitch (and others) became disenchanted with Joel Klein because he was running schools like he was “selling toothpaste.” Ravitch has stated that she turned against No Child Left Behind because “its remedies don’t work, its sanctions don’t work, and the results are unimpressive.” The “governing philosophy of NCLB,” she wrote, “has failed.”

    While most reasonable people cringe at the rampant cheating recently uncovered in Atlanta and Washington D.C., and New York, and Philadelphia, Kevin Carey writes (obtusely) that it“ means that public schools finally care enough about student performance that some ethically challenged educators have chosen to cheat.” Huh?

    Diane Ravitch was wrong in the past. No doubt about that. It’s alleged that she helped to suppress The Sandia Report, the post-A Nation at Risk research study (Journal of Educational Research, Volume 86, May/June 1993) that found there WAS no crisis in public schools, concluding that:

    * “..on nearly every measure we found steady or slightly improving trends.”

    * “youth today [the 1980s] are choosing natural science and engineering degrees at a higher rate than their peers of the 1960s.”

    * “business leaders surveyed are generally satisfied with the skill levels of their employees, and the problems that do exist do not appear to point to the k-12 education system as a root cause.”

    “The student performance data clearly indicate that today’s youth are achieving levels of education at least as high as any pervious generation.”

    To her credit, Ravitch has parted with her former support for merit pay and standardized testing “accountability.” She admits that she “should have known better.” She says she is “trying to make up for it now.” I’ll take her word for it.

    But what is Mathews’ and Carey’s excuse?

  20. pgteacher:

    No, I don’t think I’ll find many people against my statements because they are based on solid research of the past sixty years. We know that

    Healthy children perform better in school;

    Parents have a huge effect on the education of the child;

    An excellent teacher makes a big difference;

    Teacher attrition is especially high in low-income schools;

    Important cognitive and language skills are learned in the first five years of life and have an enormous effect on the child’s life chances;

    A ratio of one teacher to fifteen pupils or fewer has a positive effect on the achievement of the students;

    In order to learn, the student must be engaged;

    An impoverished child of color often does better in an integrated, middle income school;

    Experiences or “background knowledge” are critical to learning new information;


    Based on this research, I support the following policies:

    Health clinics on the campuses of low-income schools;

    Education for infants, toddlers and preschoolers with a strong parent ed component;

    Teachers WITH A PROVEN RECORD OF SUCCESS for the most challenging schools;

    Higher salaries, better working conditions and professional autonomy for teachers as a way of attracting and retaining “the best and the brightest.”

    Public school vouchers for children in “failing” schools;

    Two teachers in a class of thirty students; one to teach and the other to monitor learning and behavior;

    Camp and other enriching out-of- school experiences for low-income children;

    Magnets and public school vouchers to provide choice for parents and children trapped in impoverished schools;


    Pgteacher: You sound like a teacher who cares. Please join other teachers and child advocates in demanding educational equity for our poorest children. Let’s tear down the status quo of education by zip code. Thank you for your service to children.

    (I believe the present “reform” movement will lead to privatization of public schools. Since we already have this at the college level, we know where it will lead us: Berkeley for the privileged and Pay and Pass Tech and huge debts for the poor. Please think about it. Thank you.)

  21. Pgteacher: You sound like a teacher who cares. Please join other teachers and child advocates in demanding educational equity for our poorest children.

    If he/she doesn’t “join other teachers” and push your flimsy arguments, does that mean he/she doesn’t care about children?

  22. Chris, I just read over my post to see which of my arguments is “flimsy.” It’s extremely revealing that you would describe them as such.

    Poor children have the same basic needs as the rest of us. Please support them. Thank you.

  23. posts*. Read over your posts. Look at other threads if you don’t understand what’s so flimsy, as I’ve been laying it out for you for over 2 years now.

    And how is it “extremely revealing”? Are you implying I don’t think “poor children have the same basic needs as the rest of us”? And isn’t that exactly what you were implying toward pgteacher, that he doesn’t care about educational equity unless he pushes *your* way of achieving it?

  24. Pgteacher sounds very caring to me. After all, s/he is actually teaching!

    By “extremely revealing” I meant that you must have another agenda if you think my suggestions are “flimsy” as I am suggesting basics (health care, successful teachers) that we KNOW will help children.

    Please support educational equity for ALL our children. Let’s destroy the status quo of education by zip code.

  25. Yes, let’s just halve all class sizes and mandate free access to healthcare and child services for all, while simultaneously enforcing a strict “Great Teacher” requirement in failing schools. Surely that’s a winning policy strategy and one we can enact by next fall. Why on earth didn’t anyone think of this sooner!

  26. I’m glad you’re seeing the light, but I don’t mean “for all” but only for the poorest and most vulnerable among us.

    “The measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members.”

  27. Linda, asking Creationist Chris to supply evidence for anything he claims is like asking a hooker for a receipt.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.