Saturday, November 17, 2012

Education's Public Defender

Education's advocate, Diane Ravitch is revealed in an article in the New Yorker by David Denby. At one time she was a supporter of No Child Left Behind, but due to disappointing results for students, she has tirelessly fought for a better system for our nation's children and grandchildren. According to Ravitch the reform movement took on a business format when test-based accountability (NCLB) spearheaded a detour from professional teachers to teaching technicians by turning schools over to non-union for-profit charter school, including some that are totally online charter schools.

The constant test prep in reading and math has required schools to cut back on science, history, languages, art, and in some cases physical education. A 2009 survey, conducted by Stanford, concluded that only 17% of charter schools outperformed the local public schools in math and 37% had worse results than the public schools. Plus cheating scandals were found in some states and some states made the tests too easy so students would pass.

Even Rupert Murdoch, of the British News Corporation phone tapping scandal, has put his wallet into the education game by forming an education subsidiary in the US called Amplify. Education is a place to make millions or billions in the software business for testing and Charter schools. If you look at the website, it looks really amazing. But when you see what they do, they develop technological software for devices. It's all about the money. The rest is smoke and mirrors. Do we really need a guy who ran a company that invaded people's privacy for profit involved in our educational system for our children?

Miss Ravitch believes that poverty is one reason that student achievement is low. That does not mean that poor students can't learn. It means that their needs may be different and need to be addressed. We have immigrant children, who may not speak English, students with disabilities (some which may be caused by lack of nutrition), and kids with no quiet place to study or even sleep. Combine this with the growing number of autistic children with special needs in public schools, educationally motivated families moving to charter schools, and increasing class size due to lack of funding, and it is not rocket science to see why public schools are at a disadvantage.

Although the future is uncertain, Diane Ravitch believes in public education. She believes in tenure for teachers and believes that union representation gives professionals a seat at the table when state legislatures try to make cuts in school funding. She does not believe  merit pay should be the primary measurement for teacher performance.  She is tentatively supporting Common Core Standards which began to be implemented in 2010 in some states (not California), but reminds us that they have not been field tested anywhere. If you are a teacher, Diane Ravitch believes in you. She believes teachers are highly dedicated. She believes neighborhood public schools fulfill a democratic function where those of all faiths, races, countries, ethnicity's, and social status can meet, learn, and support each other. Daily, as teachers teach each subject, they help children learn to work and play together in peace. If you are a parent or grandparent, she believes American public schools are not failing your child. Need more information take a look at Diane Ravitch's blog.

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