Diane Ravitch

Is NYC's Progressive Mayor Turning into a Charter School Cheerleader?

When Bill de Blasio ran for mayor the first time, he sought my help. We met and spoke candidly. He told me he would strongly support traditional public schools. He said he would oppose the expansion of private charters into public school space. He promised to stop closing schools because of their test scores. His own children went to public schools. He would protect them and end the destructive tactics of Joel Klein, who coldly and cruelly closed schools over the tearful objections of students, parents, and teachers.

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Harvard Shames Itself by Staging a Koch-Sponsored Betsy DeVos Lovefest

The Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University has always been pro-school choice, pro-charters, pro-vouchers.

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Lessons from the Charter School Disaster in Indianapolis

Indiana has been taken over by the forces of corporate school reform, under a succession of Republican governors devoted to school choice: Mitch Daniels, Mike Pence, now Eric Holcomb. The public schools got a brief respite when educator Glenda Ritz was elected State Commissioner in 2012, but Pence spent four years attacking her Office and taking away its powers. Indiana has the gamut of privatization reforms: charter schools, vouchers, cybercharters.

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PBS Runs a Three-Hour Series Glorifying the Anti-Public School DeVos Education Agenda

Public education today faces an existential crisis. Over the past two decades, the movement to transfer public money to private organizations has expanded rapidly. The George W. Bush administration first wrote into federal law the proposal that privately managed charter schools were a remedy for low-scoring public schools, even though no such evidence existed. The Obama administration provided hundreds of millions each year to charter schools, under the control of private boards. Now, the Trump administration, under the leadership of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, wants to expand privatization to include vouchers, virtual schools, cyberschools, homeschooling, and every other possible alternative to public education. DeVos has said that public education is a “dead end,” and that “government sucks.”

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Diane Ravitch Urges Boycott of Standardized Tests, Saying They Do Nothing for Kids But Make Testing Companies Rich

I am very glad that I attended public school during a time when we seldom, if ever, took a standardized test. On the rare occasion when we did, there were no consequences attached to our test scores. Our teachers saw our scores, but we did not. She or he learned something about how we were progressing or not. There was no time devoted to test prep, because the tests didn't matter. Practicing for a test would have been like "practicing" for a visit with the doctor. It makes no sense.

Today, standardized testing has become so ubiquitous that students in public schools are tested every year from grades 3 through 8, a reminder of the No Child Left Behind law, which left many children behind. For some reason, the policymakers in D.C. thought they knew more than professional educators about how to improve education. Test every child every year. Threaten teachers and principals with stiff penalties, including being fired or having their school closed. If scores went up, and sometimes they did, it didn't mean that children were better educated. It may have meant that they were worse educated because their school sacrificed the arts, history, civics, and other activities for the sake of prepping for the all-important tests.

Nevertheless, state leaders became persuaded that tests were good; the more tests the better. Most states are now giving tests that their own legislators would not be able to pass. There ought to be a law that no legislator may impose any test that he or she can't pass. If they took the tests and released their own scores, the testing mania would disappear.

Since that won't happen, the next best thing is civil disobedience. Opt out. Don't let your child take the tests. This a legitimate way of expressing your voice, which is otherwise ignored.

The single most important thing you need to know about the state tests is that they are utterly useless and without any value. The results come back in the summer or fall, when the student has a different teacher. Neither students nor teachers are allowed to discuss the questions on the test, so no one learns anything from them. Teachers are not given a diagnostic report for each student, just rankings. Why do you need to know that your child is a 38 or 48 or 68? How does that help her? What information can you glean from a ranking? None.

Testing today is like visiting the doctor for a regular check-up and learning that your results will be ready in four months, not next week. When the results come in, you are told you are a 12 on a scale of 15. You anxiously ask the doctor, what does that mean? He says, "I am not allowed to tell you." He gives you a few other numbers to show how you rate as compared to others of your height and weight, but he prescribes nothing because he is not able to learn anything from the scores and ratings.

A genuinely diagnostic test would be one where students and teachers could discuss the questions and answers. They would learn what the student got right and wrong. They would discuss whether the "right answer" was reasonable. If the student could make a better case for his answer, then his score could be changed. The teacher would learn where the students needed extra help. The teacher would learn which topics she had not given enough attention to.

But that is not the way standardized testing works today. Their contents are copyrighted. The testing corporations fiercely protect the secrecy of their questions and answers.

Their defenders think that the tests produce something that teachers need to know. They are not. They are producing numerical ratings and rankings that have no value. They are generating profits for the testing companies.

They are useless.

The best way to get this point across to the policymakers in your state and in Washington, D.C., is to refuse the tests. Do not take them. Send a message. This is the only way you can liberate your children from tests that have no value and that steal time from instruction and play. Defend your child. Defend the joy of learning.

Opt out.

Betsy DeVos Confirmed Despite Massive Protests

The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education is an outrageous insult to the millions of people who send their children to public schools, to the millions of students who attend public schools, to the millions of educators who work in public schools, and to the millions of people–like me–who graduated from public school.

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Please Write and Tweet John Oliver to Thank Him for His Program Revealing Charter Fraud

As readers of this blog know, deregulation of charters leads to fraud, graft, and abuse. On this site, I have documented scores of examples of fraudsters and grifters who take advantage of weak (or no) oversight to enrich themselves and to strand children in bad schools.

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An Open Letter To Mark Zuckerberg And Dr. Priscilla Chan

Recently, Checker Finn of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute wrote an open letter to you, proposing that you stay the course with the failed reforms of the past fifteen years. Marc Tucker wrote an open letter to you, disagreeing with Checker. He said that all of Checker’s proposals were tinkering at the margins (Teach for America, New Leaders, scholarships, charter schools), and he recommended that you invest in improving the education system with an eye to the high-performing nations of the world. If Marc was thinking about Finland, my personal favorite, I endorse what he says; Finland emphasizes highly educated teachers, minimal testing, pre-school education, medical care, no charters, no vouchers, and lots of emphasis on creativity and play.

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How Billionaires Are Successfully Fooling Us Into Destroying Public Education - and Why Privatization Is a Terrible Idea

The following is an excerpt from the new, expanded edition of  The Death and Life of the Great American School System by Diane Ravitch (Basic Books, 2016): 

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Why the Opt out Movement Is Crucial for the Future of Public Education

Many parents and educators are outraged by the over-testing and misuse of testing that has been embedded in federal policy since the enactment of No Child Left Behind in 2002. No high-performing nation in the world tests every child every year in grades 3-8, as we have since the passage of NCLB.

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Diane Ravitch: Why Every Child Should Opt Out of Standardized Testing

Want to end the obsession with standardized testing? Opt your children out of the state tests.

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Diane Ravitch: The Crisis in Education Is That the Super Wealthy Corporate Education System Wants to Destroy Public Schools

It has become conventional wisdom that “education is in crisis.” I have been asked about this question by many interviewers. They say something like: “Do you think American education is in crisis? What is the cause of the crisis?” And I answer, “Yes, there is a crisis, but it is not the one you have read about. The crisis in education today is an existential threat to the survival of public education. The threat comes from those who unfairly blame the school for social conditions, and then create a false narrative of failure. The real threat is privatization and the loss of a fundamental democratic institution.”

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The Dismal Failure of Arne Duncan's 'Race to the Top' Program

Sometimes events happen that seem to be disconnected, but after a few days or weeks, the pattern emerges. Consider this: On October 2, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that he was resigning and planned to return to Chicago. Former New York Commissioner of Education John King, who is a clone of Duncan in terms of his belief in testing and charter schools, was designated to take Duncan’s place. On October 23, the Obama administration held a surprise news conference to declare that testing was out of control and should be reduced to not more than 2 percent of classroom time. Actually, that wasn’t a true reduction, because 2 percent translates into between 18-24 hours of testing, which is a staggering amount of annual testing for children in grades 3-8 and not different from the status quo in most states.

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Charter School Nonsense: No, Hedge Fund Billionaires Aren't Going to Save All the Children

Yesterday was a school day in New York City. Across the city, over one million children were in class.

But not the children of Eva Moskowitz's Success Academies! They (and possibly some allied charters) held a mass rally at Cadman Plaza Park in Brooklyn. The park was lined with rented buses. As the children and their parents stepped off the buses, an adult handed them a hand-lettered sign to carry, demanding more support for charter schools.

There were multiple buses for the recording and video services. This was a well-funded, professionally orchestrated demonstration of support for privatization. If public schools closed for a political rally, their principals would be fired.

The children and parents all wore identical red tee-shirts, with the slogan “Dont Steal Possible.” This slogan works nicely in suggesting that someone is trying to close down charter schools, and this imminent threat to their survival must be stopped.

In fact, as is typical with reformer slogans, the opposite is true. Eva and her billionaire hedge fund backers get whatever they want from Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature. And they aim to “steal” space and resources from the beleaguered public schools. They merrily “steal possible” from children with disabilities, children who are English language learners, and children who are homeless, none of whom are wanted by Eva’s Success Academies because they might not get high scores.

The theme of the day was “equality for all children.” A large banner across the top of the speakers’ podium read, “We Fight for Equality.” This is ironic since the typical complaint about charter co-locations is that the charters have more resources, the charters get whatever they want, the charters create “separate but equal” schools within the same building.

It is also ironic that children and parents were rallying for “more charters,” because they are already enrolled in a charter. The children can attend only one charter, right? The beneficiaries of the rally are not the children but charter founders. The more charters they open, the more funding they receive.

It is true that Eva’s schools get very high test scores, much higher than other charter schools. If she has the secret sauce of success, why not include all children, not just the chosen ones? Maybe she should take charge of all the city’s 1.1 million students and show what she can do.

If she truly wants “equality for all,” let her bring the hedge fund billionaires and her secret sauce to save all the children. No cherry picking. No skimming. No exclusion of children who have cognitive or emotional disabilities. All means all. Why not find out if she means what she says?

Did The New York Times 'Deliberately Ignore' Evidence in Reporting on Success Academy?

The New York Times Magazine has a long article about Eva Moskowitz and her chain of charter schools in New York City. The charter chain was originally called Harlem Success Academy, but Moskowitz dropped the word “Harlem” when she decided to open new schools in gentrifying neighborhoods and wanted to attract white and middle-class families.

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Why is the Obama Administration Attacking Teachers Unions?

We are living in an era when the very idea of public education is under attack, as are teachers’ unions and the teaching profession. Let’s be clear: these attacks and the power amassed behind them are unprecedented in American history. Sure, there have always been critics of public schools, of teachers, and of unions. But never before has there been a serious and sustained effort to defund public education, to turn public money over to unaccountable private hands, and to weaken and eliminate collective bargaining wherever it still exists. And this effort is not only well-coordinated but funded by billionaires who have grown wealthy in a free market and can’t see any need for regulation or unions or public schools.

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Time for Congress to Probe Bill Gates’ Education Coup

The story about Bill Gates’ swift and silent takeover of American education is startling. His role and the role of the U.S. Department of Education in drafting and imposing the Common Core standards on almost every state should be investigated by Congress.

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Chicago Principal Speaks Out: Emanuel Administration Demonstrates 'Complete Incompetence'

A few days ago, I posted a letter by Troy LaRaviere, a principal in a Chicago elementary school, protesting the administration’s indifference to the views of the system’s professionals. He wrote boldly about efforts to stifle criticism and enforce a compliant attitude.

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Diane Ravitch Backs Louis C.K., Blasts Newsweek Piece: 'Your Belief...Has No Research to Support It.'

I received a tweet from Alexander Nazaryan, the author of the Newsweek piece rebuking Louis C.K. and defending the Common Core standards, asking me for a substantive critique of his article.

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Louis C.K. Has Done Us a Favor by Taking Aim at Common Core

There is a battle royal being waged across the nation about a set of national academic standards called the Common Core.

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The Big Lie About Mayor Bill de Blasio and Charters

The New York City tabloids–whose owners are zealous about charter schools–have whipped up a frenzy against Mayor Bill de Blasio because he did not approve every single charter application rushed through the Bloomberg board at its last meeting in October 2013. That board, which never said no to Mayor Bloomberg, approved an unprecedented 49 charter applications, some of which are co-locations.

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5 Steps Bill de Blasio Must Take to Save NYC's Schools

The election of Bill de Blasio represents a major national setback for the agenda shared not only by Mayor Bloomberg, but by George W. Bush, Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange), the Koch brothers and many others. What they had in common was that they had the gall to call themselves “reformers” as they determined to replace public education with a choice system that gave preference to privatized management over democratic governance.

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Diane Ravitch: Charter Schools Are a Colossal Mistake. Here's Why

Los Angeles has more charter schools than any other school district in the nation, and it's a very bad idea.

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Today We Mourn

I had half a dozen interesting posts ready to go out today, but I decided it was inappropriate to return to business as usual after the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

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What You Need To Know About ALEC

Since the 2010 elections, when Republicans took control of many states, there has been an explosion of legislation advancing privatization of public schools and stripping teachers of job protections and collective bargaining rights. Even some Democratic governors, seeing the strong rightward drift of our politics, have jumped on the right-wing bandwagon, seeking to remove any protection for academic freedom from public school teachers.

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