By Gary North (www.garynorth.com),March 18, 2014
Diane Ravitch says that America’s urban public schools are about to go belly-up, killed by the Right (charter schools) and the Left (the Common Core curriculum).
I dearly hope she is correct.
Ravitch is the #1 maven of public education. She loves the system. She believes that badges and guns are crucial for education, as well as for democracy. She assures us that we cannot have education without badges and guns. She says: “Public education is one of the foundational institutions for a democracy.” She is this generation’s #1 defender of the messianic character of American public education. You can read about her here.
She earned a Ph.D. from the academic institution which, more than any other, gave us progressive education: Columbia University.
George H. W. Bush appointed her to a high office. So did Bill Clinton. So did George W. Bush.
Now she says the whole system is at risk. We read on the liberal Salon site:
Once a George H.W. Bush education official and an advocate for greater testing-based accountability, Diane Ravitch has in recent years become the nation’s highest-profile opponent of Michelle Rhee’s style of charter-based education reform (one also espoused by Barack Obama).
In a wide-ranging conversation last week, Ravitch spoke with Salon about new data touted by charter school supporters, progressive divisions over Common Core, and Chris Christie’s ed agenda. “There are cities where there’s not going to be public education 10 years from now,” Ravitch warned.
Ravitch is the consummate public education weather vane. She gets on board one fad after another, only to be left in the dust when it fails. They all fail.
“No Child Left Behind” is clearly a failure. Ravitch supported it. Now she opposes it.
These well-paid bureaucrats become cheerleaders for one reform after another. But their team — tax-funded education — has not had a winning season since 1940.
Dr. Ravitch was Assistant Secretary of Education when the Department’s report was published, 120 Years of American Education: A Statistical Portrait. She wrote the introduction. Most Americans are unaware of these facts:
In 1940, more than half of the U.S. population had completed no more than an eighth grade education. Only 6 percent of males and 4 percent of females had completed 4 years of college (table 4). The median years of school attained by the adult population, 25 years old and over, had registered only a scant rise from 8.1 to 8.6 years over a 30-year period from 1910 to 1940 (p. 7).
Look-say reading techniques of the 1940’s have produced millions of functional illiterates. Dick and Jane can’t read. One estimate is that 20% of Americans cannot read.
No major national educational reform has worked since the post-Sputnik reforms, which were supposed to create a nation of scientists and engineers. Today, over half of all Ph.D students in engineering are foreign students. American taxpayers are educating the world’s best graduate students in science and engineering.
The new math was a bust in the late 1960’s.
One after another, reforms are heralded as the solution to declining student test scores. None of them ever produces the promised successes.
The SAT scores started falling in 1963, and they have not reversed. Other tests showed similar declines.
There are many states that are cutting the budget for public schools at the same time that they’re paying a lot out for testing… Texas, for example, a couple of years ago… cut $5.3 billion out of the public schools, and at the same time gave Pearson a contract for almost $500 million… They said that there would be 15 end-of-course exams in order to graduate high school and caused a parent rebellion: There were so many angry moms, they organized a group called TAMSA — Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment — better known as Moms Against Drunk Testing…
Look at what schools are buying.
Los Angeles just made a deal a few months ago to spend $1 billion to equip every student and staff member with an iPad. The money was taken from a 25-year bond for school construction, to buy disposable equipment. The iPads will be obsolete in three or four years… Meanwhile, the schools have unmet repair dates…
It’s great for Apple. Meanwhile, school buildings rot.
Buying iPads for students is just another fad. New school construction is an old fad. It has been discarded. Fads come and go. This is constant: Test scores decline.
What about Common Core?
The fact is, we have no evidence that the Common Core standards are what we say they are until we’ve tried them. They haven’t been tried anywhere, they’ve been tested — and we know that where they’re tested, they cause massive failure. So I would say we need to have more time before we can reach any judgment that they have some miracle cure embedded in them.
When she says “massive failure,” what does she have in mind? This:
In New York State when they gave the Common Core testing last spring, 3 percent of the English [language] learners passed it. 97 percent failed it…
I say this. Let’s call Common Core what it really is: “Most Children Left Behind . . . Asians Excepted.”
Common Core will fail. The politicians who promoted it will find themselves in another line of work if they don’t abandon the experiment. Moms Against Drunk Testing will vote them out of office.
Teachers are being blamed for the failures. Well, what else would they expect? The system has been in decline since 1940. But Ravitch refuses to blame them.
The teachers across America are being crushed… Experienced teachers, veteran teachers, excellent teachers, are feeling that it’s not a profession anymore — it’s just become a testing technician. It’s not the job they signed on for.
I was in North Carolina a couple of weeks ago — they’re having a massive brain drain of teachers. Florida just released the results of their teacher evaluations, and almost half of their Teachers of the Year were called “ineffective teachers.” I mean, there comes a point where, who would want to be a teacher in this country?
If the teachers are not to blame, then who is? She did not say.
I have two suggestions: (1) the system of tax funding; (2) the system of compulsory attendance.
In other words, blame the system as a whole, not just one component. Stop calling for reforms. The reforms do not work.
I have a slogan: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It is broke, fix it. If it can’t be fixed, stop funding it.”
She hates charter schools. She does not mention the #1 fact of charter schools: They are funded by taxes. So, she targets this practice: they kick out rotten students.
Charter schools [are] allowed to throw out the kids they don’t want. They’re allowed to throw out the kids with low scores. They’re allowed to exclude the kids who have severe disabilities. They’re allowed to not accept the kids that don’t speak English. And then you’re going to compare them to… the schools that take all those kids? I mean, really — this is ridiculous.
In short, charter schools raise the lowest common denominator. This is elitist, she says.
…This is trending toward a dual school system: One school system for the privileged kids, or the kids who don’t have big problems… the charters, that are allowed to choose their students and exclude those they don’t want. And the other one, that’s required to take everyone.
What is the solution? You already know her answer: more tax money. Subsidize failure.
To insist that every school offer children a full education that includes not only the basics of reading and writing and mathematics, but science and the arts, and for language and history and civics. Make sure that every school in this country is appropriately funded. That is, that it has the resources that it needs for the children it enrolls. That’s just basic. We don’t do that now.
I see. There has never been enough funding.
When you subsidize failure, but you promise success, there cannot be enough money.
There are schools that are being starved of funding, and more and more of the funding is being directed to vendors. And there are cities where there’s not going to be public education 10 years from now. That’s not good. Public education is one of the foundational institutions for a democracy. And yet there will be cities without public education. Their schools will be run by private management. And the private managers will be free to choose their students and exclude ones they don’t want.
Then the charter high schools will adopt the Khan Academy, which is free. They could then decide to have classes with 80 students, one low-paid 25-year-old with a B.A., and one high school graduate to help her keep order. They will be profitable. Khan is self-teaching, which is the way to do an online curriculum. It is what the Ron Paul Curriculum uses.
Teachers are leaving the profession in large numbers… Back in the 1980s, the modal year of teaching was 15. It’s down to one to two years… The research is very clear that first-year teachers are not the strongest teachers…
But they’re cheap! And with Khan Academy, they will be good enough.
She ends with this:
Why destroy public education so that a handful of people can boast they have a charter school in addition to their yacht?
This is the rhetoric of political envy.
This is the rhetoric of a defender of a failed system.
Common Core is dead in the water. But it is going to take a decade to kill it. It will tear up the public schools. It will undermine support for the public schools. It will divide the bureaucrats.
Meanwhile, “There are cities where there’s not going to be public education 10 years from now.”
Then there will be private education for parents who want it for their children.
We are seeing the death throes of the messianic character of American education.