Ravitch was introduced by Professor Tom DelPrete to a crowd of 300 people or more (they kept bringing out chairs!). In the crowd, among many others, I saw four School Committee members(myself, Mullaney, Monfredo, and Foley), one City Councilor (Lukes), Research Bureau staff, and two senior WPS administrators (Mulqueen and Perda).
DelPrete: "tremendous interest in education in Worcester...get it right for the wonderfully diverse children..stimulate and inform our thinking...our actions"
"foremost critic of prevailing education policy"
"unflinching in staking her ground"
"to confront the prevailing remedies"
citing Bridging Differences (with Deb Meier)
Ravitch: "a few words...J.Stanley Hall, Clark's first president...quite amazing..studied at Williams College..first American to earn a doc at Harvard..became first president of Clark..invited Freud to America"
progressive education movement...child study..had a lot of fun with Dr. Hall's theories...many controversial things to say...revered the natural child..went too far.."
"what would he say about No Child Left Behind?" (to laughter)
"I would like to say that he would stand with all those who are concerned about the future of American education...too concerned about children to..let them be datapoints"
American education "is under siege"
the message we're being given: "public education is a failure...resources don't matter, poverty doesn't matter...so many bad teachers...unions protect bad teachers...only teachers matter..."
"we know what works: it's testing and accountability" Alter ("he should know because he writes about politics")
"simply nonsense" (correction of "Waiting for Superman"data)
"despite this slant that it has...Oprah..NBC..Time...President Obama..such wonderful publicity does not happen by accident...encapsulates the..narrative of our day"
"frontal assault on one of our most vital institutions"
NCLB: tests every year between gr. 2 and 8, and every child must be proficient by 2014
what if Congress mandated that every city must be crime free by 2014, and if not, they'll start closing down police departments?
Schools that don't meet these demands (cites four options of turnaround)
NCLB: Turned out to be an ineffective goal and a toxic law
"no state, no country has reached 100% proficiency"
"half the students earn an A on the national test" in Massachusetts, but 50% looks like a failure
"In fact, it's a great and stunning accomplishment...press should be showering teachers with praise"
"was more progress on national scores prior to" NCLB
"source of the gap is outside the schools"
many states have dumbed down the tests, cheating scandals
narrowing curriculum, spent 100's of millions on test prep, decreased time spent on everything else (including recess)
"along comes the Obama administration with its Race to the Top...I'm sorry to say you won"
"you'll now do things that are wrong for education..that you wouldn't have done if you hadn't gotten the money"
"none of it's based on research...practice...may be based on what's happened in Chicago, which hasn't performed"
"not one of these is based on research, evidence, or practice"
Charters enroll less than 4% of children in American education
Charters (CREDO study out of Stanford) 17% get better results, 37% get worse results, 46% got similar results "not good odds"
charter schools with lotteries don't get better results (academically or in behavior)
"there has never been a difference" in comparing students at like schools or with like profiles
"surprising because charter schools have so many advantages...they have freedom to choose their teachers...teachers serve at will...but they don't get better results. We should learn something from this."
"merit pay has been tried again and again since 1920"
in September of 2010...results came out ..."no difference whatsoever between the groups...teachers in both groups were working as hard as they knew how"
much scrambling when the results came out..."the test of the unasked question"
"ideology trumps evidence"
evaluating teachers on the basis of student tests scores..."it's wrong"
students are not randomly assigned to teachers
"many fine teachers will labelled " poor and poor ones fine, and labels are unstable; they'll change from year to year
"Huge margin of error" so large as to be meaningless
teachers should be judged "by human judgment..by peer review..by student work...no mechanical formula"
"if unions are the core problem of American education, then we should be looking at right to work states..but those are the poorest performing states"
Highest performing states (including Massachusetts) are the most heavily unionized
"have a national problem recruiting and retaining teachers"
have to replace 300,000 teachers each year (if we fire 10% each year, we'll need 700,000 new teachers
each year; half of all college grads will have to become teachers)
TFA: "nice but hardly addresses the problem"
when (other countries that are successful) were asked "what do you do about bad teachers?" "we help them" if they're still bad "we help them some more"
"our approach is fire the teachers, fire the principal, close the school..the federal government doesn't help, it fires"
"no school ever improved by closing it"
"gotta watch that attaching dates to your promises"
"more than 80% of children who left schools went to low-performing schools and saw NO improvement"
Daley called for an end to Race to the Top
comparison of schools that had improved to those that had not; importance of social networks
"web of belonging and ethics and values"
"again and again we hear that choice and competition will create a rising tide that will lift all boats"
"it should have happened in Milwaukee" where they've had vouchers since 1990
results : "there was no rising tide, no boats were lifted. They have not improved."
"Children do not arrive in school ready to learn when they're hungry and homeless...child poverty rate is 20%, heading to 27%"
Finland's rate is under 4%
"a national scandal"
"people have human needs and those needs should be satisfied"
"the people who say resources don't matter are those that have plenty of resources"
have yet to hear an inner city teacher say we have enough resources
children in Harlem Children's Zone have class sizes of 15 with two teachers...and they still aren't beating the system on test scores (better than Harlem, but what could Harlem do if they had the resources HCZ had?)
the first class at HCZ's charter didn't improve enough, board wasn't impressed, so they sent the kids back to the public schools
"that's one way to improve your scores...throw out your classes"
75% attrition rate at SEED
"attacks on public education will continue, because it's led by Bill Gates"
"I confess I do not understand how education is supposed to improve if teachers have less education and less experience"
principals who have never taught
principals are expected to evaluate teachers, help teachers..."how can they help if they've never taught"
"now we have superintendents who have never taught" (including Worcester's, incidentally)
cites Cathie Black in NYC who has never taught and barely ever been in a public school
six national goals for education--governors and president agreed on
all children will arrive in schools ready to learn by the year 2000 (was one)
"must focus on strengthening the education profession...aim to build a real teaching profession"
"we must stop high stakes testing...leads to bad education...tests should be used for diagnostic reasons"
rich curriculum...all things that make school a lively engaging place
"this is not some deep mystery...that's what successful nations have done to improve their schools"
Mary Mullaney: power usurped by state and federal government "the lure of the money is so tempting"
cites vote on turnaround schools in Worcester (5-2; she voted against)
is this reversible?
"it's so awful...how can some of us make difference around this?"
Ravitch: need real national leadership around this
editorial addresses the GOP (that's the cached edition; WSJ is behind a paywall) who traditionally have believed in local control
"trusting local judgment...federal role has ballooned"
ESEA was premised on the idea "where there are poor children, there should be more money"
NCLB changed that judgment
Duncan has just jumped right on that and brought it farther
met with senators, representatives...let them know "it's wrong"
"turning over to a deregulated sector...requires more professionalism"
"Washington D.C. does not have better answers than the Worcester school board"
Stephen Eide (from the Research Bureau): why are parents choosing charter schools, then?
Ravitch: people have been sold a bill of goods
Look at the data: "it hasn't happened"
"charter idea took over because the voucher idea didn't work"
Phi Delta Kappa poll: People are very down on public education now
when asked of what do you think of your own child's school, people give it an A or a B
"if we don't improve public education in this country, we're sunk, because that's where 96% of our children go"
standards movement: became so politicized around history standards
"the evil sister of the standards movement..."NCLB
"it's thinking, it's solving problems, it's civic development..we have this political malaise that's taken over...if these other countries can do this...learning is hard, complex, incremental"
Ravitch: politicians, not educators
"no intellectual content...no provision for arts, physical education...everything we consider part of a balanced good education can go"
once you make one measure the goal, people will distort the system in pursuit of that goal. It corrupts the system.
Why do teachers' unions knee-jerk support any Democratic candidates even if this isn't a good choice?
Ravitch: people were misled by Obama having Linda Darling-Hammond as his advisor during the campaign
"I can't explain why the MTA or any other union makes the choices they do" for endorsements
"the minute you turn the test into an accountability tool, the test becomes meaningless"
"it's the misuse of testing we're talking about"
the status quo is about misuse of testing, privatizing education, merit pay...
"the status quo stinks"