August 9th, 2012
06:40 AM ET

My View: Rhee is wrong and misinformed

Courtesy Jack MillerBy Diane Ravitch, Special to CNN

Editor’s note:  Diane Ravitch is research professor of education at New York University. Appointed by President Clinton, she served seven years on the National Assessment Governing Board which supervises the NAEP tests. She is the author of the best-selling book “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education,” and  blogs at dianeravitch.net.

(CNN) - A few days ago, CNN interviewed former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee about American education. Rhee, predictably, said that American education is terrible, that test scores are flat, and that we are way behind other nations on international tests.

I disagree with Rhee. She constantly bashes American education, which is one of the pillars of our democratic society. Our public schools educate 90% of the population, and we should give the public schools some of the credit for our nation’s accomplishments as the largest economy and the greatest engine of technological innovation in the world.

It’s time to set the record straight. The only valid measure of academic performance in our schools is the federal test called the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). NAEP has been testing American students since the early 1970s.

The NAEP test scores of American students are at their highest point in history: for black students, white students, Hispanic students, and Asian students. 

They are at their highest point in history in fourth grade and in eighth grade, in reading and math.

As for the international test scores, which Rhee loves to recite to knock our public schools, she is obviously unaware that our nation has never had high scores on those tests. When the first international test was given in 1964, our students ranked 11th out of 12 nations.  Yet our nation went on to become the most powerful economy in the world.

In the 50 years since then, we have regularly scored in the bottom quartile on the international tests or at best, at the international average. Clearly, the international scores do not predict our future as we are the dominant economy in the world despite the scores.

Why are our international rankings low? Our test scores are dragged down by poverty. On the latest international test, called PISA, our schools with low poverty had scores higher than those of Japan, Finland, and other high-scoring nations. American schools in which as many as 25% of the students are poor had scores equivalent to the top-scoring nations.  As the poverty level in the school rises, the scores fall.

Rhee ignores the one statistic where the United States is number one. We have the highest child poverty rate of any advanced nation in the world. Nearly 25% of our children live in poverty.

This is a scandal. Family poverty is the most reliable predictor of low test scores. How can we compare ourselves to nations like Finland where less than 5% of the children live in poverty?

Rhee and her fellow reformers say that poverty is just an excuse, but it is not. Poverty is a harsh fact of life.

Children who are homeless, who have asthma, who have vision problems or hearing problems will have trouble concentrating on their studies. Children who have a toothache may not do well on testing day. Children who don’t see a doctor when they are sick will not be able to perform well on tests. Children who live in squalor will be distracted from their schoolwork.

Of course, we should have great teachers in every classroom, but the negative rhetoric that now comes from Rhee and every media outlet and movies like “Waiting for ‘Superman’ ” are demoralizing teachers and causing many excellent teachers to leave the profession.

Rhee believes in merit pay but she is unaware that merit pay has been tried again and again for nearly a century. It has never worked. It failed recently in New York City, Chicago, and Nashville. In Nashville, teachers were offered a $15,000 bonus to raise test scores. It didn’t make a difference.

Merit pay fails because teachers are doing the best they can with or without a bonus. Merit pay destroys teamwork and collaboration in the school. Teachers work together; they are not in an individual sport, trying to be first.

Merit pay fails, as does evaluation by test scores, because they both compel teachers to teach to the test and ignore whatever is not tested, like the arts and physical education. Such policies harm the quality of education. No elite school—not Andover or Exeter or Sidwell Friends—evaluates its teachers by the scores of their students on standardized tests. Nor do any of the high-performing nations.

Rhee and the corporate reform movement rely on the outdated behaviorist theories of the early 20th century. Modern cognitive psychology recognizes that intrinsic rewards are far more powerful than extrinsic rewards. People do their best when motivated by idealism and by their freedom to exercise their professional judgment.

The best organizations today recognize the importance of building a strong culture in the workplace—not with carrots and sticks—but with respect and collaboration. Andrea Gabor, the Bloomberg Professor of Business Journalism at Baruch College in New York City, recently wrote on my blog: “As W. Edwards Deming, a leading management expert and critic of merit pay, once put it: ‘The only reason an organization has dead wood is that management either hired dead wood or it hired live wood and killed it. Merit pay, by dividing and demoralizing employees, is a good way to erode initiative and overall quality.’”

Our teachers need our support. Let’s put an end to the war on teachers in general and on experienced teachers in particular. No profession can exist without experienced practitioners. Teachers need tenure so they have academic freedom to teach controversial issues.

Parents must be involved in helping their kids succeed. Research is clear that what parents do matters even more than what teachers do.  Parents affect their children’s attitudes, behavior, and willingness to study and learn.

Our students and families and communities need support too. If reformers really cared about children, they would build a health clinic in every school. That would do more to improve test scores than all the teacher evaluation schemes and merit pay plans that the reformers are now imposing, without a shred of evidence.

We can improve our schools. We can improve our society. We must work on both at the same time.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Diane Ravitch.

Posted by
Filed under: Diane Ravitch • Issues • Michelle Rhee • Policy • Practice • Voices
soundoff (1,069 Responses)
  1. a_chan11

    Yes, I am a student. Yes, we don't live in a society where education is always the number one priority of students and parents alike. Like many commentators, I've noticed that our class sizes are getting ridiculously big. (With the exception of Journalism and my AP Biology class, a small one due to others' scheduling conflicts, my other five classes, four AP, are HUGE, with nearly 40 a class.) I can't speak for the teachers of all schools across the nation, but I will admit that some of the more dedicated teachers at my school to tend to teach the Honors/AP levels. The overly experienced to tend to get "lazy," and lack a desire to keep us at the standards, whereas the lesser experienced simply haven't been in the field enough to help us be fully prepared for exams, whether it be standardized testing (in California, the CSTs, or in general, AP testing). However, don't look down on teachers! Not all are looking for incentives (and many have taken pay cuts through budget cuts, including furlough days), but GOOD teachers DO exist.

    August 23, 2012 at 1:10 am |
  2. StudentsFirstPlease

    the problem is you can cherry pick any article you want to show that merit pay does or does not work. The one thing that we know is true is that given our current education system, it can't hurt to try merit pay at a few schools. Merit pay might work. google it and read about the studies. The author of this article is clearly biased against students and a proponent of unions.

    August 22, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
  3. Keith

    Hillarious! As one of those impoverished kids that actually got up and went to school everyday worked 2 jobs and received several scholarships for college, I would like to officially call B.S. It truly is this apologetic liberal stance that continues to harm poor and minority communities by giving us an "out." The aurgument that we never scored high on international tests yet became the largest economy in the world is about as untrue and hollow an argument as has been told in the history of our nation. India and Pakistan (2 3rd world countries) is eating our lunch, and China ( a 2nd world country) is about to overtake us in all categories. So yes, we acheived that goal, but mostly through privately educated Harvard grads that lied, cheated, and stole their way onto wall street and tanked the nations economy in the process. We are a superpower in serious decline and you my friend have your head in the sand. Why do people feel so threatened by the truth? It is the truth that we lag behind in education. Rhee is sounding all the right alarms. Drop your personal protectionist agenda and get with the program before it is too late and our children are no longer able to compete in a world economy that speaks multiple languages and isn't using its fingers and toes to count to 20.

    August 22, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Kris

      So you ARE a successful graduate of a PUBLIC SCHOOL education despite your background, but your teachers had nothing to do with it....guess no one needs school.

      August 22, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  4. doc

    It is not the teachers who are failing but the parents. Most of the parents on welfare or public assistance don't encourage their kids to get good grades. So the kids see that their parents don't care so they think,"why should I care?" So the cycle of generational public assistance continues. Parents need to be on their kids 24/7 from the time they start school until they are out of the house and drive it into their brains how important it is to get good grades,go to college and get of welfare!

    August 22, 2012 at 8:54 am |
  5. alan'sretired

    Very nice article and I support this authors views. My wife teaches 6-8th grade math (38 years) and has seen class sizes double in past 10 years and teaching supplies dry up. Often she has the ONLY text book for the class and must make copies of pages for children. Oops, she gets two packs of paper and buys the rest out of pocket. Our yearly costs for her to teach other peoples children is over $2,000 per year, and I'm sick of it. How much do YOU pay to do your job? Over half of her students are living with grand parents or aunts, uncles etc. do to parents unfit or jailed. The smart kids and smaller weak ones are bullied or humiliated unmercifully but there is NO back up on discipline and behavior problems are rampant with no administrative support due to fear of parental or guardians retribution. The meal at school is usually the students best of the day. My wife worked 9 years in a row with NO raise but added classes and students, – no problem. Every year she must learn new "improved" teaching methods and curriculum changes. Yet Rhee would blame the teachers for low scores... what a joke.

    August 22, 2012 at 2:12 am |
    • Brian Pendowski

      Boo Hoo, you'll both be enjoying her retirement at 55 and her genrous pension for the rest of her life paid for by people like me that are sick and tired of all of the mediocre at best teachers blaming everyone else.

      August 22, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  6. David

    In economics, there are MANY examples where introducing a financial incentive dramatically lowers performance. Companies don't work well when people are only in it for the money – they'll do the minimum required for the cash. Pride in your work, team spirit, a sense of purpose, dedication, empowerment, prestige – one or more of these are required for success in private industry, and they're even moreso the motivating factors in the public sphere, whether it be education, the military, the police force, or the DMV.

    "Government is the problem" is a self-fulfilling curse; and people who believe this tend to both govern and lead poorly.

    August 18, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  7. Al Shret

    To CNN School of Thoughts..

    John – Just a suggestion... CNN should open up a blog for students to voice their own opinions. It would be refreshing to heard what kind of problems and changes they would like to see in their school. Instead of the usual political debate by teachers/unions versus school reformers. Who knows everyone might learn a thing or two from it. Thanks!

    August 14, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • Al Shret

      Apologize for all the misspellings and wrong grammars. I should check them first before hitting the send button.

      August 14, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • jomartin

      Hi Al,
      Done :-)
      Actually, we did it a long time ago. It's part of CNN Student News, the ten-minute commercial-free news program for students. The blog is called the CNN Student News A to Z Blog. We cover topics that are found in the news and allow students to comment as long as they use their first names only.

      Here are the links, or you can find them in the box on the right side of this blog:

      CNN Student News: http://www.cnn.com/studentnews/
      CNN Student News A to Z Blog: http://cnnstudentnews.blogs.cnn.com/

      Also, we just came back from our summer hiatus this week.

      Regards,
      John Martin, Schools of Thought and CNN Student News (two hats!)

      August 14, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
      • Al Shret

        Thank you for the info!

        August 21, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • Texas Teacher82

      Reference teacher/unions...

      I don't consider myself "political." I have been a teacher (ex navy) for six years now, and this is the first year that I will join the union: It has gotten that bad. In the south, the unions are weak if non-existent...

      I hate being lumped in with unions and politics when next week...I will have 48 students enter my 1st period English class, and the classroom will only "physically" fit 30. Out of those 48, many will have significant issues that can be "overcome" with interesting lessons and bringing the power of language alive; however, out of those 48, about 25% will be "adult" (high school–not elementary) criminals, showing up for free breakfast and lunch and to ensure that LEARNING STOPS FOR ALL.

      What is political about that? That's a simple....FIX IT ISSUE. Wow. I am sickened by it. I don't know how much more I can bear. I think I am going to move to Barcelona...

      August 15, 2012 at 10:30 am |
      • Brian Pendowski

        Maybe if we didn't have to spend so much on teacher pensions we would have the money to build bigger classrooms. Love to see how you personally went from the Navy to teaching, keep sucking on that cushy government job teet.

        August 22, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  8. Al Shret

    I am not in favor of Ms Rhee's solution or approach to school reform but she at least attempted to tackle the education problems. I don't see Ms. Ravitch suggesting any better solution. She seems to favor status quo and tries to be polite and politically correct. I agree that bashing school systems, teachers and unions are not productive but Ms Ravitch needs to give credit where credit is due. Instead of just claiming it is mostly an issue of poverty. She needs to call out everyone. I agrees with Ms Ravitch that poverty is a big problem especially for inner city schools. So how do you fix that then? The teachers are the ones than can inspire and help their students break out of that poverty cycle. Unions can make sure that the school environment is safe for all teachers and students. Don't protect every teachers at all cost. School systems needs to hold their principals and staffs accountable as well. We need to more critical of the school systems, unions and teacher or nothing will change. We can blame bad parenting and lack of parent involvements all we want but that won't change the results.

    Here is one that baffles me. Ms Ravitch pointed out that "The NAEP test scores of American students are at their highest point in history:... They are at their highest point in history in fourth grade and in eighth grade, in reading and math.est point in history in fourth grade and in eighth grade, in reading and math."

    So how on earth are we ranked at the bottom quartile internationally on test score? Doesn't anyone see the discrepancies on her statement about the grades being the highest and international score being some of the lowest? Which numbers should we trust? Maybe it is time for Ms Ravitch to be more critical of her former organization of 7 years for cranking out testings process that are sub-par to the international testing standards. Yes, Ms Ravitch is correct that we STILL have the most dominant economy in the world. But does everyone believe that to be the case in the near future. Just look at the decline of American students graduating in engineering, science and math class. We have no shortage of physical therapist but look at the ratio of foreign students taking those courses in University versus actual American born students.

    August 13, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • PS:)

      Read more carefully. Ravitch explains that the assessments Rhee quotes are not completely fair to compare country ranks when countries have different poverty rates. The countries that are "ahead" of the United States do not have the same percentage of students in poverty therefore the data is skewed since you are not comparing students on equal levels. I would imagine that if we only included the data of 5% of our students whom are in poverty then our scores would look much the same as other countries with a 5% poverty level. However, Ravitch does note that the United States has been improving against our own past scores. Also, Ravitch is not claiming to know the answers. She is just pointing out that we have proof that the current reform ideas are NOT the answers and we need to find a better way to fix our problems.

      August 14, 2012 at 1:13 am |
    • Jackie

      Al,
      There is not necessarily a discrepancy in the stats. You wrote, " Doesn't anyone see the discrepancies on her statement about the grades being the highest and international score being some of the lowest? Which numbers should we trust?" If the comparison of NEAP figures is across time, but only of U.S. numbers, then that would not have any relation to the second scores of international figures.
      Therefore, no discrepency. Instead, I think it is crucial to point out what she said regarding the relationship between the scores and our success, or rather , the lack of relationship.
      Too many people look for easy answers. A test seems to provide that. Tests have their place, but we have been spending far too much time and money, on tests to try to simply something complex.

      August 14, 2012 at 3:40 am |
  9. Abraham

    A very balanced analysis of Rhee's approach to education in USA.
    Not just that.....
    1. Rhee has admitted to have struggled as an elementary school teacher.
    2. Rhee had difficulty managing students. She has been reported to have used questionable methods to manage students.
    3. Rhee's claims of increased performance of her students was proven incorrect. She later justified that error to the data (incorrect) on performance provided by the principal, as compared to the official (accurate) data.
    Blaming the system and firing individuals is a typical corporate (business) approach. Education doesn't work that way.
    4. It would be interesting to know the school backgrounds of the Grdauates, PhDs, Nobel laureates.
    5. The high school completion rate in the USA is between 70% to 75%. And, that is very good. It would be also interesting to tabulate poverty and performance across the various countries.
    7. Supporting our teachers is the correct approach, and firing or blaming or incentivizing them isn't.

    August 13, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  10. dpaskill

    Seriously, yes we have serious poverty in this country that perpetuates from generation to generation only aided by the entitlement programs provided by our government. When we stop the entitlements within this country and train the impoverished to fend for themselves rather than rely on the state we wil be better off as a nation. The day we removed the Ten Commandments from the classrooom was the day that morality went on the skids in the public school system. For children of poverty, God and morality are the foundation of strength and hope. We have failed the last several genrations by teaching to the test and only driving ourselves for selfish means. God help our nation!!!

    August 12, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  11. Dan H

    Ravitch is correct in her criticism of Rhee, but too polite. Rhee simply does not know what she's talking about and has a huge political agenda. She was in the classroom for only two years before she fled to administration and that isn't enough time to learn or know much about teaching and education. A dirty little secret in the education business is that often teachers go into administration because they weren't particularly effective in the classroom.

    August 12, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • texasteacher123

      So true. Unlike the old days, you don't see the master teacher who has become principal. Instead, you get these 28, 30, 34 year old fluff balls who literally, let me repeat that, literally RAN out of the classroom, lol. Those kids were eating their lunch and breakfast too!

      Many of these horrible administrators are flying under the radar. They take great advantage of the current environment, demoralizing teachers at every turn. I was lucky to have a good one my first few years. If I were a new teacher today, I would have resigned by now.

      You don't know what you don't know.

      August 12, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
      • Education for all

        In the old days, I saw a lot of football coaches become principals.

        August 12, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • zflynn3

      Corporate Shill might be a better term used to describe Ms. Rhee. She's paid a million + per year to tout the "magic" of for profit schools. Of course we all know what a marvelous success privatization (for profit) has been in the military, medical care and jails and the horrific corruption, escalating costs and plummeting value those industries have been, with privatized jails and wars leading to such wonderful crimes against humanity. But that all said, Americans are, for the most part, imbeciles and can't even maintain a linear thought, let alone a complicated one. They believe the steaming piles of propaganda corporate America spews forth as the nation plummets into third world type corruption and economic conditions for the 99%.
      Other nations have never looked better and that is terribly sad as America seems hell bent on forming a fascist state, with Plutocracy in place.

      August 13, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Juliet Marinelli, English Teacher, NYC

      "Dirty little secret" is right. . . almost every administrator I have ever encountered in my fifteen-year career as a teacher has been mentally ill in one way or another. You CAN'T be a good principal unless you know what goes on in a classroom with a good teacher and her students. Period. Many "bad" teachers think to themselves, "Frig this. I'm gonna be an administrator." They become APs and Principals. And they DO NOT KNOW what to do. .. how to manage, how to advise... NONE OF IT!!! I have to talk about a blessing. . . a miracle. . . that was sent to my school. My principal, Dr. Joel DiBartolomeo, is an EXCELLENT PRINCIPAL. Why? Because he was a TEACHER!!!!! A real teacher! Add to this the fact that he has spent decades in education. He just GETS IT. Why can't every school have a leader like this?

      August 17, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  12. texasteacher123

    I have seen many of these teachers teach and speak. I also know many teachers who are just as wonderful. Sadly, many of them are on the computer daily, searching for other jobs. One of my friends, a master teacher, resigned her position without even having another offer. So sad.

    People think they know because they were once "students." They really "know" very little about the tragedy of an American School System under the thumb of a CORPORATE STATE.

    August 12, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  13. MP in VA

    For those who think poverty is onlya "small" part of the issues with public education in the US are ignoring the data.

    August 11, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Gina

      The problem is poorly run schools. I have taught high poverty for six years. Poor kids CAN learn.

      The culture of poverty does affect behavior and attitude, but POOR kids CAN learn. Mine write better than the rich kids down the street, who are also being tested to death.

      Poverty is an issue, but our schools are "discipline" poor...that's the problem. And, as adults, we have a responsibility to make sure AMERICAN school are places of equal opportunity.

      If we poured sewage in the pools where Michael Phelps practices, the country would be outraged. Our public schools are HOLDING PENS... DAY CARE CENTERS. UNACCEPTABLE. PERIOD.

      August 12, 2012 at 12:38 am |
  14. MP in VA

    The link between school and community continues to be ignored, though schools in low-income areas are becoming more aware. Competition for dwindling funds is keeping districts from tackling the cause of low school performance. I would also add that the US largely ignores the 0 to 4 age group as an integral part of education, though it's where the learning curve is set. Fiscally prudent education policies would invest money in the school-community relationship.

    August 11, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
  15. this

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    August 11, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
  16. Texas Teacher82

    Read-i-cide n: The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools. Reading is dying in our schools. Educators, [we know], are familiar with many of the factors that have contributed to the decline—poverty, second-language issues, and the ever-expanding choices of electronic entertainment...however, that it is time to recognize a new and significant contributor to the death of reading: our schools. ...American schools are actively (though unwittingly) furthering the decline of reading. Specifically...standard instructional practices used in most schools are killing reading by valuing the development of test-takers over the development of lifelong readers."

    Helloooooo?????

    August 11, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Texas Teacher82

      """""Read-i-cide n: The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools. Reading is dying in our schools. Educators, [we know], are familiar with many of the factors that have contributed to the decline—poverty, second-language issues, and the ever-expanding choices of electronic entertainment...however, that it is time to recognize a new and significant contributor to the death of reading: our schools. ...American schools are actively (though unwittingly) furthering the decline of reading. Specifically...standard instructional practices used in most schools are killing reading by valuing the development of test-takers over the development of lifelong readers.""""" OOPS....

      August 11, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  17. danfromsquirrelhill

    Here are three blog posts that I made about what's wrong with U.S. public schools:

    The new method of “teaching” math leaves students ignorant and uneducated

    http://danfromsquirrelhill.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/the-new-method-of-teaching-math-leaves-students-ignorant-and-uneducated/

    We libertarians and conservatives should praise Barack Obama for sending his own children to private schools

    http://danfromsquirrelhill.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/we-libertarians-and-conservatives-should-praise-barack-obama-for-sending-his-own-children-to-private-schools/

    People who say U.S. public schools are “underfunded” have no idea what they are talking about.

    http://danfromsquirrelhill.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/people-who-say-u-s-public-schools-are-underfunded-have-no-idea-what-they-are-talking-about/

    August 11, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
  18. Teacher

    Diane wrote a very good book, and hits the nail on the head about high stakes standardized tests–ruinous–but she errs about the cause of poor school performance. It is overly simplistic to claim that poverty is the sole cause.

    It is culture that is the cause, as others have noted. You can be poor but have good habits and ambitions. You can also be poor as a result of a culture of behavior that disrupts education and decent–yes, decent–social behavior.

    August 10, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • AJD13

      There is a "culture" within high poverty families and areas....that's the problem. So while you are correct to say that it's a culture issue....it is a culture issue WITHIN poverty.

      August 11, 2012 at 2:35 am |
    • Dr. O. R. Raymond

      I think Diane Ravitch was alluding precisely to culture when she pointed to underlying realities that public education and school teachers have to address. "Poverty" affecting so many children in our schools directly, and still more indirectly, is a fundamental aspect of the culture which Michele Rhee simply choose to ignore.

      August 11, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • vsphysics

      Diane didn't say poverty was the only cause; it's the major cause. There are other factors for sure.

      August 12, 2012 at 12:11 am |
  19. danfromsquirrelhill

    I live near a high school. When it lets out, I see that some of the students are carrying large backpacks full of heavy books, while others aren't carrying any books at all. This has nothing to do with poverty, and everything to do with personal responsibility.

    August 10, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • Charlie L

      Very, very true; hence why there is no one cause to the issues that plague education. Poverty is huge, apathy is up there, too – as is/are the family, technology, consumerism, video games, social media, neglect of the academic basics, not balancing academic instruction with social instruction (especially in the younger grades), television, drugs, alcoholism, gangs, physical and mental abuse, homes without books, etc…the list goes on and on and on. But they are real reasons, not made up excuses. When a structure is in disrepair, you repair it – even if it has multiple issues. You don’t knock it down if the foundation is sound and there is good material left to build upon. There are amazing successes happening in our school systems every single day. It is time to capitalize on the good we have and make it better.

      August 10, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • Kristen

      Not necessarily. Of course there is a component of that, but for a child in elementary or middle school, there's only so much you can ask them to overcome. How many of those kids with full backpacks have a parent waiting for them at home, who will follow up with teachers and keep track of grades and enforce homework time? How many of the kids with empty backpacks have parents who are themselves poor and uneducated, who work long hours, who don't emphasize homework or track their kids' grades? How many of those kids with no books know that between time caring for their younger children and sometimes even working themselves to keep food on the table, they won't have time to do it, or have given up because they don't think they can succeed?

      I'm a teacher, and I hold my students to high expectations. When I have a student who is failing, though, my first question is always, "What do you do in the evenings at home?" Kids who play xbox for hours a night need a different approach than kids who are expected to help out with the family business or keep track of siblings. I'm not going to hold a kid responsible because the *parents* don't value education or can't get it together enough at home to give their kids what they need.

      August 11, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  20. Amyk

    Oh, God! I meant to say NOT seperate races. I actually believe race is a construct. SORRY for the typo!

    August 10, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • Dr. O. R. Raymond

      Oops, school teacher: "separate," not seperate.

      August 11, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  21. Amyk

    Gotta say, I want Penny for president, too. Geoff can be vice preident. Ever since politicians started giving districts funds in order to buy compliance with political goals, we've had trouble. I am an (Unhappy) teacher who is leaving next year. For those who like test results and corporate style "quantifications," you know not what you are asking for!

    Go to your local school's parent orientation. Ask them what they use to "measure" student progress, how often it is measured, how much these programs (which are designed and sold by COMPANIES IN THE EDUCATION INDUSTRY) cost, how many subs are needed when staff goes to training, and how the copious data is used. Think about how much it costs and extrapolate it across all the thousands of districts. We are talking about billions if not trillions in useless data collection, and programs that are being tried out and cast aside. I am cynical enough to imagine that all those educational silver bullets being sold are being sold by politicians' brothers-in-law.

    And teaching is neither all science or all art. Dealing with humans, whether teaching, parenting, or living in a complex society takes both of those, compassion, willingness to commit, willingness to make tough calls and near impossible decisions, and probably some magic.

    Also, for the record, I'm pretty sure that academically successful people and their less stellar peers are seperate races. There is far more genetic variation between members of one race than between 2 different races, according to National Geographic anyway. That doesn't mean that the genetic pairings we choose, based on love, money, status, desperation., orwhatever don't matter over the generations. Of course genes create differences. I'm still mad at my parents about it–lol.

    Great conversation. Best to all!

    August 10, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
  22. Brian Page

    Amen Diane!

    August 10, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  23. Geoff

    And why do we have high poverty? 40% of all children born out of wedlock, 70% of African-american children. Single parent families have 2 less hands, 1 less brain, 50% less words spoken at home, 70% less income! The cycle perpetuates, stop having babies we can't afford, stop engaging in stupid, non-committal relationships, start being accountable and our country will be healed!

    August 10, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Why

      And why are so many American BLACK children in single parent homes? The family is broken. Many black men are self haters, raised by clueless black women who grew up without a father, raised by black women whose sons have never seen a black woman loved by anyone... A perpetual cycle of self hate.... How sad.

      First slavery...then President Reagan. Oh, how damaging legacies can be....

      August 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
      • danfromsquirrelhill

        There's no way that Reagan caused millions of women to get pregnant.

        Today's high rate of illegitimacy has nothing to do with slavery. Here's proof:

        http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/williams051999.asp

        Even during slavery, most black children lived in biological two-parent families. One study of 19th-century slave families (Herbert Gutman, "The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom: 1750-1925") found that in up to three-fourths of the families, all the children had the same mother and father. In New York City in 1925, 85 percent of kin-related black households were double-headed. In fact, "Five in six children under the age of six lived with both parents."

        Both during slavery and as late as 1920, a black teen-age girl raising a child without a man was rare among blacks. Gutman, also found in analyzing data on black families in Harlem between 1905 and 1925 that only 3 percent of all families "were headed by a woman under 30."

        Scholar and columnist Thomas Sowell found: "Going back a hundred years, when blacks were just one generation out of slavery, we find that census data of that era showed that a slightly higher percentage of black adults had married than white adults. This fact remained true in every census from 1890 to 1940."

        August 11, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Why

      Geoff,

      You're going to have to visualize now...

      If you have no on in your life speaking the truth, helping you visualize the future, holding you to high expectations, you are not going to make the best choices unless you are self motivated with a soul of iron.

      If you are not self motivated, and in you live under horrible circumstances (in many ways, circumstances created by society and never addressed), what do you hope for. If you are 13, beautiful but don't know it, smart but don't know it...You may see that "cute" 15 year old punk on the street corner and simply think, "Oh well, I better take him, he's the best I'm going to ever gonna get anyway..."

      We could go on and on....We have some pretty amazing kids in these poverty stricken neighborhoods and in these horrendous American public schools, and without a QUALITY education, their true nature is stifled....

      August 11, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  24. Marie

    Penny for President.

    Penny GETS it. Really, she does. BRAVO PENNY. We can't simply blame poverty and then look around like idiots. There is so much that can be fixed, so American schools are not WAR-ZONES. The war-zone should stop at the front door.s

    I agree that poverty is a problem, but we have to move past that. We have to FOCUS on the learning. We have to FOCUS on what is happening in the school and in the classrooms. When Ms. Ravitch speaks of poverty, the conversation stops. When I head back, dodging crack-heads holding their babies as they jaywalk, to work through the poverty infested neighborhood where my high school is located, I CANNOT do anything about the poverty. I can only sigh when my students turn in their free lunch form, and their parents indicate that they make between 400 and 700 a month.

    I CANNOT do anything about poverty.

    WHAT I NEED THE SYSTEM TO DO IS MAKE SURE MY SCHOOL IS SAFE and....

    MAKE SURE THE TEACHER NEXT DOOR IS NOT ATTACKED. SEVEN TEACHERS LEFT MY ONE DEPARTMENT LAST YEAR, DUE TO THE VIOLENCE

    MAKE SURE 6 FOOT HOODLUMS DON'T JUMP OUT OF THEIR SEAT, GRABBING THEIR TESTICLES, STARTING FIGHTS WITH OTHER STUDENTS, AND THEN STROLL OVER TO THE TRASHCAN AND SPIT IN IT

    MAKE SURE THE YOUNG PRETTY TFA TEACHER FROM IOWA DOESN'T GET HER BEHIND TOUCHED EVERY TIME SHE WALKS BY.

    MAKE SURE MY STUDENTS DON'T SIT BACK AND SLOWLY LICK THEIR LIPS AND POINT TO THEIR TONGUES AS I AM TRYING TO TEACH.

    MAKE SURE THE LUNATIC IN MY CLASS DOES NOT TOSS HIS DESK AT ME WHEN I ASK HIM TO PLEASE RAISE HIS HAND

    MAKE SURE THE FRESHMAN THAT WAS RAPED BY HER GRANDFATHER DOES NOT ATTACK MY COLLEAGUE WITH A PAIR OF SCISSORS

    MAKE SURE THAT HALF THE CLASS IS NOT ASLEEP BECAUSE THEY ARE HIGH ON CRACK OR HAVE BEEN WORKING AT THE LOCAL KROGER UNTIL 5AM

    MAKE SURE SOME OF KIDS DON'T GLUE BOOKS TO THE CEILING AND WALL WHEN TEACHERS ARE OUT AND NEED A SUB

    MAKE SURE STAPLERS ARE'NT THROWN ACROSS THE ROOM

    MAKE SURE STUDENTS ARE NOT SURFING THE INTERNET AND READY TO FIGHT THE TEACHER WHEN ASKED TO PUT THE PHONE AWAY UNLESS WE DECIDE TO USE IT FOR A PROJECT

    MAKE SURE STUDENTS DON'T BARK AT THE POLICE OFFICERS ON THE CAMPUS, MAKING EVERYONE FEEL UNSAFE WHEN YOU REALIZE...DAMN...THE COP HAS A GUN, AND THESE FOOLS DON'T CARE.

    AN MOST IMPORTANTLY...

    MOST IMPORTANTLY....

    For the 70% of impoverished but intelligent and beautiful students WHO WANT TO LEARN.....GET RID OF THE ANIMALS, so teaching can happen in the classroom.

    After this is fixed or at the same time....GET RID OF MULTIPLE CHOICE TESTS AS A MEASURE FOR EXCELLENCE IN ALL AMERICAN SCHOOLS....Are kids are bored. Those of you who did not suffer, have no idea. Ask teachers. Ask the kids. It's horrible to watch!!

    August 10, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Marie

      And for those who ask, what do we do with the 30% that must be removed?

      Put them in an alternative environment until they change their mind and act right, or put them in an alternative environment until they drop OUT.

      As another poster posted. I would make sure these alternative schools were rich with music and art and reading and language. Even some of the fools can change. Always hope. But, surround them with police officers (job creation!!!) and teach them how to tango while reciting their multiplication tables.

      But for the love of G-d, get them away from the kids that actually want to learn.

      August 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Donna

      I agree with Marie that disruptive and rude student behavior needs to be eliminated from the classroom. In California, the ACLU is suing to prevent teachers/principals from being able to suspend defiant students from the classroom. Private schools and charters are able to expel students for this kind of behavior. The public school teacher is becoming more and more helpless to do anything about it, and the kids know it and take advantage of it.

      August 10, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Al Shret

      I agree with you MARIE.. Penny Wu for President and she does get it. If school is for learning. The folks who are directly responsible for the school system (which includes school boards, unions, administrators, counselors, and teachers) should ensure that safety inside the school is foremost. I went through similar school when growing up and it was difficult to learn. I always had to watch my back and learning was tougher. I am sorry to hear about all the problems that you have to encounter in your school. I don't understand why they don't fix those problems first. Make sure that school it is a safe place for learning and not hang out areas for hoodlums, gangs or drug addicts. What is preventing your school from kicking out all these bad student? I think if the school system and the unions are serious, they could work together to find a solution. Rather than the usual bickering over pay. Perhaps if they fix it, even some of the bad teachers will start teaching again. Who knows, kids might start learning and scoring better on all kinds of test regardless of whether it is NAEP, International, ACT, SAT, ASVAB, etc... They should make it into law that teachers and school systems can not be sued unless the offense is of a criminal nature. School officials should be able to kick repeat offense students out permanently like a private school regardless of their socio-status or how involved their parents are. No excuses! We can't save everybody from falling off the cliff. There is a limit on how much a teacher can do but at the minimum allow them to have the environment for teaching.

      August 10, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • Marie

      "Are" kids are bored... Oops... should be...."Our Kids are bored..."

      Revision, revision, revision.... It's the key! :)

      August 10, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • Carol

      God bless you because I know they could never pay you enough to put your life in danger everyday. Politicians need to work in an inner city middle or high school for a while and I bet something would get done.

      August 13, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
  25. bigdil

    Some good points but way too much pandering to teachers unions. Merit pay won't work, abolishing tenure will. It's hard enough to get rid of a bad teacher with tenure, bit it's impossible to get rid of a teacher who is simply sub-par. If you can't get rid of bad teachers, someone's kids are stuck in their classrooms. Tenure, quite simply, puts the rights of teachers ahead of the rights of students. While teachers are great group great as a group, tenure protects the worst among them. Ravitch and her ilk are against any form of accountability.

    She's also right that socioeconomic class is the best predictor of student success. In other words, kids don't start kindergarten at on the same level. That's only a problem if you are trying to produce the same result with every child, i.e. trying to eliminate the "achievement gap." Closing the achievement gap is not a legitimate goal, in my opinion, because it demands that we spend inefficiently. It is too much to ask the public schools to produce the same result for children who begin kindergarten with every advantage and those who begin with none. It can't be done and we should quit trying.

    August 10, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Gina

      Oh BigD...

      You are going to hell. We know why you don't want to educate all children. It's the same reason why we have the "gaps" we do. Do you think people choose to live alongside railroad tracks? Hmmm? Or is that choice part of come legacy? A legacy laced in evil....

      Be careful...those you don't educate may crack you or a family member over the head with a beer bottle one day. Wouldn't you prefer an educated community of benevolent people over bitter and angry and clueless and aliterate and illiterate THUGS..?

      Ugh.... gross.....

      I see these kids every day, and they are amazing. Their education at the higher levels is being stopped by a smaller percentage of them that stop instruction.

      It's such a crime. It would be like a bunch of BIGDLOWS standing in the way of Michael Phelps getting into a pool to practice.... G-d, what a shame....

      August 10, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  26. John

    DIane Ravitch is the cop saying "Remain calm, all is well" as we get trampled by international competition, our students can't find jobs, and lack of competitive education drives our middle class to oblivion and our country to 3rd world status. But, at least every teacher, good or bad, will have job.

    jcgrim, where is the "peer review" of Ravitch's work? She cherry picks facts to support predefined premises in her books and her blog. Where is her "research"? She is no more objective than Randi Weingarten, and I have never heard her say a single damn thing that wouldn't be echoed by the AFT and NEA.

    August 10, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Al Shret

      Well said John! You, Penny, MARIE and others get it. A lot of teachers in this forum simply try to make this more of a political issue than anything else. Some seems to think it is all about them. There should be no sides when it comes to the education debate. Everyone should be fair game to criticism. Unfortunately, Ms Ravitch seems to be fueling the unyielding two sided debates while objectivity remains questionable. Her NAEP test score argument simply makes no sense. Her point against testing is very well taken as well as her debate on poverty/culture issues. Every country has their own problems to dealt with. Some have problems much greater than our and they are able to cope with it and achieve better results with much less. Her refusal to admit that there are also other problems within teachers and unions ranks simply prevent any opportunities to make the improvements that are so needed in many schools. Her lack of criticism of the unions and teachers may get her standing ovations/cheers at unions' rallies and perhaps even sell more books, but she is doing none of our children any favor.

      August 14, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  27. Joe M.

    Our "poverty level" is arbitrarily set. A person who lives in "poverty" in this country still has a car, a home (through rental), A/C, heating, a stove, a microwave, a refrigerator, 2 TVs, and a cell phone for everyone over the age of 18. Sorry, that's not "poverty". She also neglects to mention that the people who are classified as "poor" are constantly changing. People who were "poor" work themselves out of that social status and are replaced by other individuals, usually those just entering the workforce. The "poor" is a dynamic social class, not a static one like in many other countries. This author knows nothing.

    August 10, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Penny Wu

      “The ‘poor’ is a dynamic social class, not a static one like in many other countries”

      Joe – While I agree that the concept of poverty is relative to the wealth of the surrounding society, your comment makes me wonder if you live in the same United States that I do.

      There are (at least) two distinct pools of “poor” in the US: transient poor and persistent poor.

      The transient poor correspond to the group you describe: a guy loses his job and is out of work for 14 months, a family has a medical crisis and goes into debt, or a woman with a 1-year-old child is divorced and left without child-support. These folks usually find a solution to their plight and find a way out of poverty, even if it takes years. But they are the minority.

      The persistent poor belong to an underclass that exhibits chronic unemployment, is under-educated, without commercially relevant skills, often lacks the soft skills (punctuality, social skills needed to work with others, sobriety, knowledge of proper work-place attire and behavior) needed to get and retain even an unskilled job. This group is often life-long dependency on government transfer payments, dysfunctional single-parent families, high involvement with the criminal justice system, etc. It is the children of this group that has the worst outcomes in schools. It is primarily the children of this group whose terrible performance has a significant impact on the national average re PISA-like tests.

      August 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Technokat

      You are obviously are misinformed.

      Your "proof":
      Our "poverty level" is arbitrarily set. A person who lives in "poverty" in this country still has a car, a home (through rental), A/C, heating, a stove, a microwave, a refrigerator, 2 TVs, and a cell phone for everyone over the age of 18. Sorry, that's not "poverty".

      My response:
      Speaking of "arbitrary," from where do you get YOUR facts? Your "sorry, that's not poverty" judgment is based on opinion. Poverty levels are outlined by the government, not you.

      Your "proof":
      She also neglects to mention that the people who are classified as "poor" are constantly changing. People who were "poor" work themselves out of that social status and are replaced by other individuals, usually those just entering the workforce. The "poor" is a dynamic social class, not a static one like in many other countries. This author knows nothing.

      My response:
      Moving in and out of a social class construct notwithstanding, if a child is living in poverty and that child's test scores are supposed to prove that the school has or has not educated him, whether or not he gets out of the poverty conditions at a later date, that score counts for that time and his living conditions DO affect that score. Your statement is irrelevant to the argument.

      Your biggest misjudgment:
      This author knows nothing.

      My response:
      This author has more credentials regarding history, politics and education than the average CNN poster named Joe M.–I would bet my car, home, A/C, heating, a stove, a microwave, a refrigerator, TVs, and cell phone on that.

      August 10, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Marie

      lol... Wow!

      August 10, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • makingaschoolsmile

      You obviously do not work in the schools or you would appreciate that Diane Ravitch is the only correct advocate for the public schools. She is 99% on target because she has been there and seen and listened. Did you not read her article. Poor kids score low, higher socioeconomic kids score higher. It is probably too simple a concept for politicians to understand because if they did they would have to do something about it. The sooner people believe Diane Ravitch the sooner we will deal with the real problems with educating our kids. Do you not find it strange that only the kids in the inner city have the lion share of the difficulties. Why-because they are poor. People in the suburbs rave about their schools-why, because they are wealthy.

      August 10, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
      • Education for all

        I would add Jamie Vollmer and Yong Zhao to the list of people who get it as well.

        August 12, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • Brian Hayes

      I agree with you Joe. In South Africa, I had a young man remind me that we have "the richest poor in the world". But isn't it interesting that in most suburbs, children go to public schools that have 90% pass rates on achievement tests? Is it just better water there than in the inner-city? Is it possible that there are families there as opposed to one parent with a different last name than the child's? School was not meant to fix all of society's ills Joe. But we spend more of our time on that than we do actually teaching. You are correct and I do agree with your statement. I see the brand new shoes and the nice phones. Can I control their misguided priorities? I am a non-union, Republican voting public school teacher. I am in the minority. However, this author and my classroom reflect more truth than you could ever imagine. The door is always open. Come spend a week in my world. You will be amazed. Because my test scores are just as high as that suburb despite everything they (state, society, administrators) want to throw at me. I am an exceptional teacher in a system where everyone has an opinion and most of them are negative, mean and actually downright nasty. It is just a shame there are not more of me.

      August 11, 2012 at 10:49 am |
      • Texas Teacher82

        """""School was not meant to fix all of society's ills Joe. But we spend more of our time on that than we do actually teaching. You are correct and I do agree with your statement. I see the brand new shoes and the nice phones. Can I control their misguided priorities?""""

        Their is NO real achievement GAP, there is a behavior gap, there is an attitude gap, there is a value gap. You are not falling for the paternalism of lets pat them on their heads and teach them manners and values. We DON"T have time for that crap. We need to be left ALONE, so we can teach.

        Don't you look forward to inservice next week, where they will spend hours having us hug and TEAM build, just so they can stab us in the back, ignore emails, and act like P&^$$*s. What is the saying, "You may not like politics, but politics sure likes YOU." Teacher are politically passive and oppressed.... The minority who get it are being run out by all the madness. I am sticking with it for the kids...for as long as I can, but HOLY crap it's difficult.

        Bravo MASTER TEACHER. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!!

        August 11, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  28. sme

    Great article! Keep sharing the truth and eventually Rhee and the like will be exposed for the frauds they are. They are all about making money and garnering fame, and they do it through astroturfing–pretending they are grassroots but really just using money from their "non-profit" salaries to gain more support to continue their high-paid salaries and celebrity. Wonder how many commentors on here will get a gift card from StudentsFirst...!

    August 10, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  29. talking2ann

    Having worked in both public and private schools there are two basic differences that those who bash public schools and public school teachers ignore. 1) (Where I worked...) The average class size in the public school was 25 to 30 (sometimes more), while in the private school the class size was an astounding, fantastic 15 students per class. 2) At the private school parent participation was REQUIRED (about 96%), while in the public school it didn't even reach 10%. THESE realities are where the real problems are... neither of these realities are the fault of the teachers or teachers' unions.

    August 10, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Penny Wu

      Add to that the fact that the socio-economic status of the parents whose kids are in private schools tends to me much higher, that the kids are more likely to have home environments conducive to studying and learning, that the fact that the parents are willing to pay so much for their kids to attend private schools underscores the high value these parents place on education and that the high SES does not arise in a vacuum; the parents are often better educated, smarter and more disciplined.

      August 10, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  30. doabitofhomework

    We can't ignore the influences of religion on our educational system.

    Religions tend to promote "home-schooling." It seemed benign enough, but few parents have the dedication to their children's learning processes, and their methods are untrained, and therefore the learning suffers for it. That's just the beginning, though. The LAST thing the fundie religions want is for kids to get a really good education. It astonished me that Texas recently rejected offering courses in analytical thinking. They said it might disturb children's views on many things, such as their beliefs. You bet it would! And Texans feared something like that. Their decision was purely based on a desire to keep religion as deeply inculcated in the state's children as possible.

    Home-schooled kids ARE home-schooled in order to avoid having them learn about things like sciences. The kids may have to pass tests that show they DID learn science, but the parents and religious groups make sure they will pass (cheating) without having to gain any "unholy" knowledge.

    And it is worse yet, as I learned from the Republican primaries. People in the Red States who asked the candidates questions revealed something that shocked me to the core. They approved of religious-based government. Well, that in itself wasn't surprising, considering the fundies. What shocked me was not that they disagreed with separation of church and state; they didn't even know it EXISTED.

    It's my understanding that, by LAW, all students MUST be taught a course in Civics, which is the education into knowing how our country works, what its original values were and are, and the founding fathers' intentions when they wrote our founding documents. Civics is taught in order to help students know what it is to be a good citizen of this country, to know their rights, but also their obligations. In the course of this study, they are taught about separation of church and state, and WHY it is so important to our democracy.

    These people had never learned about separation of church and state. This ignorance made it easy for them to actually embrace the total union of church and state in a theocracy. It was done intentionally to gain just that kind of mindset in the population. It was a perversion of the Civics courses.

    Somebody in certain of those Red States "diddled" with the coursework in Civics, and since these people querying the candidates were adults, it makes it clear that this practice has been going on for at least one whole generation, probably more.

    If so, this is criminal. I URGE those who can start an investigation into this to do so post haste.

    The Bible Belt has insinuated religion into the vulnerable (ignorant) and all-too-willing (fanatic) population, and so very few people would stick at leaving religiously-uncomfortable knowledge out of their school systems. But it is hard to avoid knowing that the religions in the Bible Belt have deliberately interfered with Civics courses in their areas. It shouldn't surprise us, since some of the school boards in those states consistently try to undermine the teaching of sciences, and have FORCED schools to teach intelligent design as though it, too, were based on science, rather than on the superstition called "faith."

    Can someone PLEASE initiate an investigation into this?

    August 10, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Carol

      I myself am a public school teacher and have never homeschooled my own children but I would have to disagree with you on homeschooled children's test scores and civics. They actually perform above state and national averages on standardized tests. Studies also show homeschool students do as well socially as public school students. Parents have a right to educate their own chilldren and are probably teaching civics from a founding father's perpective, not the nanny state's. At the moment, I believe our current governement is antichristian instead of just separate. These parents probably think that too and are willing to sacifice a great deal to homeschool. You can call these parents names if you wish, but that makes you look small minded and condesending. I can't believe you even brought this up because the problem is not homeschooled students. They actually help standardized test scores.

      August 13, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
  31. kevin giard

    Why is it that anyone who questions the education system, and demands better performance from those running it is accused of teacher bashing? A little oversensitive are we?

    August 10, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  32. Tom S

    Having raised 3 kids, all of whom went to the same public school I did (separated by 30+ years), I can attest to the following – my children are much smarter than I am, they worked much harder than I did (and received better grades) and the bar has been raised much higher. Pure and simple – my school is an order of magnitude better today than it was 30 years ago. Good thing – it is a much tougher world today that when I graduated high school. Unlike many of these posters, I have much confidence and optimism for the future as a result of my experience with my kids and their friends and associates – and I thank a lot of this optimism on the state of education today. Two of my kids are teachers who have had experience at the high end and low end of educational environments – and both will say that the single most important factor – by far – in the success or failure of children in school is the involvement of the parents. Not "merit pay" (and, by the way, compare teacher salaries at elite high-performing private schools with their public school counterparts), not class size. This relates directly to poverty. Ms. Ravitch – please continue your advocacy.

    August 10, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Gina

      That's true Tom.

      But, I know for a fact, that I have reached students who have no on in this life. The teacher is also a major influence...if he or she is a good one.

      We can't just throw up our hands and say, "OK, these kids have no parental involvement. Life sucks. Oh well." Many, many of them can be reached by a good teacher who is allowed to teach.

      Just let me teach.

      August 10, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Charlie L

      Well said, Tom.

      August 10, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  33. magbill

    Ravitch is the problem. She is invested in the status quo. You'll note she offers no solutions whatsoever.

    August 10, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Penny Wu

      I agree that she makes to specific suggestions. I’ll try:

      (1) Parents: if you don’t have the resources (which include time, energy, love and money) to raise a child, don’t have one. The US currently has an adequate supply of sociopaths, thugs and idiots – please don’t add to that pool.

      (2) Parents: make sure a parent or loving caregiver is at home with the child during the early years. A child needs a human to communicate with. Television is not a babysitter. An inattentive older sibling is not a babysitter.

      (3) Parents: Turn off the damned television. Read to your child. Speak with your child. Ask your child questions. Listen to your child. Children acquire language by hearing it from a human and attempting to communicate with that human. Two-dimensional images of humans, present on television screens, are not adequate substitutes; they do not interact with the child. The acquisition of language, whether spoken or ASL, plays a critical role in cognitive development.

      Corollary: The easiest way to lower your child’s IQ by 20 points, short of sprinkling lead over his breakfast cereal, is to sit him in front of a TV tuned to VH1 each morning and then spend the next 4 hours chatting with your friends on the phone.
      Yes, the school system could be improved. Incompetent teachers could be dismissed. But IMO 90% of problem with education has little to do with what happens in the class room; it is determined by the state (emotional, health, cognitive, etc) of the child entering the class and the support that child receives at the end of the school day when he arrives back at home. Competent teachers cannot solve the problems caused by incompetent parents.

      August 10, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Donna

      You are wrong. She has made lots of suggestions to help improve schools. The status quo now is Race To the Top, and she doesn't support that.

      August 10, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
      • Penny Wu

        Donna,

        Would you care to enumerate those numerous suggestions that you claim she makes? I see nothing in her article other than generalities.

        Ms Ravitch is against merit pay. She is against the war on teachers. She is against the attack on teachers unions. She is against poverty. And you state that she is against the Race to The Top. Wonderful. Perhaps she will come out against broccoli as well.

        I happen to agree that the problem is not unmotivated teachers (not that there aren’t some), that heaping criticism on teachers, unions and schools is unhelpful, and that poverty is bad. But I also recognize that being against these things does not solve a single problem.

        August 10, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Technokat

      "magbill says:

      Ravitch spends most of the article pleading for us to ignore what every long-time teacher know, including family members of mine – that schools are markedly worse than 30 years ago. Then she disparages efforts to improve, while offering NO SOLUTIONS HERSELF – except to praise tenure (!) and 'culture'.

      In short, she is invested in the status quo. Ravitch is the problem, not the solution."

      AND

      "Ravitch is the problem. She is invested in the status quo. You'll note she offers no solutions whatsoever."

      I have been following Dr. Ravitch's work for a long time, and even I learned something new from reading this: She suggested a health clinic in every school. Brilliant.

      So..what was that again about her not offering any solutions?

      Magbill, whatever you are smoking, please stop. It is undermining your reading comprehension skills. Your rhetoric is damaging in that you believe it and you probably vote in a way that supports it.

      August 10, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • makingaschoolsmile

      Read her book she has plenty. Here is her best solution-equalize the playing field and fund schools equally. How about dealing with the issue within poverty that serve as the real barriers to education-this is her best solution that our government refuses to address. Go work in a school and you will immediately see how correct she is and this has nothing to do with the status quo.

      August 10, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
      • Gina

        I agree, but I don't have time for this country to fix poverty. I have kids to teach. I need to be free to TEACH. The conversation can't stop at poverty. It's been around a long time.

        From what I have seen, many Americans still have a hard time seeing kids that aren't there's as human.

        A friend of mine once asked, "Do you think we would have ever dropped the bomb on Germany instead of Japan?"

        My answer, after thinking about it...was no. A sad commentary on all levels.

        All that junk is still with us... it's alive and well. So, I can't wait for American Institutions to fix poverty when I know that many of our kids in poverty can be given a world class education if we just made it so....

        August 10, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Charlie L

      Ravitch is by no means the problem. She is good medicine for bad current policy.

      August 10, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  34. magbill

    All is well! All is well!

    Ravitch spends most of the article pleading for us to ignore what every long-time teacher know, including family members of mine – that schools are markedly worse than 30 years ago. Then she disparages efforts to improve, while offering NO SOLUTIONS HERSELF – except to praise tenure (!) and 'culture'.

    In short, she is invested in the status quo. Ravitch is the problem, not the solution.

    August 10, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • djheru

      Yes, 30 years ago was just about when the approaches that Rhee advocates for were being first put into practice.

      August 10, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • talking2ann

      Wow... what a statement: "What EVERY long term teacher knows..." I don't how you think you can speak for EVERY long term teacher... especially since most of the long term teachers I work with would most assuredly disagree with you.

      August 10, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Donna

      Magbill is wrong. See my earlier post to him/her.

      August 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Charlie L

      In what way are schools "markedly worse" than 30 years ago? Evidence to support your claim please.

      August 10, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  35. J.Young

    Your POVERTY argument is incomplete and flawed... Not a Rhee fan... yet a fan of choice. It was there for me in 1980's Baltimore when I needed it most. My own children currently attend a State (Georgia) Online Public School as the zoned schools are underperforming and have been designated FOCUS schools. A whole new layer of underperformance designation provided by the NCLB waiver.

    The POVERTY discussion is real, yet it's impact is grossly misrepresented here. Albeit my children don't fit the POVERTY profile in this article, we live in a poverty stricken community and can't move due to a number of conditions (not withstanding a 1 year, 48% loss in home value). Thereby, we know much more than the theory of the POVERTY discussed here. Life Happens... to everyone!

    When initially seeking options, the local school board suggested we "move". That was their answer...

    NCLB funding is provided under the auspices that the children in underperforming schools are hungry – that is it. Yet, when the funds are received – more often than not – the funds are used to hire teachers and thus are mostly salary. In our own zoned elementary school, 85% of $300,000+ is dedicated to salary and 1% to Parental Involvement. I'm still on the School Council at my zoned school and when it was suggested the school use the money on more programs (such as online study licensees, greater community outreach to draw in more parents and other innovative programs used in schools similar to ours) and less on salary, you can imagine how well that went. We continue to do things, in many places, like we "always have" and that has cost us... as a nation.

    August 10, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  36. J.Young

    Your POVERTY argument is incomplete and flawed... Not a Rhee fan... yet a fan of choice. It was there for me in 1980's Baltimore when I needed it most. My own children currently attend a State (Georgia) Online Public School as the zoned schools are underperforming and have been designated FOCUS schools. A whole new layer of underperformance designation provided by the NCLB waiver.

    The POVERTY discussion is real, yet it's impact is grossly misrepresented here. Albeit my children don't fit the POVERTY profile in this article, we live in a poverty stricken community and can't move due to a number of conditions (not withstanding a 1 year, 48% loss in home value). Thereby, we know much more than the theory of the POVERTY discussed here. Life Happens... to everyone!

    When initially seeking options, the local school board suggested we "move". That was their answer...

    NCLB funding is provided under the auspices that the children in underperforming schools are hungry – that is it. Yet, when the funds are received – more often than not – the funds are used to hire teachers and thus are mostly salary. In our own zoned elementary school, 85% of $300,000+ is dedicated to salary and 1% to Parental Involvement. I'm still on the School Council at my zoned school and when it was suggested the school use the money on more programs (such as online study licensees, greater community outreach to draw in more parents and other innovative programs used in schools similar to ours) and less on salary, you can imagine how well that went. We continue to do things, in many places, like we "always have" and that has cost us...

    August 10, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  37. William Demuth

    I find the search for rationalizations about why we are failing our children fascinating. While admittedly, socio-economic factors play a role in determining results, and genetic factors may also play a role, it seems quite apparent that culture lies at the root of our issue.

    I am APALLED by the lack of BASIC knowledge in today’s young people, but I do not blame them. I blame primarily the parents, and secondarily the system itself.

    We place ENORMOUS collective effort into focusing on both religion and athletics, which reduces our collective effort on actual academics. We indulge ourselves, and thus our children. We flee from real intellectual stimulus, and instead permit pop culture and modern media to distract us. We sacrifice analytic thought and rationalism for the pale comparators of mysticism and athleticism, and then we look for scapegoats to blame. We have created a very limited intelligentsia that carries the majority of the burden of real thought for the rest of our culture and this tendency is being exacerbated by the stresses of the economy.

    If we do not change the social incentives, and adjusts our nation’s priorities and how we express them to our future generations, we are headed for dark times. America once was a symbol of enlightenment for the world. Alas our culture and our politics have changed us into a symbol of ignorance and brute force.

    We reap what we sow

    August 10, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • max3333444555

      I am more concerned with the lack of basic knowledge shown by adults.

      August 10, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Donna

      William Demuth's comment about genetic factors implies that he is racist.

      August 10, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
      • AGCS

        Commenting about genetics being a factor does not necessarily imply racism. Our students with learning and intellectual disabilities (which are genetic) are expected to perform at the same level on the state tests as students without any learning issues. When "they" say 100% at proficient or better they mean every student regardless of limitations.

        August 10, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • jreddog1

      Ya know my favorite thing about this argument, and as a teacher I hear this A LOT.....Many adults, and many complaining adults live in this fantasy world of what they were like in school 30 years ago. Kids aren't more stupid. THEY ARE KIDS. Lazy, excuse making kids who seem to show no focus or care about the world around them JUST LIKE ALL KIDS, even the ones 30 years ago. Adults live in this magical fantasy land where they imagine this school where everyone sits upright, and raises their hands to answer questions in a timely manner and no one bullies – they imagine that it was like that when they were in school. IT WASN'T. I taught the same kids 30 years ago and you know what? A high percentage of them turned out just fine, just like the kids of today will. Many of them will turn out just fine DESPITE their asinine parents, their influence by religious conservatism and hyper right wing politics – and this imagined school system that is purposefully destroying them. You were not smarter and better than these kids 30 years ago – you were the same type of kid living a typical teenaged life.

      August 10, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Marie

      The knowledge is below basic because teachers are teaching to a test out of fear. If you don't teach the test and the little buggers fail, you lost your job.

      Wow! What a shame! This country should be proud of itself.

      August 10, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Stonecarver

      The decision making process is the most under-utilized tool, with which everyone is equipped.
      All religion is decision making process, but not all decision making process is religion.
      Can the decision making process be taught in school?
      From the earlieast grades?

      August 16, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  38. wsautter123

    Michele Rhee wants to become the Rush Limbaugh of education (the great BSer) and is certainly achieving her aspiration.
    She continually has the media stage and reactions to her comments, both positive and negative, only serve to fuel her rise to stardom as the latest and greatest edcation "EXPERT".
    Along with this starring role, I am sure goes huge financial reward.

    http://teachersdontsuck.blogspot.com/

    My question is, after forty years of secondary teaching and thirty-three years of college teaching what more must I do to become an education "EXPERT" (and the income that comes with it) ? I would love that gig!

    August 10, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • William Demuth

      Perhaps demonstrate quantifiable results?

      All we need is results. Set whatever criteria you want that goes beyond merely showing up, and we can perform a calculation.

      You see, that is really the issue. Education advocates want to consider it an art, yet it MUST be measurable.

      It's the reality of the market. Your profession must be exposed to those forces. It cannot be perceived as some secret ritual in a hidden garden.

      August 10, 2012 at 9:53 am |
      • Getreal...

        The amount of data available in schools is tremendous. It ranges from test scores, attendance, health records, discipline, staff evaluations, and others. It takes all of these assessments in tandem to assess a school, not a single test. How many of you rely on a single test at a doctor's office to assess your concerns or predict your next steps?

        Other business uses the "dollar" as a sign of success, hence many businesses have poor work climates, poor attendance, employee dissatisfaction, etc. These are overlooked as long as the bottom line (dollars) looks good. Education chooses to use multiple measures to assess because we are concerned in the whole child, not one aspect of the child.

        August 10, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  39. Bonnie Capatelli

    Diane Ravitch hits it out of the park again!

    Ravitch is brilliant and she possesses a will of iron. She has no tolerance for nonsense or deception. She knows her stuff and she is extremely intimidating to those who come to this debate with nothing but vapid cliches, straw men, misleading mumbo-jumbo, and name calling.

    And she's absolutely fearless. No wonder Ravitch is so hated by the extremist right-wing, the "Privatizers" and the Billionaires who fund this "reform" claptrap but never send their own precious children to public schools.

    But, because they have so much cash to spread around, the Billionaire Funders of "Education Reform" can pay a lot of trained "Hate Monkeys" to cut and paste on to these blogs. It's very obvious.

    Bless you, Diane Ravitch. You are truly a national treasure and a voice of sanity, integrity and reason, in a sea of insanity, idiocy and deception. And as Bono once said, "You know that your time is coming round / So don't let the bastards grind you down!"

    August 10, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  40. jomartin

    Hi all,
    I've gone into our spam filter and approved many valid, useful comments that for one reason or another ended up there. I don't assess a comment on its merit, or whether it agrees with the author or not. I simply assume it adds value to the conversation if it follows our guidelines (no offensive language, no harassment, etc). However, if your *comment* is anywhere near as long as the original *post* it likely got deleted. Comments, not diatribes, please.
    Sincerely,
    John
    Schools of Thought editor

    August 10, 2012 at 8:29 am |
  41. xiang

    Yeah, "arts and physical education". That's what will make America competitive. That's what will get you a good job. Get real, lady.

    August 10, 2012 at 7:39 am |
    • Bonnie Capatelli

      Hey xlang, take a look at Andover, or Choate, or Dalton-assuming you even know anything about these schools and who attends them-and tell me if they spend every minute on testing and preparation for testing.

      Do you have any idea what you're talking about?

      August 10, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • Claire

      Besides providing student engagement and motivation, the Arts and PE and sports provide lifeskills that are necessary in today's working world. Creativity, problem-solving, collaboration, cooperation, perspective-taking, small group skills, leadership skills, interpersonal skills and critical thinking skills - all are desired by employers. There are many ways to learn these skills, and the school system teaches them through the Arts, PE and sports. Would you want to see young women and young men entering the workforce without these skills? Are these skills found in textbooks? Do parents consistently teach them at home? Are they on the standardized tests? How sad for every child that does not have the opportunity to explore the Arts and to play an organized game that requires teamwork.

      August 10, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • AGCS

      While the arts and PE may not be the means to the end of getting a "good job", the extras often make the school day much more enjoyable for our kids and it may be what keeps some kids in school. I was one of the those geeky kids, honors math and science all the way through HS, and yet PE and band were my favorite classes. Additionally, I went to school before Title 9, so there were no team sports for girls, but what I learned in PE instilled in me a life long love of activity and fitness, something that is sorely lacking in our society today.

      August 10, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • jreddog1

      Xiang – current thinking (including reports by many of the biggest fortune 500 companies) indicates that it is exactly the arts which will help humanity make it into the future. Innovation, creativity, imagination, finding more than one right answer, a tolerance for ambiguity, thinking outside the box – these are all products of an arts education. And you know what? Paired with an understanding of the Scientific Method, this is where true innovation occurs. Of course, you could just drill the heck out of them on math problems and see where that gets you too.

      August 10, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Marie

      The arts and physical education are forms of communication. With all the test prep, there is no communication in American classrooms anymore.

      I learned fractions because I played clarinet. What my math teacher could not teach me, my music teacher could.... Please.

      I see it everyday. We are teaching to a test. Period.

      August 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  42. xiang

    This may be the most pathetic thing I've read in a while.

    "Our scores aren't that bad because they were never very good to begin with!"

    Poverty? The US is the wealthiest country in the world.
    What, you think there isn't poverty in other countries bringing down their scores? What idiocy.

    Rhee is right in the sense that testing DOES provide some measure of achievement, and no amount of feel-good "confidence building" is going to replace hard academic learning backed by visible results. This mentality, is why Asians excel against other races. Results first, feelings later.

    August 10, 2012 at 7:37 am |
    • dave

      Single parent families the children are poor in part cause they have 2 or 3 or 5 people off one income instead of two. As we aren't double the per capita wealth of other relevant nations, this makes a bigger difference than our actual wealth

      August 10, 2012 at 7:48 am |
      • max3333444555

        one of the reasons sinlge parent families show so little income is that child support is not "income". if you divorce and pay the custodial parent 500,000 dollars a year in child support the kids may still be "poor"

        August 10, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Kelly

      I work in a school where many of the students live in poverty. Yes, poverty does make a difference. It's difficult for children to learn when their parents have to move (again) to find work. It's difficult for children to learn when they are worried about their next meal or where they will sleep tonight. I could go on but I think you understand. The ones who make the most growth are the students with great parental support regardless of socioeconomic status. Parents, teachers, and students can make a difference if we work together.

      August 10, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • zoom128

      Amen brother...

      August 10, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • TM

      "What idiocy." Strong words from someone who seems unaware that we have a much higher rate of poverty and a much weaker social safety net than other wealthy nations do.

      August 10, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Penny Wu

      xiang – Yes, there is poverty in other countries, but in those that typically do much better on international tests there isn’t the grinding poverty that we often see in, e.g., US inner cities.

      I believe that poverty is correlated with, but not the primary cause of, our low (average) scores. Kids coming from low SES homes bring with them the baggage of those homes which often includes

      (1) low expectations,
      (2) undervaluing of education,
      (3) emotional problems associated with bad family structure (e.g., the impact of mommy entertaining BF#3 in the bedroom while Billy stares at TV), and
      (4) parents with lower-than-average IQ, imparting genetic and environmental handicaps on the child.

      My main objection to Ms Ravitch’s poverty argument is that I believe she is confusing correlation with causation.

      August 10, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
      • Marie

        Penny for President.

        August 10, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
      • Marie

        None of my kids in the "ghetto" have anymore lower IQ deficiencies than those in the Colorado private schools that I worked in. Although, like Colorado, some of them...you could see the mental illness in their eyes.... I see more motivation and lack of preparedness and negative behavior....Intelligence for the majority is above par....I look at them and realize the world does not know how much promise are in these schools. Beautiful kids!!! So smart.... What a waste of human capital for society.

        I think we need to be careful about so called IQ's.. But yes. One of my American Asian kids and two of my White and a few of my black kids–the ental illness was evident, and I am not in the capacity to diagnose, but you could see it, feel it. Very sad.

        But...more than the mental illness and horrible behavior. I SAW GENIUS AND CREATIVITY overall, making all the days that turned into daycare even more of a crime.

        August 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Donna

      Xiang and William Deluth both bring race into this discussion. This disturbs me. Racism should have no place in this discussion.

      August 10, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • jreddog1

      Xiang – you have no idea. Not a clue. Seriously, you simply do not understand.

      August 10, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Technokat

      xiang–your comments are beyond pathetic in their own right.

      "This may be the most pathetic thing I've read in a while.
      'Our scores aren't that bad because they were never very good to begin with!' "
      That's not what Dr. Ravitch said. She said that it is a myth that our scores have dropped (and therefore our place as a world power is diminished–this insinuation being perpetuated by Rhee and her ilk). Pay attention.

      "Poverty? The US is the wealthiest country in the world.
      What, you think there isn't poverty in other countries bringing down their scores? What idiocy."
      Wow. What an elitist view. The U.A.E. has among the richest people in the world, yet it has a huge dichotomy of class structure. Just because there is a great deal of wealth in any one country does not automatically negate the existence of poverty.
      Do you automatically think that the wealth in the "wealthiest country in the world" is distributed equally? You're a fool to use this argument under the guise of "snarky intelligence." Try again.

      "Rhee is right in the sense that testing DOES provide some measure of achievement, and no amount of feel-good 'confidence building' is going to replace hard academic learning backed by visible results. This mentality, is why Asians excel against other races. Results first, feelings later."
      And innovation, be damned. Great tactic. So you're saying that Asian people excel because they work hard. Ohhh, that's probably why China has the wealthiest population in the world next to the U.S., right? Asians work so hard that it must bring success to all!

      August 10, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Charlie L

      I work with Asian students and other students from all over the world. Asians, especially, are very driven to do well in school; it is hard-wired into the family unit to do so. They study and study for many hours a day. Concepts are drilled into their heads at school. Indeed, many of them excel and can outdo many of their American counterparts in certain subjects. What you don't here about is the unbelievable stress that some of these students face during school and later on in life. Some of them are neurotic basket cases by the time they reach adulthood. Very often, because they have been solely engaging in rote memorization of facts and figures, they are lacking in the ability to look at problems creatively and come up with solutions that require them to do more than just analyze the facts. Koreans routinely outperform other nationalities on comparative tests. They go to school and many of them go to "cram school" after school. They have been paying a high price. Students are stressed to the point of breaking. Parents are starting to rebel against the cram schools realizing that their children are losing something of themselves by relegating too much time to intense studying. Kids don't get smarter or lead better lives when you cram information into their heads at the expense of everything else. Families that care, children that are motivated, teachers that make learning interesting and thought provoking make good students. Nothing wrong with making a child in your class feel good, but that needs to be balanced out with great instruction and care both in and out of school.

      August 10, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • Carol

      We are the only country that test ALL their students. Other countries do not test students who aren't college bound. So, she is correct that it is not apples to apples.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
  43. Cathi

    And to think that Ms. Ravitch used to be respected in her field. Ah well...

    August 10, 2012 at 7:37 am |
    • Technokat

      Still is...and highly. Too bad you haven't noticed.

      August 10, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
      • Al Shret

        Yes and a spokesperson for the Teachers Union. She is completely biased.

        August 21, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  44. jcgrim

    What kind of vapid, trashy media outlet ignores education researchers and education experts and instead elevates an ex-basketball player and a woman who historically misrepresents her past with no credible experience in education as having the "answers " to improving our education system?

    Ravitch is an educational historian and researcher. Her work has spanned decades and has been subjected to the "bloodbath" of peer review" by experts in the field. Instead, CNN promotes an ex basketball star previously investigated for inappropriate contact with female students in his charter school and a known fabricator with no educational expertise, trained by and who laughingly recounted duct taping the mouths of her students.

    The rest of the world must think we are a country of anti-intellectual fools. Our political power brokers, backed by powerful unaccountable investors are subjecting our next generation to snake oil, designed by self-promoting glitterati such as Rhee and Johnson.

    August 10, 2012 at 7:19 am |
    • jcgrim

      What kind of vapid, trashy media outlet ignores education researchers and education experts and instead elevates an ex-basketball player and a woman who historically misrepresents her past with no credible experience in education as having the "answers " to improving our education system?

      Ravitch is an educational historian and researcher. Her work has spanned decades and has been subjected to the "bloodbath" of peer review" by experts in the field. Instead, CNN promotes an ex basketball star previously investigated for inappropriate contact with female students in his charter school and a known fabricator with no educational expertise, trained in 5 weeks to teach, and who laughingly recounted duct taping the mouths of her students.

      The rest of the world must think we are a country of anti-intellectual fools. Our political power brokers, backed by powerful unaccountable investors are subjecting our next generation to snake oil, designed by self-promoting glitterati such as Rhee and Johnson.

      August 10, 2012 at 7:20 am |
    • Bonnie Capatelli

      Kudos JCGrim; you've spoken the absolute truth about both Rhee and her husband. They're not to be trusted, based on their very dubious backgrounds. I would never let them near any children, for any reason.

      August 10, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • Donna

      I guess not every media out let can be as classy as FOX.

      August 10, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  45. David L

    Finally someone with the guts and knowledge to say what is really going on. As a 30 + year veteran in the public schools I agree with Diane Ravitch. You can not compare our public school performance given great variety of demographics with other countries. However, we should not dig a hole in the ground and discount what other countries are doing in educations. We should try out some of their successes. Two things that I feel that are holding us back are: 1)the emphasis on athletics over academics 2)we need to increase the number of days students are in the classroom.

    August 10, 2012 at 7:13 am |
    • Alice in PA

      DAvid Do you know the model that Finland uses is based on reform movements in the US started by Dewey? We know what works in education, but we never stick with it, always jumping on the next shiny new idea and spending tons of money and energy reinventing things. Give the teachers time to do their job! In Singapore, teachers spend only half of their day in front of classes and the other half is spent doing the intellectual work of teaching which is reviewing the formative assessments and planning lesson alone and across grades and subjects. In the US teachers spend almost 90% of their time with classes

      August 10, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • Texas Teacher82

      David...

      What does demographics have to do with being HUMAN.

      I teach in the center of gang territory USA. I have 150 AP students that could run circles around kids in EXETER. Blaming poverty, as stated by another poster, is too simplistic.

      Since we can't fix poverty right away, we can make our schools better and treat our teachers better. Let's start there, and you will be very pleased with some of the un-realized beauty that every demographic has to offer this country.

      August 11, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
      • Carol

        I'm happy for your AP students. But, I bet those poor average students in your school don't have a chance because of other students behaving.

        August 13, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
      • Texas Teacher82

        Yes Carol.

        You are correct. Those in regular class are harder to motivate, and the criminals in class with them practically make it impossible to teach.

        It's a myth that the new teachers are incompetent. They are brilliant..young...educated...ready to teach. They are UNABLE to teach because the administrators NEED THE numbers to show up for money and for graduation rate.

        If the kids don't show up and graduate... the school does not make AYP. So, the majority will suffer because of the criminal element in these schools.. Heart breaking!

        August 13, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
  46. manzoa

    Let's see if I have this right. Diane Ravitch is a professor who has never worked in the public schools as an administrator or teacher. She does research and opines about public eduction. Michelle Rhee was the chancellor of the DC schools and has had a distinguished career in the trenches. Now which of these two should be believe? Put another way...would you want a surgeon to perform a liver transplant on you if all the surgeon had ever done was read about liver transplants? Or would you prefer a surgeon who had actual experience transplanting livers? Unfortunately Dr. Ravitch is another liberal academic who defends the public schools and lays the blame for the academic failure of many students on poverty. When liberal academics talk about public education for some reason I hear the famous song by the Four Tops in the background...it's the same old song. Our schools are failing and the reason is not poverty...it's teachers' unions and poorly prepared teachers. Why is it that charter schools serving the same population as public schools outperform those schools? One reason...no teacher unions. Another...performance pay. Another...required uniforms and parent participation. Dr. Rhee is correct...Dr. Ravitch is wrong and ill informed.

    August 10, 2012 at 6:56 am |
    • Jrzshr

      Michelle Rhee has no degree in Education, and I believe 3 years teaching experience. Her precipitous rise in test scores in DC is also under investigation. not what I would call a distinguished career in education especially when compared to Diane Ravitch.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/27/education/duncan-and-rhee-on-panel-amid-dc-schools-inquiry.html?_r=1

      August 10, 2012 at 7:33 am |
    • Alice in PA

      once again here are the facts: Rhee did not have a distinguished career. She did her 2 months of Teacher for america training, spent a couple of years teaching where she was mired in a cheating scandal and then moved onto administration where she left the DC school worse off than before and is currently under investigation.
      Charter schools do not outperform public schools ( look up Stanford CREDO study, Minnesota voucher program,or just check your states AYP website). And this is despite being given the leeway they ask for and teacher far fewer IEP, ELL and FRL students. THey do not even com,e close to teaching the same troubled population that public schools do.
      Finally, about blaming the unions. Check out the NAEP exam results, which is the only test given across the country. State with collective bargaining rights outperform states without them.
      Get the facts straight

      August 10, 2012 at 8:22 am |
      • topryder1

        I am sorry you are so vehement about your beliefs, but they really should be grounded in fact.

        August 10, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • Alice in PA

      So on what do you base your knowledge of education issues? I asked this in response to your reply to my earlier post, but that is buried a few pages back so I thought I would ask it again.

      August 10, 2012 at 8:33 am |
      • topryder1

        I base mine on my more than 50 years as an educator. A successful one at that.

        August 10, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • talking2ann

      Rhee worshipers forget that she was found to have committed educational fraud by changing the test scores of her students. In other words she cheated to get those amazing improvement scores that form the basis of her claim to be an educational genius.

      The real reason Rhee gets interviewed time and again as an "education expert" is that bashing public schools and public school teachers produces great ratings. Doe not matter if it is true or not. That and a pretty face will raise ratings every time.

      August 10, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
      • Penny Wu

        @talking2ann – I am no fan of Rhee, but your comment borders on slander.

        I have seen nothing that suggested that Rhee ever changed a test score. If you have evidence, then present it.

        Rhee was the chancellor of a school system while, in part I believe due to Rhee’s tying pay to performance, a number of TEACHERS (and probably principals) made changes, correcting wrong answers on student tests. There have been numerous instances of such behavior by teachers, including in Atlanta, in DC, and other school districts. Rhee was not proactive about investigating this and should be called to account.

        However, being non-responsive is NOT the same as committing a criminal act of falsifying records; for that we can thank her teachers.

        August 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Donna

      Manzoa is wrong. He/She is preaching the billionaires' mantra that our schools are failing. They are not. They are doing amazingly well, considering all the harrassment they are getting from the privatizers, out to steal them for their own financial benefit.

      August 10, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • jreddog1

      Your post is laughable. You are either a disgruntled parent, a former unsuccessful and bitter student, a conservative follower, or just plain a blowhard.

      August 10, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Technokat

      Oh, manzoa...where does one start?

      "Let's see if I have this right. Diane Ravitch is a professor who has never worked in the public schools as an administrator or teacher. She does research and opines about public eduction."
      Diane IS an educator. What do you think a professor is? Man, you should have paid attention in school.

      "Michelle Rhee was the chancellor of the DC schools and has had a distinguished career in the trenches. Now which of these two should be believe?"
      Rhee's is a business person with no business in education. Don't need a degree to see the flaw in your argument.

      "Put another way...would you want a surgeon to perform a liver transplant on you if all the surgeon had ever done was read about liver transplants? Or would you prefer a surgeon who had actual experience transplanting livers?"
      That would be a great argument if your first two statements were actually valid–but alas, they aren't.

      "Unfortunately Dr. Ravitch is another liberal academic who defends the public schools and lays the blame for the academic failure of many students on poverty. When liberal academics talk about public education for some reason I hear the famous song by the Four Tops in the background...it's the same old song."
      Unfortunately, you used the word "liberal" which automatically cancels your credibility in this argument.

      "Our schools are failing..."
      Uh, no they are not. That is the rhetoric used by people who constantly talk about "liberals."

      "...and the reason is not poverty...it's teachers' unions and poorly prepared teachers."
      Where is your proof that teachers unions are causing the issues in schools? You have none. More rhetoric from the right. You try to make yourselves sound official, but you have nothing but anti-union talking points. Those with the intelligence to research always call you out on your BS. You don't like Ravtich because she is so darn great at putting you guys in your place.

      "Why is it that charter schools serving the same population as public schools outperform those schools?"
      WRONG. Charter schools are NOT serving the same populations as public schools. If they were, they would be called...wait for it...PUBLIC SCHOOLS. Nice try, though.

      "One reason...no teacher unions. Another...performance pay. Another...required uniforms and parent participation."
      There is no basis for your claims. None.

      "Dr. Rhee is correct...Dr. Ravitch is wrong and ill informed."
      Just because you say so? Newsflash: You are a pawn in the game of political propaganda perpetuated by the powerful. (How's THAT for alliteration? Look it up. I'm sure a teacher taught it to you, but you probably didn't pay attention. Figures)

      Congratulations–you have just made a complete donkey of yourself. How does it feel to be used?

      August 10, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  47. David K Ward

    Just as i thought, another mindless defense of failure. What a waste of 5 minutes of my life i will never get back.

    August 10, 2012 at 6:33 am |
    • Technokat

      You obviously missed the point. Go back and read it again–and this time, give yourself some time to actually COMPREHEND. Five minutes–no wonder you didn't understand it.

      August 10, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  48. melonie

    It is clear that quite a number of people will be getting gift cards from Students First. Pathetic.

    August 10, 2012 at 5:27 am |
  49. Gary B. Sanford

    Education in America will continue to languish until school management structures that allow administrations to be opaque and unaccountable are replaced with management systems that include all stakeholders–teachers, parents, students, support staff–and airtight checks and balances.

    August 10, 2012 at 2:35 am |
  50. Don Corley

    Amen! As a 30 year elementary teacher and administrator, I love reading your blog and loved reading "The Death and Life of the Great American School System".

    I just retired at age 58 1/2 (earlier than planned) due to the current state of public education. Stress and health concerns were major factors. It is my profound hope that children wiil again soon be the focus of public education and my voice will be loud in support of this goal. Keep it up; your support is greatly appreciated!

    August 10, 2012 at 2:14 am |
  51. Lucas Mette

    Im a teacher in a low income school, and in my opinion this article is wrong on all counts. Teachers can and do make a profound difference, and they can overcome the intimidating obstacles created by poverty. Some of my 8th grade students attend school regularly but cannot read, even on a first grade level. This is a scandal. Merit pay need not be done in a way that makes teachers compete within their school. If the best teachers in the state are rewarded instead of being treated like interchangeable widgets, there is an even greater incentive for them to help each other. Offering a bonus for a job well done is not a "war on teachers."

    August 10, 2012 at 1:17 am |
    • jreddog1

      How long have you been teaching buddy? Are you a Teach For America teacher? Of course teachers can make a difference – no one has ever said otherwise. And no one ever said "everything is fine".

      August 10, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Technokat

      Lucas, I think you misunderstood Dr. Ravitch. She was not saying that teachers cannot make a difference in poverty situations. She was stating that poverty is a factor in a reduction in "test scores."

      August 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Prof W

      Lucas, Your comment raises the following question: Why would someone with 8th graders who "cannot read, even on a first grade level" claim that "Teachers can and do make a profound difference, and they can overcome the intimidating obstacles created by poverty", when it's clear that they have not been able to do that for their own students?

      Since it is now the summer and you spoke in the present tense, it's not difficult to deduce that you were probably referring to students in Summer School. This means, most likely, you are in a 5 week summer training program for Rhee's Teach for America or her TNTP Fellows program and not yet a teacher –let alone an experienced teacher with a track record in helping struggling students to overcome poverty. (Quoting Rhee's line about teachers not being "interchangeable widgets" is a giveaway, too.) I hope you find success in ameliorating poverty in your new job as a first year teacher.

      Shame on CNN for opting to select the comment of one "teacher" here who is clearly a shill for Rhee and not a veteran teacher, to posit against Diane Ravitch, in the interview that aired today –as if this "teacher" is representative of a faction of experienced teachers who support merit pay. Teachers do not go into education for the pay! They choose to teach in order to make a difference in the lives of children, and they know they will never become rich doing that.

      Also, veteran teachers know that a lot more than education needs to go into addressing the nearly 25% child poverty that we have in this country today, including the many out-of-school factors impacting poor children. Instead though, our government continues to ignore poverty and passes it off onto teachers to deal with by themselves.

      Randi Kaye, Rather than setting up Dr. Ravitch, who cares very much about pubic education, you should have tapped into her plethora of knowledge and asked for her insights. In what looked like a campaign to support Rhee's positions, CNN ambushed a respected scholar, who could have shared a lot more valuable information if you'd not had your own agenda, including about the privatization of public education that Rhee and her billionaire sponsors support.

      If you want to know about the outsourcing of jobs to foreign countries, then investigate why our government continues to let corporations take tax credits for doing that. Find out why the tax code permits large corporations to pay their CEOs more than they pay in taxes. Determine why corporate executives are allowed to take unlimited deductions for "performance-based" pay, including stock options, like the 5 CEOs from among the top 26 companies who deducted $232M last year, as reported in the news this week. And please be sure to investigate why billionaires fail to pay employees in the trenches livable wages.

      CNN, You have revealed your biases, compromised professional ethics and, in so doing, failed to capitalize on the opportunity to shed much light on a very serious matter. You have a lot to learn about objective journalism.

      August 19, 2012 at 1:01 am |
  52. Name*Gaby

    It is a shame that anyone would think that because of poverty our test scores are low in America. It is an excuse! I grew up in the third world country of Belize and let me just say that the poorest of its people are very well educated. Most students graduate with honors and move on to UB. They then graduate and go as far as teaching in Universities in America. A friend of mine teaches at UF and I am sure that the fact that he came from nothing is only his motivation. I myself came to America and have never nor will I ever work for minimum wage. Belize doesnt focus its money on athletes. Take the ratio of Americans competing in the Olympics to the amount of students who will go to a university and compare to Belize's ratio. May I also add that school from kindergarten through highschool is NOT FREE. Americans dont know what real poverty is nor should it reflect low test score. It all comes down to parenting! To add to those who dont know, high school in Belize is much more advanced and starts at anearlier age with eight hour days.

    August 10, 2012 at 12:53 am |
    • Alice in PA

      If all the students in Belize do that well, then it seems that it would not be a poor country. Could it be that Belize does not educate all of its students through 12th grade?

      August 10, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • Mike Schwaegerl

      Gaby, you could not write this reply if you knew anything about education in Belize. A cursory search of 5 minutes would show you the truth. Just enter "education Belize." Try it.

      August 10, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • jreddog1

      You are trying to compare apples to oranges. While that makes interesting copy and adds fuel to the fire – it is not a valid comparison.

      August 10, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Technokat

      Ok, Gaby. In Belize, is EVERYONE living in poverty or just a small percentage of the population? In the U.S., the progress of children who come from low income environments is compared to that of children who do not, and the disparity is what is called the "achievement gap" which is often indicated by results on standardized tests. If everyone is at the same income level, there would be no comparisons to make. So tell me about the demographics of Belize and the U.S. comparatively–IS there even a comparison to be fairly made? I'm thinking...no.

      August 10, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Belize has a 63% enrollment rate for secondary education? And that has nothing to do with poverty?

      August 13, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  53. Name*Gaby

    It is a shame that anyone would think that because of poverty our test scores are low in America. It is an excuse! I grew up in the third world country of Belize and let me just say that the poorest of its people are very well educated. Most students graduate with honors and move on to UB. They then graduate and go as far as teaching in Universities in America. A friend of mine teaches at UF and I am sure that the fact that he came from nothing is only his motivation. I myself came to America and have never nor will I ever work for minimum wage. Belize doesnt focus its money on athletes. Take the ratio of Americans competing in the Olympics to the amount of students who will go to a university and compare to Belize's ratio. May I also add that school from kindergarten through highschool is NOT FREE. Americans dont know what real poverty is nor should it reflect low test score. It all comes down to parenting!

    August 10, 2012 at 12:42 am |
  54. Gina

    “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.”
    ― C.S. Lewis

    “Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.”
    ― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

    “A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”
    ― Nelson Mandela

    “Marriage can wait, education cannot.”
    ― Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns

    “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”
    ― Henry Ford

    “Educate a boy, and you educate an individual. Educate a girl, and you educate a community.
    African proverb via Greg Mortensen”

    “Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?”

    -Kurt Vonnegut

    Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.
    -Malcolm X

    Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it.
    -Malcolm X

    Malcolm knew the deal... so sad we are a nation of tribes. America is tribalized, and like the great Roman Empire, it will eventually fall....

    August 10, 2012 at 12:18 am |
  55. Teri

    Keep telling the world how it really is. That keeps me headed back to my classroom each year DESPITE the craziness of administrators and legislators who believe statistics tell us more than our eyes and hearts.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
  56. Keith

    Since Ms Ravitch wants to take relativist's point of view with these statistics, why does she leave this one out?? She says our low scores have everything to do with poverty – supposedly 1 of 4 kids in poverty higher than any other industrialized county all while also saying we're the most powerful and rich country in the world. So what's the catch?? Here's the answer: countries define poverty differently and the USA defines poverty at a much much higher income and quality of life than almost any other country. Sorry Ms Ravitch, our public schools are suffering through the poverty of basic management and ravaged by public unions and bureaucracy, not students from higher incomes.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • Bonnie Capatelli

      Keith,
      Your post isn't the most idiotic here...but it's exceedingly close. You don't use the same "logic" in your job assignments, do you?

      August 10, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • AGCS

      I'm sorry Keith but I must disagree with you. I currently teach in a low income school. And while we may define our poverty levels different from the rest of the world, it still impacts our students. Case in point, we had a boy break his arm in PE. He had a displaced fracture of his forearm. Administration and the school nurse struggle with keeping this child comfortable while trying to track down his mother. She couldn't come get him because she needed the money from the house she was cleaning. And after she finally did pick up her child, she couldn't take him to the doctor until the next day when she could go to the free clinic. Poverty does in fact affect students ability to learn.

      August 10, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Technokat

      Sorry Keith, your anti-union sentiment holds no water.

      Unions actually keep a dedicated workforce in the public schools, and this workforce invests in its communities. The unions are actually good for the schools. They provide a bargaining representation for the employees of the various districts. They actually do a lot of the contract work. They protect the staff from politics, and keep the school running. And the one thing that those who spew anti-union rhetoric fail to mention is that there are TWO sides to every contract. They would have the public believing that the unions have all the power and there are only one-sided contracts. That is not the case in reality.

      You obviously don't know a thing about what really goes on with the unions, do you?

      August 10, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  57. RUSSELL LEE

    Why does CNN despise my truth?

    August 9, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • jomartin

      Hi Russell Lee,
      I checked the automatic spam filter and if your comment is not too long and not abusive it should have been approved. Again, these are supposed to be comments, not manifestos.
      John
      Schools of Thought

      August 13, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  58. RUSSELL LEE

    Still, compared with Japan, the USA is still hurting.

    August 9, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
  59. jtkd

    Absolutely right, parents are the key. We home schooled are children until last year when our youngest was 16. We put her in the local public high school. What a joke. She got straight A's with no effort at all in what should have been challenging classes like pre-AP English, Geometry, French, and Chemistry. I apologized to her for the wasted school year. This year she goes to the local community college. Check the studies. Home schoolers have higher average ACT scores than both public and private school students. Parents are the best educators.

    August 9, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • JSF

      I'm sure you did a great job but just in case,....it's "we home schooled OUR children," not "are" children.

      August 9, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
      • Marie

        Lol.

        August 9, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
      • T.J.

        So one error enables you to dismiss her point all together? Educated people are laughing at you for being so petty. She is right, look at the studies. Sending a child to some public schools should be considered child abuse. Not only will the child end up dumb, but in danger. Schools often fail to report violence because they want to protect their public image. Go ahead, find a grammer mistake in what I have written so that you can keep your head in the sand. Good parents don't send their children to bad schools.

        August 9, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
      • Gina Marni

        Wow. This country has issues. Homeschooling is not the answer. We can send men to the moon and invade Iraq...we can fix public schools.

        Is thus a country framed on Christian values? Who would ever guess by the callousness and fear and segregation....

        August 10, 2012 at 2:31 am |
      • djheru

        *grammar

        August 10, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • Jake

      And homeschooling is a scaleable nationwide model of education?All parents are willing and able to teach their kids at home? We should close down public schools and all educate our own children?

      I don't begrudge anyone who is able and so disposed from educating their kids at home. But to claim that public schools are not wanted or needed based on your personal preference ignores the multiplicity of perspectives and needs that we have in a democratic country.

      Public schools educate 90% of US kids. State constitutions nationwide specify that education is a public responsibility. Anti-tax selfishness and anti-black prejudice are tearing apart the common commitment to our nation's future and well-being that binds us together as a nation.

      August 10, 2012 at 4:59 am |
      • djheru

        Must be nice to be wealthy enough to have one parent teaching the kids instead of working. I wonder if children of wealthy parents as a group are stronger academically than poor kids, or if it's just the home-schooled.

        August 10, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Bonnie Capatelli

      Your story is so filled with holes it looks like a piece of swiss cheese. "are" children?!?!

      And if your daughter can get straight A's in the hardest subjects, why is she going to community college next year?

      Tall tales shouldn't be told unless you can at least make them "look" credible. Okay?

      August 10, 2012 at 9:02 am |
      • JTL

        In my wealthy district, many kids go to community college for a year or two to cut college costs; it is not always a sign of poor academic performance. However, I don't believe a child is in the proper level class if s/he is earning "A"'s easily. All kids at every level should be challenged, and an easy "A" is clearly a sign of not being challenged. This is not to imply that high grades should not be earned, just that they should involve thought and effort if properly challenging. My bigger question, based on how students new to my school are evaluated, is whether or not the student was properly leveled when coming into the school. If she did not do well on placement tests, she may have been placed in lower classes that were too easy. There are often big leaps between levels; if she was under the bar for a top level, she might have been really struggling in a top level class, but having a much easier time one level down. Often, schools will not put a new student who tests borderline in a top level class as moving up while moving into a new environment is difficult. I also have seen first hand students moving into our top level classes from outside the district have tons of trouble and have real trouble adapting.

        And SOME homeschool parents do a great job, others do not. I've seen th results of each in my classroom.

        August 10, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • Technokat

      Yes, I'm sure the social education your youngest child got at the school didn't do her ANY good. Better keep her home away from all those inferior other students, just to be safe.

      August 10, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
      • zee

        "Yes, I'm sure the social education your youngest child got at the school didn't do her ANY good. Better keep her home away from all those inferior other students, just to be safe."

        dude, thats just dumb. most home schooled kids don't just sit at home all day and not talk to anyone. besides, most home school parents consider the 'social' environment at school to often be less than ideal. when i was in school a couple years ago most kids used vulgar language and conversation all the time, and i went to a 'good' school and took mostly AP classes. In that way, school is indeed 'inferior' to home schooling. of course not all home schoolers properly socialize their kids, but if you do, then its far superior to going to school.

        August 13, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  60. Paul Scotchmer

    Diane Ravitch is right on one count: "Parents must be involved in helping their kids succeed." But that only happens in privately-run schools. The answer to America's education malaise, quite clearly, is vouchers. The need is especially acute in the inner cities, where private and charter schools-freed from the public education bureaucracy-have shown that it's possible to educate students from impoverished homes and communities, bringing an end to the cycle of poverty. I'm so sorry to see a brilliant and informed scholar like Diane Ravich succumb to the status quo. What a shame!

    August 9, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Bonnie Capatelli

      So, Paul...which one of the private, for-profit "education" companies are you shilling for?

      I guess taxation is "theft" unless, or until, it goes directly into the bank accounts of one of these businesses, by way of a "voucher".

      August 10, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • Getreal...

      Paul,

      You obviously have not visited very many private schools. There are many is disarray and the parent support is not correcting the problem. Involvement in education is not limited to public or private sectors. It is a choice. Rather than point fingers, get involved and make a change!

      August 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Bull! I've been involved in our children's education from day one. We have massive parental involvement in our local public schools and the results show. However, we live in a relatively affluent area and we are able to improve the resources available to the kids. Between volunteer time, materials and money, we ensure that the teachers have the resources they need. Private schools have the luxury to select which students they enroll. Public schools serve all equally.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:02 am |
      • Gina

        Public schools do not serve ALL equally. Many of our blighted inner city schools are holding pens for future criminals. They KEEP all students in the building, inviting them to show up for federal funds. Attendance submission is a big deal in public schools–not because they care about the kids or their "safety"-but for money.

        Every kid that shows up, with or without a pencil, without or without a binder, with or without a good attitude, with or without the desire to learn... EACH kid is money.

        We will always have an achievement gap until we fix the behavior gap by removing the no-loads who are holding teachers and fellow students hostage...especially in our high schools..

        This country should be ashamed that our inner city schools do not keep the violence and vile behavior outside the school walls...by any means necessary....

        August 13, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  61. Scott

    Until American parents get involved in their children's education, the kids will continue to suffer. Poverty is but a small factor IMHO...Plus the teachers Unions are too powerful , hindering the firing of teachers who don' t meet standards.

    August 9, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Technokat

      Scott, just how are unions "too powerful?" Please outline this.

      August 10, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      You've inverted the importance of those two problems.

      August 13, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  62. Miguel

    if you were to blame stupidity on income, i should have never finished high school! yet i graduated with my BA and stepped out of poverty... your rationale is proof that stupidity affects the wealthy and the educated as well

    August 9, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • Susan

      Miguel, you make my point exactly. Maybe it didn't come across clearly. Leonard Pitts coined the term "stupidification of America" and what he means is that mainstream America, all classes, prefer to believe sound bites and outright lies that media, politicians, and corporations espouse for their own profit rather than question and think critically for themselves. Yes, part of that rests on schools, but a great deal of it lands on the other three (media, politicians, and corps.)

      August 9, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
      • Soba

        Susan, not only in the USA, but here in The Netherlands as well....

        August 10, 2012 at 6:48 am |
  63. John Gray

    "Merit pay fails because teachers are doing the best they can with or without a bonus."
    Wow, I'm convinced. Argument definitely over, since this no-name education hack says so. So goody, we can cut pensions and other perks, too, and still get our (meager) bang for the buck.
    By the way, "education" phds come from the bottom of the bottom of the barrel. Please don't believe me, compare entrance requirements by department at your nearest college. Name one accomplished education "researcher" that has performed 3 accomplishments for civilization.
    Oh, and if public education is so great, why are people willing to saw off limbs to go to private schools? Why do big government hacks erect costly barriers to force people into these great public schools?

    August 9, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • William

      John, you clearly have missed the key idea here. When parents are involved and care their children do better in school. People who send their children to an expensive private school usually push their kids to do better. This is the missing concept in your argument.

      Parental involvement is the key. You could have Stephen Hawking as a physical teacher but if you don't have a parent or two pushing you, there is little hope that you will care enough to do well

      August 10, 2012 at 12:02 am |
  64. bibleverse1

    When a parent takes responsibility for a child's education and the student agrees success is assured. Once the student sets the goal the student will succeed no matter the obstacle.

    August 9, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • Gina

      Many of these kids don't have parents? Your suggestion? Build more prisons?

      Wow. We really do follow the golden rule in this country. Bible verse1...What would Jesus do?

      He's just put the blame on parents and walk away...?

      August 10, 2012 at 12:22 am |
  65. ghsdu

    "No elite school—not Andover or Exeter or Sidwell Friends—evaluates its teachers by the scores of their students on standardized tests."

    This is true, but our contracts are year-to-year and we can be fired no matter how long we have been teaching at those schools. Though it takes many forms, good teaching is observable and able to be evaluated. Good teaching is separate from test results. In these "elite schools," administrators know the kids, watch closely how you teach, and routinely speak to the teacher about how they are reaching the student and how it is going with the family.

    In every single school in this country, if you ask the right teacher, they can tell you who is going all out, working hard, and teaching as best they can, and they can also tell you which teachers have checked out. If it is so easy for colleagues to know, there's no reason why administrators shouldn't know and be able to get rid of dead weight.

    August 9, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • Gina

      Exactly ghsdu. Good teaching is evident. If principals and coaches and evaluators spend more time in the hallways, listening, coming in to the rooms, knowledgeable about best practices, connected with the kids, good teaching is good teaching. I am not concerned with tenure, but I will not stand for abuse.

      Teachers are partly to blame for all the disrespect they receive. The contempt, from people who couldn't last a day in any classroom, from some in this blog is obvious. I wish we could put cameras in our classrooms, but the ignorant and bitter would probably find ways to use that data against teachers.

      August 9, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
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