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

(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.

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

    Merit pay fails... if you look at particular studies. Other studies say that merit pay works. You can find experts that say merit pay doesn't work... but you also find experts that say it does work. So why not try it out at some schools? It can't hurt to try.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Dee

      To the people who've said merit pay might work: it may in some cases, but most definitely not in the bigger picture. It -has- been experimented with and it has failed greatly for the most part. It sets teachers out against one another instead of collaborating on how to take the best approach to teaching their students. It does not encourage better test scores because teachers simply do not have the time and the resources to focus on their students like the standardized testing tells them they should. There are A LOT of things wrong with education; the parent, the teachers, the school system -all- need to work together. It shouldn't be a finger-pointing game, but rather a collaboration of everyone working together to fix the problems.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • RL

      The reason why teachers teach is because they want to make a positive impact on a child's life. This is an intrinsic motivator. Merit pay does not work because the majority of teachers are already doing what is best for the child and this often means not teaching to the test, which is detrimental. Teachers teach despite the mandates, not because of them.

      August 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  2. Concerned Aunt

    Poverty is a problem, however, abysmal teachers should be held accountable and removed from the classroom. My niece and nephew both attended a failing district (East Saint Louis, IL). My brother and his wife sent the children to school daily, on time, with all the tools to learn. However, the children were met at school by teachers who told them, "I got mine, get yours" and "As long as you show up, sit down, and be quiet, you'll get a C in my class." When my brother and his wife went to talk with the principal, they were told, "You two obviously care about your kids, get them out of District 189." My brother and his wife moved the following school year to another town/district so that their childern could have a better shot at a decent education. Because of the teacher apathy in my niece and nephew's prior school district, my brother and his wife had to spend money to send the children to Sylvan so that they could catch up with the students in their new school district (O'Fallon,IL). Unforntunately, my brother and sister-in-law's story is not the exception but is the norm in MANY American school districts. What some of these districts/teachers are doing to our children should be criminal!

    August 9, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  3. Shawn

    I believe that we still haven't gotten to the root of the problem with this article or discussion. Our society, our culture needs to mature so that we (collectively) as parents put a greater emphasis on the education of our children. To blame the teachers, or the income level of the parents is a distraction from the root of the problem.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:41 pm |

    Let me guess. The answer will turn out to be more government control of public education, and more money being thrown into more idiotic government programs that make people feel better. Yeah, because the government always does things more efficiently and cheaper and always has our best interest in mind, right?

    August 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • RL

      I think you need to wake up and smell the coffe; it's not about the government throwing money into educations – it's about big business seeing education as their next housing boom. Right now, investors are having meeting on how they can cash in on the education deform movement they are creating. You, my friend, are falling right into their hands. Get yourself informed.

      August 9, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  5. Teaching

    "teachers are doing the best they can with or without a bonus." TEACHERS ARE DOING THE BEST THEY CAN? think about that one for a second. think about your own experiences at public schools. Is this really true?

    August 9, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • StevenR

      Poverty. The NUMBER ONE correlation to poor test scores. Teacher quality IS NOT EVEN IN THE TOP FIVE.

      You are IGNORING FACTS. Stop trying to BLAME THE VICTIMS and get to the root of the problem. If RICH JERKS like MITTENS ROMNEY paid THEIR FAIR SHARE, if MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS pus the RAISES for their TOP MANAGEMENT into RAISING PAY for the bottom tier of workers, if the TAX CODE were made TRUELY PROGRESSIVE instead of MASSIVELY REGRESSIVE, we could make progress.

      DENY, DENY, DENY. That is all you GOP IDIOTS can do.


      August 9, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  6. Texas Annie

    There ARE ineffective teachers.... probably only a small percentage, but they ARE out there. My kids were both encouraged daily at home & given every opportunity possible to expand their educatilons. They were smart kids with great work ethics. BUT they both encountered some of those "ineffective teachers" that Ms. Ravitch apprently doesn't know about. Our district had been a "good old boy" system for so long that some teachers were never really evaluated and just kept their jobs because they had known the superintendent for 25 years– or were related to him. Fortunately a new superintendent eventually came along & then new principals, and they started listening to parents & students and the changes were life altering for the kids. I can remember when my kids came home absolutely excited about having math teachers who actually understood what they were teaching. (I was excited too, because math was my worst subject so I wasn't a very good at home tutor. And in retrospect, I can thank two terrible Algebra & Geometry teachers for my poor understanding– football coaches with Physical Education degrees should NEVER be teaching any kind of secondary level math!!!) I always found it interesting that my kids favorite teachers were the ones who demanded the most from them.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  7. Teaching

    So schools without poverty test higher than japan and finland? the more pertinent question is: do schools without poverty in the US test higher than schools without poverty in japan or finland.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  8. Louis

    What a crock of crap–since the 1960's we have spent 15 TRILLION ($15,000,000,000,000) dollars on the "War on Poverty" and related programs and the poverty rates are essentially unchanged. Don't tell that spending even more money will solve the problem.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • StevenR

      What a crock of crap. 15 trillion over 60+ years is PEANUTS. A SMALL FRACTION of the defense budget and, given the FACTS, LESS POVERTY and a BETTER EDUCATED POPULACE do more to MAKE US SAFE than EVERY CENT spent on guns and bombs.


      August 9, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  9. Nicole Chardenet

    Both are right. Neither is wrong. The problems of American education are manifest and the blame can be spread out. The problems faced by kids growing up in poverty is covered in the book Superfreakonomics, where the brain development of a child is already impacted by the time he starts school. It is absolutely critical to address the poverty problem if we're going to fix education. Still, there's a lot of improvement to be made in the schools and Waiting For Superman illuminated a few of the more unpleasant facts about our failing education system that teachers and administrators would prefer to ignore.

    however, you'll never be able to address the poverty problem until you address the problem of overprivileged undertaxed millionaires and billionaires leeching off the system, and neither party has the stomach to tackle that problem, so I doubt anything will get done in the near future to fix education.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Robert Wiebel

      Great comment. I work for a top ten Florida school district and my daughter is a 10 year teacher and has taught elementary school in CA, NC and now here in FL. She and I talk about her class all the time. The child's economic status, teacher, parents support and the school culture all have a big affect and play a roll on the students ability to learn and achieve. I agree with you that the top 1% need to be paying more.

      August 9, 2012 at 1:01 pm |

    Of course the thinks the only valid meaurement is the NEAp. She administers it. She ought to spend a little time in an actual school seieing what actually goes on. The public schools in this country are in a shambles. Public school education in this country now consist more of self-esteem training and political indoctrination than actual education. No Child Lft Behind has instead morphed into No Child Allowed to Get Ahead, since it might offend someone or hurt someones feelings if another student does better through hard work and studying. Can't have that, can we? What a joke. Speaking as the husband of a public school teacher, the smartest thing we did for our own kids was get them the hell out of the public schools.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  11. John

    Poverty? Well I have no experience being impoverished but I've definitely had experience being exposed to teachers who were not only ineffective, but downright worthless and embittered. Many such teachers are stuck in education because they lacked sufficient discipline to remain persistent toward their own goals. Students are subsequently faced with the retribution of their disappointment on a daily basis and instead of working to help you achieve your goals, they lobby you to likewise give up on trying to reach for your dreams and instead . . . . . . earn a teaching certificate just like them.

    Students need teachers with a passion and talent for educating young people and the teachers that are stuck where they are need to go to a psychiatrist to solve their dilemma rather than impose it upon students under their supposed guidance.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Coflyboy

      Ineffective teachers? Well, maybe these teachers were taught by ineffective teachers! What we need is reasonable funding for our education system. But in America, we prefer to spend trillions on war over education. When there are budget cuts, education is the very first ting on the chopping block.
      In addition, our kids aren't taught the importance of academics. The emphasis in our schools is on sports. Sorry folks, but being on the high school basketball team never resulted in a paycheck for me. I think taking a look at our education system and our priorities overall would make a difference.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  12. Eyeamateacher

    I agree with a lot of what is stated in this article with the exception of children in poverty. We aren't there are schools in the US who do an INCREDIBLE job with children in poverty. We can't use poverty as an excuse. If we do, we're basically saying 25% of our children can't succeed. Geoffrey Canada is doing extraordinary things with his students in Harlem, but because he's a charter, he doesn't have to deal with tenure. This means his teachers must perform. There are "experienced" teachers where I teach and they lack motivation and have become creatures of habit. I am a teacher and I am not one for demonizing them, but teachers do not need tenure. There isn't a time a teacher will need to worry about their jobs because of political leanings, etc. Tenure needs to stay where it belongs – in college. And, I don't believe all teachers are doing the best they can. And, if their best is 30% achievement in literacy, teaching is not the field for them. I watch children being failed daily by mediocre teachers with a "one way fits all approach" to education and enough is enough. Let's stop with the excuses. All children can learn. Period!

    August 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  13. Gareth

    I think one the underlying difficulties with trying to improve education in the US is illustrated by these comments. While there are those for and against the point of view expressed by Dr. Ravitch, those that subscribe to the Rhee camp typically express pretty extreme levels of hostility towards teachers in general. Look though the comments here (or on any similar board), and you will see things like "the problem with teachers is that they don't know how the real world operates...", and accusations of being lazy, in it for the money, and so on. One has to assume that those posters don't personally know any teachers, but even so, the level of hate disturbs me, because it implies a hostility to the whole concept of education. After all, one cannot say "I think education is great, but I don't respect teachers." Of course, one can always find cases of bad teachers who can't be reformed or fired, but they are a small proportion of the teaching population. These posters clearly believe that whole profession is necessarily all like that.

    The reason I think this revealed attitude is important is because in those countries that regularly top the international comparisons, teachers really are looked after well, via good salaries, support for training and development, and general societal respect, rather than being maligned by half the population as "lazy fat cats." (The result is that more talented people are attracted to teaching in the first place, and then get better trained.)

    It doesn't help, of course, that those on the other side launch ad hominem attacks on Rhee, and an unspecified cabal of 'corporate interests.'

    So, while poverty, parental support and teacher management all surely have some role in today's variation in educational performance, in terms of he prospects for change, I would say that political polarization, disengagement from society, and a general lack of empathy for an alternative point of view are what are stopping us fixing anything. (And not just in education, of course. Almost all public debates have turned into shouting matches.)

    It's very sad, and I worry about the the US' long-term prospects.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  14. Teaching

    public schools are NOT good. and a big part of it is that teachers are ineffective. and they are ineffective because the best and brightest do not become teachers. So you are left with teachers that cannot prove the Pythagorean Theorem. Test scores don't matter, all you have to do is go to a public school and spend time at a public school in order to understand how ineffective they are.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Mastiffs4evr

      Many teachers, including myself, graduated from high school and college with honors and still chose to go into teaching. Try to not assume that all teachers are ineffective just as you wouldn't assume that all doctors, dentists, and attorneys are ineffective.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  15. Liz Guyer

    As a recently retired public school secondary teacher I have to say that Michelle Rhee has no credibility with me. Recently my former school district had Board of Education elections and she pushed her corporate agenda at some of our high schools with coffee mugs in teachers' mailboxes. I see her as a power hungry, headline grabbing narcisist. , In no way is she an effective educator. I cannot help but wonder when she last spent an extended length of time (an entire school year?) in an actual classroom with 30+ students with 30+ kinds of backgrounds and abilities. I am truly tired of so-called "eduational experts" whose sole expertise is academic research using data rather than actual classroom, hands on experience. Data is much too easy to manipulate.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • k

      Rhee taught as a "Teacher" in a very poor neighborhood and had experience with kids from diverse backgrounds (that's why she decided to work in DC). I do not know how did you make an assumption that she only had an academic experience.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
      • skepticnotcynic

        Two years teaching in Baltimore is very little experience and certainly gives her no credibility as an education policy expert.

        August 9, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  16. eliotpound

    Diane Ravitch is spot on. Those of you who disagree with her are probably wearing Gates' galvanic bracelets and are in the hip pocket of corporate privatizing interests. As a high school English teacher I can tell you that Rhee is off the mark; Obama's Arne Duncan is off the mark; Governor Bobby Jindahl is off the mark; and Bill Gates is clueless.

    A school is not a business, nor can it be run successfully as a business and still fundamentally be a school. Get a clue, folks. It's about kids – and guess what? They are not data. They are human beings. Duh.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  17. EMH

    My experience says that the public education outcome for a child is not always driven by household income, parential educational achievements or teacher skills. I've seen each of these deficiencies or combinations of deficiencies overcome by one thing...reading and access to books. If you can read, if you have an interest in a legal, ethical, socially responsible topic then you will succeed. It may take longer but you will succeed. Once a child learns to read the only other thing they need to know is how to teach themselves and how to think critically. My success is largely based on reading and following "threads" of interest that can be applied to producing things and ideas of value. Reading and access to all books is the key.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • G.Fisher

      I totally agree that reading is of prime importance to success in life. What about my grandson,who is going on eight, who cannot read. He has sensory problems which seem to interfere with his thinking process. However, he is a dab hand at building things, is extremely sensitive to the feelings of others, always wants to help. I believe, that under the present public school system, he will fail and is destined for a rather unpredictable path in life. If there was an alternative,such as an alternative for children like him, tuition and the like. Under today's system he will be forced to take repeated tests, fail and have his ego buried somewhere without hope of extrication. The entire academic
      system should be overhauled with more emphasis put on basic skills and less on football, Frankly, I think any game which costs more than the price of a ball should be placed in the hands of the Parks department....

      August 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  18. S. H. McGuire

    There are intuitive beliefs that the problems in education are not just related to teachers, but to the entire system now in place. In the past the United States did not have to complete as strongly with other countries for economic success. (Read "That Used to Be Us" by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum). Often outsourcing of work is related to the lack of available, local, skilled workers. (CNN article 8/8/2012 "Indiana: Hundreds of manufacturing jobs go unfilled.") What seems to be needed is a change in policy and leadership. Too much emphasis is placed on sports and college preparation. We also need skilled workers for the many trades that keep our nation going. New small businesses will be the source of new jobs. Secondly, all children are not the same in their ability to learn. Using age as the criteria for class placements slows the better student, and punishes the child who need extra assistance. Third, our need for endless statistics places a terrible burden on the teacher who would otherwise be able to use the time for individual counseling. More money is not the answer, but a new set of goals, implementation of already successful programs, and the accountability of all those in education is needed. Reducing poverty, while an important factor, is beyond the realm of the educator.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Lou

      Thank you, for this intelligent comment.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  19. Steve B

    There are too many unmentioned issues with most of these comments. Theorize all you want but you are missing major concepts when it comes to the infrastructure of a person old,young, smart or unconcerned. If the people ask the right questions,infinite amount of individuals would get the right answer. Most of the issues causing education to fail (miserably) in the U.S. would be starting with the people commenting on this article including myself. Cheers!

    August 9, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  20. Rationalintn

    So, poverty is the problem? What would be the most likely way to rise up out of poverty, could it be a great education? Even American children who live in poverty, spend 7 hours per day in school. What are the likely reasons for those children repeating the pattern once they finish school? They've been educated, so what's the problem?

    Why are there approximately 3.5 million jobs available in technology related fields that are going unfilled? Why are there manufacturing jobs in Indiana that aren't being filled?

    Why does the United States fill teaching positions in public schools with the bottom 25% of college graduates?

    Our educational system has a number of problems, including ineffective teachers. Burying your head in the sand with statements like, " 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." So, we should just keep churning out the low test scores because we are always going to be the dominant economy? Who can argue with logic like that? The Chinese are rolling around in piles of our money, laughing at you.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  21. AZRLS

    I lived literally across the tracks, and I went to school with refugee children from Europe right after WWII. Most of us were poor, but we all thrived because we had effective teachers who demanded excellence. Poverty was not and is not an acceptable excuse.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Eyeamateacher

      Well said! It's a shame bit when students in high minority, high poverty areas aren't making gains in achievement, it's acceptable because they're poor and not white. Geoffrey Canada has proved that we need to remove poverty as an excuse and do "Whatever it takes" for these kids. Our future literally depends on it!

      August 9, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  22. Bob

    Like with most issues, both sides have part of the story. In the USA teachers do not have the same ""high" regard from the general populace that Is present in some other countries. So while there are excellent teachers here, a fair number of the potentially "best" teachers go on to other jobs and professions where they get more recognition and higher pay. At the same time, if your "role models" had to quit school early to help the family financially, then you will likely face similar obstacles. Poverty begets poverty down through the generations in an unfortunate truism, and has been for centuries.

    To truly improve the educational situation one needs to address both sides of the coin.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  23. Big Picture

    I don't see how these two sides are isolated from each other.The poor culture surrounding the profession of teachers and within the schools make less qualified people enter and stay in the profession. Other countries who are higher scored, such as Japan and Finland, value their teachers as much as doctors and lawyers and compensate them well. Here, teaching is not regarded as a highly valued career. There are poor teachers burdening the system, but we've created the culture that put them there.

    High rates of poverty and children without the home support, much less basic needs, is a challenge even to the best teacher in the country. The socioeconomic status of students is a huge indicator of success in the classroom.

    We can't succeed by limiting our scope of the problems and attaching it from only one side. We need a big picture look at the problem, figure out causation vs. effects, and work on it from the foundation up.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  24. Brenden

    It has nothing to do with poverty. It has to do with getting the individual motivated and seeing there is a clear path to the top.
    there are bazillions of Indians in poverty yet they go to school and get a good education.

    No excuse.

    I do not have a college degree and could have cared less about half of the classes in my school history. Yet I am educated (by my own hands and eyes) and am a professional in the IT industry. Oh and I am deaf. I came from a poor background.

    The excuse that poverty has something to do with it is BS.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • Mark

      If you have not been in a classroom as a teacher, volunteer, administrator, or at any level in an actual school you really need to either get your self into a school so you can be more informed or shut up.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  25. Lainie11

    Rhee is RIGHT! Ravitch is WRONG!

    August 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Joe

      If you ignore the scientific evidence then you are correct.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • WhatAwesomeDebateSkillsYouHave

      You know, I was thinking that the author made some solid points and presented her opinion quite well. But then I read your BRILLIANT counter-argument and you totally changed my mind. Thank you Lainie11, I will remember your technique the next time I need to change someone's mind.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Cheetahe

      I agree with you.
      D.Ravitch is an establishment spokeswoman and she is against any policies that do not conform to the Teachers union position on how to educate our youth. Ms. Rhee challenged their policies and they flexed all their political muscle to get her out her job.
      D.Ravitch as the teachers unions, is against any standardized testing and she is talking about the historically low international test scores of our students and also mentions that despite these low scores we are the most successful economy in the world. The world has changed and the old axioms at this time cannot and will not work. A large number of our youth who graduate from our high schools cannot even properly fill a job application.
      Evidently she does not know that industry spends an extraordinarily large amount of time and resources to teach their new hires basic skills to perform their job because the educational system she is content with is dysfunctional. Ms Ravitch also seems to be unaware about the challenges to our technological advantage from overseas. Furthermore because our educational system does not produce enough high tech graduates there is a need for the US companies to import critical skills from abroad to keep our companies functional.

      August 9, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  26. jdoe

    On the bright side, the U.S. can always attract smart people from other countries to come and attend college here. Just take a look at U.S. universities, especially the college of science and engineering. You'll see a rather high percentage of students from Asia or India. Some will go back to their home country, but some will stay and further U.S. advancements in technology. "Native" Americans can always go to business school. A few will become managers, and the rest salespeople.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  27. RUN2WIN

    Poverty is NOT the problem. SIN is. When we turn from a holy God, and determine that we do not need Him, then He removes his Blessings from us. Keep shaking your fist at Him.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • Karl

      RUN2WIN – I am sure that is why countries like Japan rank ahead of us.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Rationalintn

      You just keep praying to your mythological sky daddy, while the rest of us figure out ACTUAL solutions to our problems here on Earth.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • S. H. McGuire

      I feel sorry for your simplistic views, but believe you could not learn from the actions of others. Religious zealotry has been the source of more death than salvation. (The Crusades, the Inquisition, wars, burnings at the stake, bigotry, and hate.) Those who teach intolerance are harmful to all. Possibly we should just teach kindness and acceptance, regardless of religious dogma.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  28. Lou

    Teachers were children in the public school system; therefore, with whom does the fault lie? If the same children in the public school system go on to be teachers and these teachers fail the children and so on and so forth, wouldn't that show you that teachers are not the problem? From the beginning, it was the culture and social environment that corrupted education.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  29. Robert

    In my public, alternative education school, I work with some amazingly dedicated and gifted teachers. Unfortunately, I also work with teachers who commit fraud every day. I don’t use the term “fraud” lightly. What else does one call it when a teacher leaves work over an hour before the end of her contract day, goes to the gym without notifying the office that she has left campus, and then complains that she does not have enough time to do her job? She then justifies her leaving early by saying, “Why shouldn’t I be able to leave when my job is done? Why should I be punished because I’m more efficient than other teachers?” (This from a teacher who volunteered to write a new course and still hadn’t produced it three years later.) What does one call it when a teacher ignores his students, lets them cheat (I was the one that had to stop them every day), and spent literally hundreds of hours writing a book and negotiating its contract during school hours (the subject of the book, how to improve schools, is now available on!). What does one call it when a teacher gives an “A” to an essay, the first line of which is “In Huck Finn Antonio decides….” (The student turned in a Bless Me, Ultima essay for the Huck Finn essay and simply used MSWord to switch the books’ titles in the essay.) What do you call it when a teacher gives 100% to an essay, the second page of which looks like something written by a dyslexic German? What does one call it when a teacher gives grades for assignments that students have not done? What does one call it when teachers use the work day to conduct real estate transactions, run a dog training business, and do educational consulting, thus making money from their other careers while being paid by the taxpayers? What does one call it when a teacher turns in a curriculum development time card for work done during the school day and not on her own time? What does one call it when teachers on extended day time cards leave work at 6:50 but claim they left at 8:00? What does one call it when a teacher credits a student who previously struggled for over two years to complete Algebra 1 ten credits of Algebra 2 credit in less than a week? (The NCAA nailed the student and the school for that one.)

    I wish that I could say that the above were just the acts of one or two people; they are not. For every item above, I or other colleagues provided proof to the administration over the years, yet those teachers are still here or have been allowed to retire. The district can’t afford the hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills to fight the union to get rid of just one teacher.

    If teachers want to be perceived as professionals by the public, perhaps teacher unions should act like other professional organizations and institute a peer review process.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  30. History Bear

    Ms. Rhee, like a great many people love to bash anything american. Isn't it interesting that students from other countries do anything they can to come to America and go to our colleges(which we usually pay for). You bet there are poor teachers. As one of 27 years I saw way too many who were clock watching union hacks. I also saw many extremely hard working and dedicated ones who were lumped in with poor ones for critisim. Poverty is only part of the problem. Social demands at the expense of real learning do more damage than poverty and poor teachers. And forget standardized testing, nothing throttles creative teaching and thinking like these damn test.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  31. Lainie11

    Rhee is RIGHT. Ravitch is WRONG!

    August 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  32. Sherri

    It is not just one problem. Yes, bad teachers are in the schools. Apathetic teachers or just teachers who don't know how to teach. AND it is parents who don't get involved in their children's education. Parents who never come to parent/teacher conferences. Parents who do not sit down with their kids and help them with their homework, or even see if they have any and got it done. Yes, poverty is an issue also. If you are hungry, you can't concentrate. If you are worried about where you'll sleep tonight, or if you'll get beat by your parent, you can't concentrate. There are many things happening. But to blame it all on poverty is just crazy. Get rid of the bad teachers. Require parents to attend conferences and sign off on homework. It's a start!

    August 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Texas Annie

      Sherri– I agree with you totally.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  33. RobT

    Ineffective teachers are not the problem, poverty is not the problem. People who have no interest in raising their children are the real problem. People who pop out kids without a second thought about what to do with them after they are created are the issue. Eliminate the ability for these people to have children and you eliminate all the problems. A dirt poor parent who works at raising their children will see their kids do well regardless of their poverty or ineffective teachers. The only thing holding them back are the kids from parent who don't give a damn.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • Manny

      Ineffective teachers are the problem. Poverty is the problem. Parents who aren't interested in educating their children are the problem. The general distain in this country for education is the problem (think of ex-senator and ex-presidential-candidate Santorum calling it snobbery). There is no one problem, but from my own experience, and my sons' experience and my granddaughter's experience, I would agree with Michelle Rhee that the biggest problem is the ineffectiveness of teachers. Moreover the existence of ineffective teachers is largely due to the other problems I and others listed.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  34. bleak81

    She is so right! Rhee and her "waiting for superman" crowd need to crawl back into their cave. They are nothing more than union-busters who want to dismantle public education and funnel money to private/corporate schools.
    The one thing she did not mention though is that comparing our educational system to the likes of Japan or Korea is like comparing apples to artichokes. American teenagers would crap themselves if they were put under the amount of pressure students in these other countries were put through. As of now, most of my students complain that we give them too much and move too quickly... Students in these other countries not only do everything in their school and spend a huge amount of time studying for quarterly exams, but they also pay to go to private cram schools to prepare for entrance exams. This competitive educational system is ridiculously stressful–which is one thing CNN's open mic in Korea revealed. Our educational system is a product of our culture. We have placed sports and social life (and now video games) as very important elements in a child's priority mix. In other cultures, these are meaningless! In addition, America's philosophy of education has always been based on the holistic approach of the liberal arts–not competitive specialization. Anyway.... it's a good article. Please be informed on this issue. It is very disheartening to have your chosen profession attacked constantly by people who are misinformed.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  35. Elizabeth

    The tea party supporters never vote for school budgets, and many schools have to cut teachers. My city just had to cut 84 teaching jobs. These are not "fluff" teachers but people who are necessary. Property taxes are the main culprit: when houses lose value (because banks foreclose instead of finding solutions), an entire neighborhood will have its property taxes cut, sometimes in half. Then people have to approve any school taxes in an election. Meanwhile, no other city service needs an election: consider that sports stadiums are built without taxpayers' pre-approval.

    Then, international tests must include foreign languages. The first thing cut from school budgets is the foreign language teachers: that means that Americans will not be able to export goods in the next generation. What the heck are these good "businessmen" who vote against foreign language teachers thinking? It is business that will suffer, unless business plans to hire foreigners to make their deals; very unpatriotic. Art and music are not fluff: some years our main export is music and movies.

    What about the three "R"s? Too often teachers are busy marking papers during class time; at one time this was done after school hours. But that means that teachers would have to be paid for that time. There are reading and math programs that work, but sometimes the new innovations leave out important aspacts of education such as spelling. You can't just throw a whole lot of stuff at a child and see what sticks. They spend more waking hours at school, and need nurture, not frantic rushing to perform.

    Parents are blamed for not being there for the children, but often they can't even get a bank loan if both parents are not working. Who will pay for an "after school" program that gives some quiet time for study as well as some play time, and a snack? Mom isn't home then. Will the banks that force women to work pay for this after-school time?

    Teachers do need to be attentive; some burn out, and not because of bad administrations; they just aren't as effective sometimes. But peer review doesn't work, because the other teachers aren't looking into the poor teacher's classroom, and their evaluations are based on their friendship, not the teacher's effectiveness. The point of a test should not necessarily compare schools (unless it sends a red flag that a school needs help for poor children), but it might be used to compare teachers in a school, or to track individual students. Example: Students A B C D E do well in first, second, and third grade, but suddenly poorly in fourth grade. Instead of comparing the same year's classes of several teachers, it might be wiser to compare those individual students to their previous work to see how they are progressing. Tests should be a tool to help improvement, not to punish.

    As to home schooling or virtual classrooms: when are those children going to learn about other children in other cultures, and learn to sit still and adjust?

    August 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • Jay

      you state "Property taxes are the main culprit: when houses lose value (because banks foreclose instead of finding solutions), an entire neighborhood will have its property taxes cut, sometimes in half." Wow. That sure isnt the case where I live. My house has gone down to just about what we paid for it back in 2002, so yes the property value has gone down. But my Property Tax bill hasnt gone down at all. Its the same dollar amount. So what that means is that my effecitive tax rate has gone up! I am not sure where you live but most peoples property tax bills are not going down though their property value is. It sounds to me that you probably do not own a house or property.

      As for you comment about teachers having to grade papers after hours...well some 30 years ago and longer my mother did the same for Milwaukee Public Schools. She wasnt paid for it then even though she was "union". You need to wake up to the real world. There are many people that continue to work long hours at home and dont get paid for the "extra" time they put in.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  36. Excessed NYC teacher

    Teachers need tenure in many NYC schools just because PRINCIPALS have no tenure (due process rights) and will blame their teachers to make themselves look better &/or get rid of "bad" (read expensive) teachers because their budgetary allowances are so meager. Some will go so far as to make things up–and tell their victim teachers "it's not personal." ! Many administrators these days have no ethics or conscience.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  37. Jasmine Lindros

    Ravitch needs to spend some time in the real world. I've spent a lot of time in Baja California, where school-age kids have, quite literally, ony two changes of clothes and a single pair of socks, and they come to school (they have to walk) early, without breakfast, because they (and their parents) know that education is the best way to improve your life. Lunch is a tortilla or two, and they have to walk home before they get to eat again. One TV in the house, and it gets turned off at 8PM, no computer, no video games, no toys beyond the rocks and sticks they pick up outside. Poverty is not a barrier to education. Lazy kids, ignorant parents, and inadequately trained teachers, like we have in America, ARE.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Donna

      As a teacher in So. California, I often have students in my classroom who have recently immigrated from places such as Baja. They are always far behind their American classmates, and many struggle just trying to keep up. If we were to follow Baja's examples our students wouldn't have much of a chance at success.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Alice in PA

      It seems as if people misunderstand Ravitch's comments about poverty. To all of you who posted anecdotes about your own success despite being poverty ridden as a child: I warmly congratulate you on your success! Perhaps you can tell us more about how that happened in order to help others. To those who post stories about immigrant families valuing education: you are spot on and the literature from which Ravitch is drawing her knowledge has found that immigrant optimism among children of new immigrants. However, you all are missing a few points. The vast majority of the 25% of our kids living in poverty do not fall into the new immigrant category. Also, anecdotal stories of success are great, but those represent very very few of the stories. How can we help the vast majority of kids? What the research shows is that there is a culture of poverty that tends to keep families in a generational cycle of poverty. This research is more than just a correlation,as one poster accused. There is causation model research also. Basically, if the parents are working several minimum wage jobs just to get by, then that is the world that their kids see. And it about more than just money for food or healthcare. It is about subtle things like how much kids are spoken to at home and using what words. It is about the topics of conversation and how much the kids are asked to think through things. It is about expectations- is school portrayed as just something you have to do or is school something that is constantly being held as an opportunity to d osomething better. Ravitch has never said she has all the answers. What she says is that the answers touted by the corporate reformers have been shown to be overwhelmingly ineffective and that we need to address the core issues and poverty is probably the largest one of those.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  38. Betty Roberts

    Education is the ticket out of poverty. Too many excuses and "get out of jail free cards" are given out. Teachers are bullied and harassed by admin and parents and receive little support. Unless education is considered a political condition, there will be little change. Too many fad programs but the bottom line is, all stake holders have to invest in education as the ticket out of poverty regardless of students' home situation. There are no short cuts. Success in the United States is often driven by adversity. Remember Jaime Escalante at Garfield High School who taught AP calculus to disadvantaged students!. He refused to allow challenging home environments to interfere with his successful mission.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  39. helen

    Education starts at home, its all home life and rearing.....

    August 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  40. SeeThruIt2

    This article relates the size and success of the U.S. economy to public education.

    Our economy has expanded due to businessmen creating businesses and jobs in a global market. Many of those successful businessmen were taught at private schools.

    There is no correlation between public education and the size of the U.S. economy. Quite the contrary, our economic activity has grown from businessmen taking advantage of the majority of Americans by pushing consumer products on the unsuspecting public.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Donna

      You are just wrong. I know many successful businessman, and none of them went to private school. They went to public, where they got great educations.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  41. Brian in DC

    Rhee is right.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Donna

      Rhee is being sued because a whistle blower was fired for trying to expose cheating on test scores while she was in charge of DC schools. Also, DC still has the highest achievement gap in the country between black and white students, so if she were right, her policies have improved her schools. They did not.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  42. Brian

    "Merit pay destroys teamwork and collaboration in the school."

    Absolute garbage. The good teachers aren't leaving the profession because they're being demoralized by vocal critics. Anyone who's worked in a lousy work environment, teacher or not, knows how demoralizing it can be to work next to people who just don't care when some of the solutions are common sense and attainable. At least in the private industry, a responsible manager can reward the worthy, incentivize the average, and shed the dead weight. Most of them won't talk about it, for fear of intimidation by their peers and unions, but get a good teacher off-the-record and you'll find someone just as frustrated by lackluster co-workers as anyone else.

    During her time as Chancellor, Rhee didn't get rid of the teachers or attempt to force them into a merit pay system. She offered the system as an alternative to any teacher who wanted to opt in. The union was so aghast at the thought that they didn't even bring it up for a vote among their members, let alone allow it into their contracts. God forbid the individual teachers have the choice to opt into a system that would reward them for producing.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Elizabeth

      Discipline is a necessary component of schools. I had a friend who was a Spanish teacher in high school. The school system put kids into her classroom that had expected a study hall, and these kids put no effort into the freely offered Spanish class, in fact, they did everything in their power to disrupt those students who wanted to be there. It was a "nice" town of semi-rural houses. The teacher quit; it was torture to go to work every day. Why are we passing along an attitude of self-importance to children that have done nothing to deserve it? The parents in that town resented that their children would have to learn about foreigners, instead of celebrating that their futures would be enriched with more job opportunities and ability to export.

      I do feel sorry for poor children who are struggling in school, but I have absolutely no sympathy for the children with a TV in their bedrooms and video games, cell phones, etc.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  43. sean

    We need to stop pretending that corporate multiple choice test scores know more about what our kids need than our teachers do. Those companies rely on maintaining a fixed "failure rate" that keeps them in business. So many people have bought into these tests that they don't see that test companies have a clear financial conflict of interest in EVER ending the "reform."

    August 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  44. dan

    Ask a teacher, its the parents fault. Ask a parent, its the teachers fault. Ask someone rich and the problem is poverty. Ask someone poor and the problem is reacism.

    This planet is doomed.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • vicki lynn

      You're a teacher? Learn how to spell....

      August 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  45. NY Parent

    Those touchy-feely progressive schools are the ones that our politicians' children attend. The charter model looks and feels more like our prison model: Kids walking solemnly in line in uniforms, staying long hours, taught to the test. Charter schools are creating a weird tiered system of education – the haves in the independent schools, the have-nots in charters, and the lower caste not welcome in charters and not funded in public ed.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  46. Lisa

    Let's assume the writer is correct and poverty is to blame for the poor state of our educational system. What is the best way to address and conquer poverty? Education. Improve the schools and education and you improve poverty. Complaining and blaming poverty won't solve it.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • readingexchange


      You cannot optimally educate children who are hungry, sick, living in an unsafe environment, and neglected.

      Maslow's hierarchy of needs applies here.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  47. optikradio

    When will we finally start to admit that real problem is bad parenting and cultural norms, particularly in poor areas? It is not being poor that puts you at a disadvantage, it is being culturally poor. My family grew up with very little, but our parents taught us from an early age that school was a priority, and that you conduct yourself with the class you know you are inside.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  48. Lainie11

    Oh yes the teachers are to blame because of union affiliation, teacher tenure laws, and poor teacher training. Having operated a private school for average and below average incomes, the children learned extremely well, no autism, no learning behaviors, strict code of conduct, uniforms and PHONICS AND GRAMMAR. These children, in spite of not having the best of everything, learned in spite of it only because of the dedication of teachers who had to toss their college learning techniques. Didn't work because all the above were missing. Homeschoolers learn much the same way, in spite of upper income levels, and fancy computers. My grandson taught himself everything he needed to know about computers when he reached 16 years old with home schooling. He is now gainfully employed with his own business. Good schooling doesn't cost a lot of money, but unions, fancy buildings, and tons of technology that costs the taxpayers millions are producing for the most part, below average mentalities into the society, where we pay an additional penalty for the lack of learning.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Online Teacher

      Excuse me??

      "....Having operated a private school for average and below average incomes, the children learned extremely well, no autism, no learning behaviors, strict code of conduct, uniforms and PHONICS AND GRAMMAR..."

      So you have no special education students (or do you think kids with mental and physical deficits can "overcome" them with discipline and grammar?

      The reason we are at the bottom of international test scores is because we teach EVERY child regardless of economic status, parental citizenship status or mental and physical impairments. Other countries have tests which track students so that the scores they release are of their "upper track" students only. Those students that are weeded out of the academic path are trained vocationally and not included in those scores that Rhee likes to tout.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  49. taxedmore

    "Teachers need tenure so they have academic freedom to teach controversial issues." Overall a good article but this statement is pure BS.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Loki

      I would like to know what controversial issues she is referring to.... Please tell us what is so important. Some kind of social engineering going on ?

      August 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • MJ180

      That is exactly what jumped out at me.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • teacherwithpassion

      Those who are IN the classroom know what works and what doesn't. Many of us have watched philosophies and "cure all" strategies come and go only to be recycled under a different name. Many of the philosphies are "sold" by individuals who have spent little time in the classroom, or who have not been in the classroom since No Child Left Behind was enacted. Perhaps Ms Rhee and other critics of classroom teachers should return to the classroom for a few years to see what it's REALLY like to educate youth, the world's most valuable asset.

      I find this article to be right on, keeping in mind that some educators require direction in terms of content and methods of delivery in order to ensure equity, ethics, and accuracy in what is taught.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  50. stu

    Birth Control

    August 9, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • taxedmore

      That would help more than anybody would care to admit.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  51. Rick Harner

    When Charter Schools fail it's because of sustained pressure, defunding, and pressure from union-dominated public school boards and teachers unions. In DC, teachers union bribery got Gray elected for the sole purpose of firing Rhee and stopping reforms that were threatening jobs for incompetent teachers. The Ravitch article, however well-crafted, is crowded with mindless liberal new-speak like "culture in the workplace". Like drowning in warm spit.

    My wife teaches black and hispanic kids who live with an uncle or grandmother, sleep on floors, have only two changes of clothes, and who have no food at home. These kids need sustained hands-on teaching and feeding by motivated teachers, love, encouragement, some money for school supplies, food at school, and discipline. Hard needs, not touchy-feely rubbish like the nonsense that is coming out of education departments at universities, which have become literally progressive political training centers.

    Finally, many of the kids who act out and disrupt classes my wife sees are some of these seriously disadvantaged kids. In many cases, the parent (yes just one) are called in and the father or mother attacks the school staff or acts aggressively, disregarding working-together pleas from the school staff. Instead of working with the school to get the kids disciplined, the parents seek to get the kids declared ADD disabled so that the parent(s) can collect SSI.

    So the bad kids remain in the classroom, making life hell for all the other kids, courtesy of our benevolent government, operating under the ivory tower theories of people like Ravitch. She needs to join the real world and go out and spend 10 years in an elementary school classroom before she speaks further.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • J Brown

      Your description of your wife's situation exactly makes the point of the article. I'm surprised you don't see that. The problems are not being caused by incompetent or uncaring teachers. There are factors (poverty and unsupportive parents) outside the control of the teachers that undermine their efforts.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • c s

      "These kids need sustained hands-on teaching and feeding by motivated teachers, love, encouragement, some money for school supplies, food at school, and discipline." In other words poor kids need things that only money can buy. So in your round about way you agree with Ravitch. Many poor children live in a constant state of dire straits. What to many people is a minor annoyance is a major problem for poor people. If their parents cannot even afford school supplies, why blame the teachers? Many teachers buy school supplies for their students because they know that the kids would not have any supplies otherwise.

      As for discipline, that take time and if you are poor even having time is sometimes hard to find. Many poor children have parents who are working poor. That is even if they work full time, they are still poor. Its so easy to tell a poor person not to be poor, kind of like telling a sick person not to be sick. The working poor are told to work two or three jobs, but then how they find time to spend with their children and give them the needed discipline?

      Professor Ravitch speaks the truth but so many do not want to hear it. Poverty is the biggest indicator of how a child will do in school. People with money can decide their children to the best schools and of course their children do well in school. Poor people live in the poorest areas and have the poorest schools; that is the way it works in America.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  52. Mon

    Teachers don't like Michelle Rhee because she threatens their precious tenure. She has the guts to stand up to the teachers' union and challenge them to produce results. I know the private sector is cutthroat and obviously has caused their own set of problems, but she brings up a good point when she explains how her merit based system isn't anything different from the way millions of people in the private sector workforce. I had an alarming number of lazy teachers in high school that coasted along the tenure wave, I'm sure they would have worked harder if they had been held more accountable. Obviously there are layers of reasons our public schools are underperforming (poverty, uninvolved parents, underfunding...), but just because their are other problems doesn't mean we have to ignore this one.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Mon

      **because this is an article about education, I openly acknowledge my "their" vs "there" typo. That happens when you're typing fast...

      August 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Megan

      So is this fixed by baiting teachers with money or perhaps their administrators have dropped the ball? Tenure does not protect bad teachers. I have been a part of firing bad teachers with the work of competent administrators. Is it easy? No; but, due process rarely is and this is the only thing Tenure guarantees. A good administrator can fire a teacher just like people are fired in any company. And mind you in my state teachers are at will employees for 5 years. This means you can fire without cause. I find it strange that people target Tenure and overlook the fact that it shouldn't take more than 5 years to recognize someone is not a talented teacher. Look a little deeper, talk to teachers you trust you may find there are better answers to your frustration with the system.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • arapikos

      You are sooooo correct. We are in a discussion about these times versus yester-years, and poverty existed much more then than now. We had great dedicated teachers whop worked hard to provide use with the tools to move on. It is the culture of not getting exposure to all of the tools of experiencing those cultural events that drives one forward, (i.e. band, chorus, debating teams, speech clubs, NFA, Saturday classes, summer terms, cultrual trips, Annual talent contests,etc). I remember those events and fail to see them today at the level that I experienced with our minority students. Little do they know–they have and are missing out on so much and are not given the opportunity to show off.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
      • arapikos

        ***Let's see ...whop, should read who.... and ...use, should

        August 9, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Online Teacher

      And when teaching a child is reduced to producing a widget on an assembly line (or putting round pegs in round holes) your point will be valid. Think about a teacher that stood out to YOU as someone who made a difference. Did they teach to a test and made you memorize dates and rules, or did they challenge you to solve problems through thinking critically? Did they merely lecture or did they present information in such a way that you didn't even realize you were learning until the end of the lesson? It is even more difficult to capture the attention of our often jaded and tech savvy kids today, Teachers need the freedom to deviate from a script when "Plan A" isn't working.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  53. UniversityProfessor

    Ravitch's justification for teacher tenure is ridiculous. University professors, engaged in original research and paid to encourage original, critcal thinking by challenging established truths, do in fact need some measure of security from political pressure or public reaction to accomplish their purpose. And so academic tenure was born with the modern university. News flash- public shool teachers do not engage in research or challenge expert opinion as part of their jobs. Curriculums are designed higher up the food chain, to introduce the established truths they are based upon, so "controversial issues" within them are not the individual teacher's responsibility. Nor should the average teacher have the freedom to inflict a personal position on such an issue upon students, given the nature of public K-12 education, the limited academic expertise of the average teacher (who typically has completed fewer college credit hours in whatever subject is being taught than the average college graduate specializing in that field), and the incredible potential to transform basic education into political indoctrination. Or perhaps worse, the potential to cause students to doubt the value or truthfulness of that curriculum. The "academic freedom" argument that justifies tenure in colleges and universities simply does not apply to K-12 teaching. What tenure does manage to do is protect teachers from accountability for their primary function- effectively teaching the established curriculum. By definition tenure rights protect incompetent teachers or those exceeding their qualifications and paid duties, however rare they may or may not be, without providing any institutional benefit. As such they are a barrier to effectively managing public schools, not a useful contribution to those schools' mission.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Ann Nichols

      Spoken like a true academic. I may only have a master's degree in education, but the reality in our classrooms is not the same as the theory in books. In an ideal world, the theories may be correct. This is far from an ideal world.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • skepticnotcynic

      University Professor, I've seen PhD's teach far worse than some of my high school colleagues and actually no less about their subject matter as a whole. A PhD has a very narrow and specialized skill set in their chosen field. This does not mean they would be effective at teaching a more general or survey course in chemistry, physics, etc....I have seen adjuncts come to my school who are far worse instructors, and I have taught with teachers who have Bachelors, Masters (in their content), and PhD's at my high school who do research in the summer. Most elite professors are immersed in a very specialized area and are advancing knowledge in society. That does not mean they are effective teachers of content. Most of the University professors I had were terrible teachers and didn't have the slightest idea how to break down complex subjects or teach academic skills. However, many of them were excellent at giving long-winded lectures and being pompous.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • teacherwithpassion

      Obviously you are not a friend of K-12 professionals. Like the individuals at your level, some of us are involved in research, writing reviews, and doing hands-on evaluation of programs touted by "more knowledgeable" gurus. Common sense is also a big player when working with young chldren. Sometimes reading and writing in a more sterile environment yields knowledge that needs editing by those who work with the hearts and minds of children daily. It takes a team to educate our young people today. Thank you for doing your part. Please honor those of us who start our children out on their lifelong learning adventure.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  54. julnor

    Be careful, it is not poverty the results in low performance, rather the same issues that cause poverty also cause poor performance. You could give everyone in poverty a million dollars and it wouldn't change test scores. Only when the culture that creates poverty is changed will scholastic performance improve. And remember, this is not something that govt can fix. It can only be changed by the people themselves.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • TomHank

      A typical ultra-liberal response is blaming poverty. Things will never change unless we have the courage to face the facts. There are many many poor children who worked hard and became successful, and there are many many wealthy children who are just too lazy or undisciplined to become anything. I came from a very poor background.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Ann Nichols

      Speaking as a former teacher, elementary grades, I will agree that poverty is a definitive factor. Children who come to school without the benefit of nourishment ,or are mall-nourished , have a definite decrease inability to concentrate. The old saying that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" is a truism. Just the word itself, breakfast, means breaking one's fast or not eating from a previous night's rest. Some of our children are not only deprived of breakfast but are also going to bed hungry. This is deplorable in any situation, but is a national disgrace in a country where some people are gearing up in the morning with a five dollars java-jump at the drive thru window. Priorities are at issue here. We either value our future generations or we do not, which is it? Teachers can only do so much in the classroom. This country, and all of it's citizens ,must decide which values to espouse!

      August 9, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
      • South Bay

        Are these countries South Korea, Finland, Hong Kong and Shanghai in China, Singapore, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Australia richer than U.S.? "While national income and educational achievement are still related, PISA shows that two countries with similar levels of prosperity can produce very different results," Gurria said. "This shows that an image of a world divided neatly into rich and well-educated countries and poor and badly education countries is now out of date.
        I have seen poor refugee students doing better here in the U.S

        August 9, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  55. TalkSense

    As a teacher, where Michele Rhee is working, I will not be.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • UniversityProfessor

      So you're one of those nonperformers she wants to eliminate, or afraid to be held accountable for job performance?

      August 9, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • kirkewilliams

      Why? Because you'll have to be accountable for doing your job?

      August 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  56. George

    Listen to this far left loon. This article is designed to expand government. Maybe if these so called poor people starting acting conservatively, they would be doing just fine. This article is NEA approved. It's never the teachers fault.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  57. John Dodig

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am beginning my 44th year in education. I spent 8 years teaching math to 8th graders in an urban setting and the remainder as an administrator in suburbia. I am presently principal of a high school of 1,850 students in a district that values education and spends the money to support it. Our kids routinely have the highest scores on state tenth grade tests, but more important, we are able to concentrate and emphasize critical and creative thinking and problem solving. Finally someone of national importance says what I have been saying for years. We DO NOT have an education crisis in America. We have a social crisis in America. Throughout our public school history, only SOME kids became educated enough to go to college and become professionals. The rest were either marginally educated or dropped out. Many or most of them went to work building things, joined a union, raised kids, bought homes and their children became professionals. There is NOTHING for those people to do anymore. EVERYONE needs to be educated to a much higher level. That means that ALL students have to come to school each day ready and eager to learn. That is what my kids do every day. They are determined to be well educated and they hear about their responsibilities from the time they are born from their family and friends. To point fingers at teachers and say that it is poor teaching that is causing a crisis is either dumb or a bold faced lie. When I taught in an urban school, half my kids were absent every day and it was always a different 50%. I am rambling and could go on for pages. When will our leaders have the guts to stand before the American people and tell the truth about our huge social problem? Until then, nothing will change.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  58. snowdogg

    Ineffective teachers are NOT a part of the problem? Well, yes they are, and as long as they are protected from redress that part of the problem will continue.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • UniversityProfessor

      Amen. When they it the college classroom I can quickly tell those that had good teachers- and yes, good family support- from those that lacked both. Regardless of economic background. There are a lot of poor teachers out there, attracted by the perception of summers off and "easy" work (teaching is a VERY challenging profession if it is done right!). Ignoring that fact, including the useless clutter in many college and university education departments, is a good way to perpetuate an underperforming system.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  59. Eddie

    The NEA just breathed a sigh of relief as their stooge delivered. "It's not the teachers it's poverty" so now the cry is "dump more money into the system". Unionized teachers may not be the entire problem but they certainly are a big part of the problem. 12 months pay for 9 months work, annual increase independent of any measure of effectiveness, "social promotion" that grants diplomas that are unrelated to achievement. All this is the work of the union and all of this directly contributes to the poor educational standards of this nation. Get rid of the parasite teachers, raise teaching standards, and demand pay increases tied to excellent performance.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • skepticnotcynic

      Eddie, pay-for-performance has worked wonders on Wall Street and they are selling financial products, not educating children, which is far more complex. Last time I checked, teachers are some of the lowest paid professionals, even though their job is probably on par with the importance of having good doctors in this country. If teaching is such a wonderful career with great benefits, summers off, and a nice pension, we would see far more people wanting to do it. Yet, we consistently have shortages in math and science. Being on stage 6 hours a day in front of 150 kids a day, grading papers, lesson planning, calling parents in the evening, and attending mostly useless meetings that take up your planning time during the day is not my idea of a career that is both rewarding and sustainable. But you wouldn't understand this Eddie, because you've never done it. Your tune would change if you spent just 1 year in a Title-1 school.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • Sabina

      I have taught for 34 years and am always amazed that people think I work for nine months and have three months of "paid vacation". In reality, I work one hundred eighty-seven days a year. The district for which I teach receives all salary monies from Austin at the beginning of a school year. It is their prerogative to make short term investments with all of this money and distribute it throughout a twelve month period of time; whatever interest is earned belongs to the school district. I am required to accept a twelve month contract if I want my job. My annual salary is divided by 187 for the actual number of days I work. Then 187 is divided by 12 to determine the number of days I will be paid per month. For example, if an annual salary is $46,750, then $46,750 divided by 187 is $250 per day. One hundred eighty-seven divided by 12 is 15 7/12 or approximately 15.58 days. That teacher's monthly salary is $250.00 times 15.58, or $3,895.83. Keep in mind, that amount is before anything is held out AND the person Monday through Friday for 4four weeks (20 days) and they are only being paid for 15.58 days. Also there is neither paid vacation nor paid holidays. When schools are closed for holidays, students and teachers are out of school. In other job situations, people that have paid vacations and paid holidays actually miss the day(s) of work; when they come back from that five day vacation or that paid Labor Day Holiday their check reflects that they actually got paid for that day(s) and they were not even at their workplace. How many people do you know that work twenty days and accept payment for only 15 days because their boss holds back their money and "manages" it for them?

      August 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  60. jdoe

    There is also the possibility that both sides can be partially correct. Bad teachers can be a problem. Teachers can have a profound impact on students, especially on younger kids. How often people hear from others how a bad teacher soured them on a subject, turning it off for them for the rest of their life. And how another teacher inspired them on a subject that they previously hated or found difficult.

    So yes, there must a way to hold some lousy, indifferent teachers accountable. But this alone won't improve U.S. education. As mentioned previously, kids in America are simply taught at a lower level than in other countries, and are not challenged enough. As a result most are simply unprepared for college and often need to take remedial courses before they're ready. We need to reform the entire curriculum and raise that level of teaching higher.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  61. skepticnotcynic

    The only people in Rhee's corner are teachers with a couple of years experience and rich white men. I just wonder how this woman is relevant still. Oh yeah, she has the corporate elite on her side.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • San Diego Steve

      Is there something wrong with white males? I happen to be one, but I am also the father of two twenty something college graduates who are both now fully launched in professional careers. I am sure my wife who happens not to be a white male feels the same way. I have heard Michele speak and think she is right on. If my and I had just trusted the school, like so many of our friends, they may have gotten lost in the crowd. Only thru constant work to expect more out of them than the school did they succeed.

      My experience as a parent is the the schools are run for the teachers and administrators, not the students. Wait, isn't that why Michele calls her group "Students First".

      August 9, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
      • skepticnotcynic

        San Diego Steve, if "Students were really First" Michelle would've taught longer than 2 years instead of trying to champion flawed policies. Michelle would never send her children to schools where the emphasis is on standardized tests and pay-for-performance. She will be sending her kids to a school like Sidwell. Rhee's alliance is to the corporate elite who champion her policies. She is not someone who values quality education or else she would not be advocating the dangerous policies that destroy public education. Yes, there are crappy teachers, but there are crappy parents as well. Blasting teachers is a flawed approach and will drive the most productive teachers out of the classroom who will leave for more affluent districts and private schools, leaving our most inexperienced and incompetent teachers to teach children in poverty.

        August 9, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
      • arapikos

        Well, Steve
        I am an African-American male and I agree with you. In a segregated environment, my education was the "best of the best". We had political cronies then, but my teachers were determined to provide us with the proper tools to compete and compete we did!! I will put my historical high school graduates up against any school in the nation, during the same periods–using the rubrics life long learning compared to the last 42 years of minority high school graduates.

        August 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  62. India B.

    Dr. Ravitch, you have hit the nail on the head! As a linguist and teacher, I have traveled the world, and studied the various education systems. The fact that Rhee, politicians, and the textbook mafia, have no idea what it is like to work on the front lines is infuriating. They make policy based on what, I do not know, from their air-conditioned offices high in the sky, while we teachers are trying to make a living on paltry salaries, whilst being condemned as lazy by the public. I am so sick of being the public's personal punching bag–EVERYTHING wrong is blamed on us. There is no responsibility placed on the parents or students, and everyone ignores that fact that kids come to school hungry on a regular basis.

    Dr. Ravitch, please take over Arne Duncan's job–he's clueless, and has failed us teachers. After fifteen years of five different preps per day as a singleton teacher, I'm burned out. It kills me to be at the point of feeling my job is futile, as I am now looking to change careers and work for some NGO in some far off land where the people actually are grateful for their education. How sad is it that America's highest educated and most motivated (your PhDs, Rhodes scholars, Fulbright recipients, et. al.) are looking to leave the profession? We're the people the ed system should work hardest to keep?

    August 9, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • patrick

      Sorry to hear about how hard public school teachers have it with being blamed for everything. It's too bad. Thanks for your comments. Hope things work out for you.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  63. Doug Lind

    For 8 years I have graded No Child left behind tests from multiple states. Having scored thousands of tests from around the country, my colleagues and I can agree on certain basic points. When we routinely see11th grade papers with 4th grade writing skills, the testing-promotion criteria is clearly failing. In some states, as many as 25% of the papers are this bad. Some of these states are spending top dollar on public eduction and are getting dismal results.
    The problem is obviously complex or it would be corrected. If a student's parents and peers valued education, the problem would be corrected. As long a a student is surrounded by adults and friends who are indifferent or hostile to the goals of education, little can be done for most students. PERIOD!

    August 9, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • skepticnotcynic

      Hence, poverty coupled with uneducated parents. From my experience teaching underprivileged kids for nearly 10 years, hard working immigrant parents with very little education, and who stay on top of their kids, usually produce great kids who are willing to learn and improve their lot in life.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
      • UniversityProfessor

        Exactly. Parents and teachers are more the issue than poverty per se.

        August 9, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  64. RN

    Great article! I request equal time on CNN for Diane.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  65. John

    Countries which have parental responsibility, value education and don't breed kids they can't afford will of course do better. They have priorities on that, not like the drug addict, dropout parents who are more concerned for having a kid for a government check. Teachers can only do so much, when there is no parental involvement or a value put on education on the home front, what does anyone expect?

    August 9, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  66. J Fujita

    More of settling for the status quo and protecting one's own. I don't believe Rhee says teachers are the entire reason for poor education but rather points out the flaws in the system. Where else does mediocrity or even worse continue to be rewarded? In a perfect world, poverty, multi-cultural/language student base, poor parenting, AND tenured teachers would be overcome but that doesn't mean one shouldn't look at each of the factors and move towards a better environment. Our kids should get the best effort out there – rewarding the better teachers is one way. Self-preservation pervades through the teachers' union resulting in the status quo. Rubber rooms anyone? That's all you need to know that the system needs change.

    August 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  67. LiSC

    I I knew there was something I'd remembered about Michelle Rhee and her tenure at the D.C. schools. I Googled her and quickly came up with the infamous cheating scandal associated with her dream team. She's been trying to get that spot out like Lady Macbeth ever since! Check it out in this column where Dr. Ravitch explains Rhee in the Washington Post in April of this year. Here's a paragraph to get you started:

    "... the benefits of her innovations are questionable. For one thing, the federal NAEP tests in 2011 showed that the D.C. public schools have the largest achievement gap of any city tested by that program; the D.C. black-white achievement gap is fully double the gap in the typical urban district. For another, USA Today documented a major cheating scandal in the D.C. public schools during her tenure. At the center of the scandal was a principal Rhee had repeatedly singled out, honored, given bonuses, and promoted. He resigned."

    August 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  68. twh

    I thought China was number 1. Meh. Anyway....i don't blame teachers, I blame the students and their parents.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  69. Loki

    Read between Ravitch's lines on poverty being the reason for failing schools and students. What is she suggesting ? Since the school can't change the economics of the parents...what should be done to fix our schools???? Obama politics of socialism and the redistribution of wealth? Then we can all be happy. Don't forget the raise also !!! Teachers are just soooo poor and underpaid....

    August 9, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  70. Pete

    The coin has 2 sides and Ms. Rhee and Ms. Ravitch both look at their side and say what they see. They both are right ofcourse but they are missing the bottom of the problem. Yes, the US education system is inferior in Math (grade by grade comparison) not counting AP and Honor classes. And yes, schools in poor neighborhoods perform very poorly.

    But the bottomline is success of education depends on parents too. It's the 3 links (student, teacher and parent) and they are missing the parent link. Many students are not doing well in school because their parents are ignorant of the importance of education. They would go all out on sports activity and won't miss their kids games but wouldn't bother to check their kid's homework or tutor once in a while if needed. They leave it all up to the teachers to educate the kids. The parents are not setting a good example for the kids to follow.

    Look at other countries in Europe or Asia. Our top 25% students can compete against any countries but I am not sure about the rest. I believed when Ms. Ratvitch said our kids score higher than before but other nations improved leaps and bounds. Yes, our education system is in crisis the way social security and medicare is. We need to fix it now.

    1) need to improve curriculum (especially Math and Science). Can you believe an average 4th grader in Singapore is doing the same Math problem as our 6th grader? We do have gifted and talented classes in some schools but it is hetergeneous across the nation. There should be 2 types of schools (one with advance curriculum leading to 4 years college and the other with current curriculum leading to technical/ vocational school).
    2) teach the parents about how to help their kids' education (may be medial blitz?)
    3) Department of education should have library of teachiing videos (just like youtube). Not all teachers are created equal. Some are better than others and record the best teachings and post it on the web (free of charge) for anyone who needs to review it.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  71. BillyBlade

    The war on poverty started by LBJ in 1965 is an abject failure along his war in Viet Nam which cost me early part of
    my life. It is the teachers stupid.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  72. Three3

    The writer confuses correlation with causality. Could it be that the same fundamental cultural deficiencies are among the common causes of both poverty and poor performance in school?

    August 9, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • refugeek

      Cultural deficiencies are the #1 cause of poor performance and poverty. Abraham Lincoln was raised in poverty and became President of the United States.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  73. Nate

    My wife teaches in a very low income school and her to biggest issues were parents who didn't care about their kids performance in school and jaded, crappy teaches who don't care about the kids or performing at an acceptable level. You want to fix the low income school issues? Get some parents who care about how their kids behave and actually take time to talk to their teacher!

    Poverty isn't the real issue. Look at parental involvement in a childs education/life and you will see the real problem at hand.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • UniversityProfessor

      Nate has it dead on

      August 9, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  74. Surthurfurd

    If those who want to complain about the state of education would come into the classroom and teach, I would be more willing to listen to their complaints and dismissals of teachers' concerns.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Penny Byrd

      I was a great teacher, the ideal teacher, according to some. I left education.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
      • arapikos

        I never wanted to be a teacher. After my experiences at the local business colleges(high school dropouts and GEDs , then at the university level, I discovered that I missed my calling.

        August 9, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  75. Jose Pineda

    I must admit my opinion on this has evolved over the years. As a product of public education both here and abroad, my view is that the truth in all this lies somewhere in the middle.
    1. No doubt in my mind financial "poverty" is a factor. My own experience teaches me that. But what exactly is poverty? The attempt to standardize a definition of it has probably created as many problems as "poverty" itself has.
    2. Financial poverty can be overcome with among other things personal responsibility and a sense of purpose. My own experience has taught me that. Lack, not of money, but of character, purpose, goals, etc., is in my opinion a bigger factor in determining success or failure. Fighting that simple truth has led many, millions in fact, to accept the easy explanation about lack of money and why they "fail." It has led millions, millions to feel "victimized."
    3. When she's right , she's right. The need for measurements of academic success has led to a system where, naturally, humans strive to do well in those measurements. Teachers, therefore, teach to the test, and students study to pass a test, not necessarily to expand their learning. In other words, human nature dictates that the goal (passing the test) be the focus of effort. This is somewhat of a paradox: the test is needed to measure, but students learn to beat the test (accomplish the goal) rather than to focus on discovery, exploration, innovation. Only a bigger purpose, a bigger goal, can overcome this desire to "just cross the finish line."
    4. There are plenty of things in the public education system that can be deemed a "failure." But I suspect there are just as many successes that we don't focus on. We only tend to hear the voices on the extreme of each side: the system is a complete failure, or it is "wonderful. One thing I'm sure of: tenure for teacher IS NOT the answer. Why? Human nature also dictates that once you're in the comfort zone, it's very difficult to leave it. Education is moving target. It teaches fundamentals that have been accepted as truth for a long time (i.e, what goes up must come down), but it also (should) incite curiosity (i.e. is light a wave or particle?). Tenure is in my opinion, not a success story of the educational system.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • DC

      Very well said!!

      August 9, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Deb Baker

      Thanks for your thoughtful reply, which I'm still contemplating. It's far more useful than some of the knee-jerk replies so common in these forums.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  76. Bee

    As an educator, Rhee should be aware of long-standing research showing that the mother's level of education is the best predictor of academic success. Of course, level of education is tied closely to poverty. The poorer the mother, the less likely she is to have a decent education. She may be a drop out. Well educated mothers (and fathers) know how important it is to read to babies and young children. They have books in the home. Educated parents are readers. If the kids see the mom lolling around in front of the TV all day, they are not going to be readers. Being read to from an early age is a key to success in school. Watching a lot of TV from an early age is a huge detriment. Rhee knows, or should know, all of this. Ravitch has a definite edge in this argument and has put her finger on the real culprit: poverty. It is shameful to have so many children living in poverty in this country while the fat cats insist on their tax breaks.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Jose Pineda

      Well, you bias and disdain for individual financial success belies your argument. Fat cats? Tax breaks? Are the childre of rich fat cats who see their parents lolling around the tv all day any better off? Do you think that most fat cats got fat by lolling around? No. Most pay their dues. And there are plenty of poor people who have risen above the expectations of even their own parents. The problem, the real problem, is not lack of greenbacks in a bank account. The real problem is lack of personal responsibiltiy that is passed along to the next generation. That is what really perpetuates poverty. Remember that, after all, money is just another idea. I imagine, something "better" will eventually come along.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Bruce

      Bee, you are 100% correct.
      I grew up in a poor urban area and lived through your description. Many of these kids start school without the intellectual development to learn the alphabet. They fall behind from day one. By the time they are in the third grade, it's all over with. They never had a chance.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • IndependentinCA

      Yes its the fat cats with their tax breaks that have corrupted the inner city kids.. Maybe if we taxed the fat cats more kids wouldnt wear their pants at their asses, moms wouldn't drop kids to get a welfare check and the culture of just waiting for a free handout would vanish. Bee as an 'educator' you are one of the reasons our education system has failed.. Take some personal responsibility as should many failing schools, parents and students, stop pointing fingers and look at yourselves.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • UniversityProfessor

      Bee's response contains a non sequitor. If the mother's education/parental modeling is the key determining factor, "poverty" solutions will have a marginal impact on student success. Social solutions addressing poor parenting, rather than the income of the parent(s), would have more impact. But that implies a need for parental accountability, not a popular topic with those who are part of the problem.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  77. drleopold314

    As a 14 year teacher of simultaneous comprehension of math and reading combined with the coordination of fine and gross motor skills on the elementary level (that's a music educator for those of you who were wondering what I teach), I vehemently AGREE with Ms. Ravitch. I am disheartened by the prospect of not voting in November's election because I can not in good consciounce vote for ANY candidate that would RAPE the next generation's education so that the testing companies can continue lining their pockets. I strongly plead for any educator in any subject or level to join me in boycotting the presidential election (including AFT and NEA leaders) until the reigns of academic learning in this country are wrestled away from those who would seek to make a profit off of our children's education.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  78. Growler

    Tell this to my depresion era parents...bunk. The real problem is poor parenting and no disciplinary consequences for poor performance and/or bad behavior in the class room.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Lou

      Teachers were children in the public school system; therefore, with whom does the fault lie? If the same children in the public school system go on to be teachers and these teachers fail the children and so on and so forth, wouldn't that show you that teachers are not the problem? From the beginning it was our culture and social scructure that corrupted the educational system.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • Buffalo Biff

      " disciplinary consequences for poor performance and/or bad behavior in the class room..." Teachers hands are tied when it comes to discipline. They get little or no support from administration and very rarely from parents. Administrators don't want to deal with students with behavioral issues, and parents don't want to believe that their children have behavioral issues. Parents blame the teacher or other students or make excuses for their children.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  79. PA

    Great article!. Goes to show that we have idiots in position of power and that those idiots who are calling the shots can't and don't want to see the reality. They believe in their own thoughts and keep a closed mind about what is real without using reason or validating their conclusions. We need more people Diane to be in positions to make these decisions.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:55 am |

    I agree that we have a problem with education, but I don't believe poverty is the reason. The teachers teach the ciriculum given. It's not the teachers fault. We have the same old outdated curiculum that we had in the 50's. If we have poorer scores than other countries that is a BIG problem that should not be glossed over just because we have always performed worse. I think both ladies are wrong here. Has anybody actually tried to find out why we perform worse? Not theory's but hard facts? I do know in other countries the school year is longer, and much more complex. We need to change what we teach and how we teach. This is not an individual teacher decision, and it certainly has nothing to do with poverty

    August 9, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • PA

      Wow, how can you say poverty has no effect on education. You try going to school without food for 2 days and see how you feel in class, or miss a few days because you couldn't make to school since you have no transportation to get there. Absolutely poverty has an effect on children of all ages. Maybe you should walk through their shoes before you make that conclusion. Your obviously not in the educational field because I have witnessed curriculum changes over the past 10 years at many schools. You need to be closer to the situation.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:01 pm |

        Not saying that a hungry child wouldn't be affected by his hunger, I'm saying the majority of the kids in the US are not in this situation. The brightest, and most well-behaved kids in the US, still fall far behind the Indian, and Asian students. Obviously these kids are capable of learning, the problem must be in WHAT is taught, how it's taught, and the level of focus that we put on education in this country.

        August 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  81. Jim Robinson

    I disagree with Ms. Ravitch's evaluation of the education systems. Being an educator myself, poverty is not the problem with schools and education. The lack of discipline, starting at home, is the root cause for the problems with education.

    Teachers spend over 50% of their days telling students to sitdown, shutup, pay attention, and many more things that distract students and teachers from concentrating on what they are there to do, and that is to teach and learn.

    Teachers today in most cases are nothing more that paid babysitters!! It is a way for parents to get their kids out of the house legally and not have to put up with them all day. If parents were actually forced to observe classes at least once weekly through a monitoring system, they might find out their "Little Angels" that can do no wrong, are actually hoods and thugs that teachers and other students have to put up with all days.

    Ms. Ravitch, please take the time to go out and observe some of the worst schools un-announced instead of some socially advanced school that has been prepped for 5 to 7 days before you visit. You might find the real world, and the real education system staring you in the face, and you will not like it!!!

    August 9, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Vicki Mba

      Poverty and lack of discipline are not mutually exclusive....

      August 9, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  82. skepticnotcynic

    Diane Ravitch once again make Michelle Rhee look like the amateur she is.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  83. tunaman

    The author needs to explain why we are spending so much money for remedial classes at universities for their first year students. These are 'good students' from middle class families who if you look at their high school transcripts received the necessary grades to be accepted to a university. Why is that? Ask any professor at these colleges they will tell you where the problem lies. They are not being educated whatever their background.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • jdoe

      tunaman: See my previous post, which addressed the fact that American kids are at least one grade level below other countries. This extends all the way to high school, and leaves most kids unprepared for college.

      August 9, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  84. Weatherbrain

    I am so sick of hearing this nonsense. The article is so filled with errors of logic i can't even begin to describe them. I don't agree with Rhee either. More than one thing can be wrong and in the case of US education collapse there are many things. the best thing to do is to try and rank the most agregious causes. My ranking is : ineffective students who are ineffective because they come from multi generational poverty, drug stricken parents in stricken neighborhoods of festering severe social breakdown. Second – no parenting as a result of the above since none of the generations eliciting this disaster has regarded education as a desired goal. Third rampant drug use, boredom and tons of time. third – no discipline anywhere : not in the schools, classrooms homes or streets. To try and 'FIX' this nations educational problems is like pointing to the Titanic at 1:00AM and saying its listing. We are not even close to solving this mess and no amount of money will help. what is needed is a mass change in and of society and that is not going to happen.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  85. Vernald Turnbull

    Sending emails in a forum like this is almost useless because they just go into a deep dark hole
    Ms. Ravitch should be the Education Secretary. Next to our military, teaches are the foundation upon which we stand. They should be paid the millions that go go useless hedge fund managers.

    Poverty is the problem with our students and racism in this country is largely the main reason for poverty. When we become more multi-cultural and cosmopolitan racism will lessen and poverty along with it will be diminished.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • UniversityProfessor

      Vernaid, scapegoating and avoiding personal responsibility, like blaming individual failures on racism, is a much larger part of the problem than a little economic adversity.

      August 9, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  86. Mr. C History teacher from Illinois

    Thank you Dr. Ravitch

    August 9, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • FarLeft

      To insinuate that poor teachers are not PART of the problem is something a teacher would say.., and another teacher agree with. Unions, poor teachers and.., what was the phrase? Socio-economic status..!! Bahahahahahaha!!!

      August 9, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  87. twin1994

    Poverty, poor teachers and unions.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • FarLeft

      Well said.

      August 9, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • TruthTeller

      It may well be poverty at the heart of the problem - but then how do we explain how everyone who grew up poor in the 1950s and 1960s, or the generations before who went on to lead: "Yet our nation went on to become the most powerful economy in the world." - The fact is other generations had discipline in both what was expected and behaviors. Schools have a different, a lower culture today.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Buffalo Biff

      Drink some more right-wing, anti-middle class, anti-union kool aid. Keep voting against your own self-interest. Believe EVERYTHING Fox "News" and talk radio tells you. The super rich need your support. Maybe someday you'll be smart enough or old enough to understand.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  88. Rozelle

    "Modern cognitive psychology recognizes that intrinsic rewards are far more powerful than extrinsic rewards" – true, but when good teachers constantly see bad teachers (especially untouchable teachers who have tenure) getting monetary rewards just because they've been there longer, all those extrinsics eventually burn out and they move on to another educational environment where they feel appreciated. If you want to keep good teachers, you have to get rid of the deadwood and give creativity room to bloom. I don't agree with Deming's conclusion. He said,: ‘The only reason an organization has dead wood is that management either hired dead wood or it hired live wood and killed it." I agree with that, however he goes on to say "Merit pay, by dividing and demoralizing employees, is a good way to erode initiative and overall quality.’” That makes absolutely no sense. Being rewarded for doing a good job does devide the good from the bad. If an organization does not recognize and nurture potential, then I can see where it might demoralize. However, this IS a teaching institution that we're talking about, so teachers can in reality teach other teachers.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  89. BrianG

    Diane Ravitch is too kind in describing Michelle Rhee. The facts are that charter schools, school choice, and all the other reforms pushed by the Washington consensus have failed. Ms. Ravitch is right; the number one predictor of scholastic achievement is the socio-economic status of the student's parents. Take a look at the Teach for America's business plan. Take a student without educational training and run them through a FIVE WEEK course. You read right. Can you imagine the United States training engineers that way? Would you want your brain surgeon to have five weeks training. Yet that is what Ms. Rhee advocates. Lastly, the mainstream media is complicit in pushing the narrative that the public schools are failing.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Marvin D

      Public schools ARE failing. Just ask any of us who have to try to interview and employ today's students. The vast majority of them are simply unprepared for entry into the work force. And "solving poverty" is hardly a solution. Time to get real, people.

      August 9, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • StevenR

      ...and NUMBER TWO is CLASS SIZE. Cutting funding for schools, i.e. Gov. WALKER in WISCONSIN, increases class size.

      The GOP is trying to DESTROY AMERICA. They are TRAITORS.


      August 9, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • UniversityProfessor

      Umm... let's see. Take someone with more subject matter credits than the person who majored in "education", probably someone who has experience both in that field and teaching, give them a crash course in the fluff and doublespeak that fills up and education major's time, and dump them in a classroom that needs a teacher. Works for me. Comparison with med school is wrong. Closer to say take a physicians' assistant, give them a 5 week course, and call them an EMT. Which also works just fine.

      August 9, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  90. Junebug

    I don't kow where Ms. Ravitch gets her data, the statistics seem suspiciously son attends a middle school in an ecomically challenged area, and the quality of his education pales to what I received in the all-white New Jersey suburb of my youth. He has benefited from the diversity, of which my childhood was painfully lacking, but his ability to spell and write comprehensively is sad in comparison to mine. Many of the schools in New York are lacking in funding and there are not enough quality teachers. I keep hearing about "no child left behind," and how quality education for our nation's children is so important, but this reality is less than evident in the New York City Public School System.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  91. kevin

    So...Ravich would have us stop measuring the performance of teachers, accept the performance of every teacher regardless of competency, give boatloads more money to the teachers – and while we are at it, why not give a bunch of money to the low income / poor families too. She is utterly immersed in the delusional and failed thinking of far-left liberals that helped create the educational mess we have.

    The first steps to improve our poor education system is to admit it is not acheiving good results (she denies it). Realize that the tenure / union system is counter-productive, and that something different needs to be done. It is true, as many on this blog mention, that the most fundamental issue is bad (or missing) parenting, and a lazy, entitlement-craving gangster culture in our inner cities. I don't know how to change this – but it certainly isn't by throwing more money at the losers.

    1. Teachers must have high expectations and not accept failure.
    2. We need to somehow (how?) get the parents engaged with their kids.
    3. We need to measure results and respond to contnuously improve. It's not that the test scores are EVERYTHING, but it's impossible to make progress without a tangible measurement of where we are.


    August 9, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • StevenR


      She does NOT deny it. She is pointing out a FACT that the PRIMARY CORRELATION to poor outcomes IS STUDENT POVERTY. That is a FACT!

      Sure, we can improve teachers. I am all for it but DO NOT DENY THE FACTS. STUDENT FAMILY INCOME IS THE NUMBER ONE DETERMINANT.


      August 9, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  92. Loki

    Why do we have so much poverty ? Because YOU aren't doing your JOBS. You don't brain wash and indoctrinate the next batch of stupid ill prepared liberals.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • 13Monkees

      Actually I think liberal education is a good thing. I think it's a combination of things that make our system suck. One would be that there are teachers who should not be teaching anything let alone our kids. Another is a watered down curriculum that does not hold kids to a high enough standard. One more thing is the right wing trying to supplant a true science education with fairy tales. One of the things that hurt our statistics when compared to other countries is also that we have taken education and made it a requirement. We force it on kids. We try to educate kids who are mentally challenged and kids who do not want to be educated. How do you think these kids perform on tests? We also have helicopter parents who are constantly at the school interfering with teachers. There is a lot of blame to go aournd when it comes to why our education is mediocre.

      August 9, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • JG

      Compelling statement...pathetic.

      August 9, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • J R Brown

      I like how the argument is that "our scores are higher than they've ever been" but yet we lag behind most of the devoloped world in education. The problem with education is not poverty...the problem is that the education establishment uses their captive audience to do more social engineering than educating.

      Quit trying to teach kids to be good liberals and teach them reading, math, science and history instead. Teach them personal finance management. Lay off the "you start out with an 'A' and you lose it" teaches entitlement mentality and subverts the fact that being the best is accomplished by hard work and is not gifted.

      And quit letting local school boards decide their curriculum. If you truly want to bring education into the 21st century, make EVERY student learn the same skills regardless of whether they live in a lily white suburb or an urban ghetto. Give everyone the skills to compete and people WILL compete.

      August 9, 2012 at 11:58 am |
      • StevenR

        Oh. So we should be more like TEXAS where they are getting rid of SCIENCE and putting in RELIGION.

        Get real. The ONLY indoctrination is coming from idiotic school boards like in TEXAS.

        What you call "Liberal" education is making the students THINK FOR THEMSELVES which goes against YOUR INDOCTRINATION!


        Idiotic and DISGUSTING!

        August 9, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • teachermanwis

      Just what don't you understand about poverty? When kids are hungry and live in unheated houses in dirty clothes, their desire to achieve in school is replaced with the desire for a full stomach and warm surroundings.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • scienceforall

      Loki, Your statement is offensive and you don't back up what you say. I am a teacher and I TEACH. So do most of the teachers I know. Why don't you try visiting a classroom sometime?

      August 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  93. Lou

    Diane Ravitch, this is one of the most intelligent articles I have read on CNN.
    Sure, America is great at creating celebrities and careerist money-hungry indivduals who believe you alone are responsible for your success, but the majority of the poor are getting up to go to work day in and day out and this society is feasting on our labor and giving us peanuts in return. My mother once held three jobs to pay for me to go to private schools. We were improverished. She wouldn't go on welfare because of her pride; she worked so much I almost never saw her. I didn't do well in highschool. Just the awareness of our daily struggle filled me with shame. I couldn't focus, and didn't care about anything. So many people struggle desperately; they hold multiple jobs to make ends meet and this country cannot not even meet them half way. Poverty is not one of the issues, it is the issue.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Dan Woods

      I do not disagree that poverty is issue but you need to go to family problems and as we know that gets into ethnic issues that no one wants to talk about. Let's solve the cause and the poverty will be reduced. The teachers in these areas of poverty have tough assignments when the family is not helping. Good education can not occur without family involvement. Dan

      August 9, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  94. slimeball

    If this report is true, as I would like to believe, then our education system is quite good and to be proud of. This is good news for a change.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Marvin D

      Unfortunately, it is NOT true. Not even close. Just ask any of us who have to interview and employ today's students. It's shameful how unprepared they are for entry into the workforce.

      August 9, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • RocketJL

      This is Washington, you cannot tell the truth and get away with it. Someone in the political arena will have a 'gofer' stand up and say 'that is wrong and I know the only truth' – hey, this is Washington.

      August 9, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  95. nostrildamus


    How did she get her blasted position?


    Prof Ravitch needs to get out of her ivory tower and actually work with some teachers in poor neighborhoods. My sister is one such teacher and she'd tell you in a heartbeat that the cause of poverty and the poor educational performance are usually caused by a third actor such as parental abuse, parental alcoholism, or other factors.

    Her school does go to great lengths to treat the symptoms of poverty doing many of the things Prof Ravitch outlines. However, it rarely helps. As long as the parental situation is not addressed, the kids are held down. For many of my sister's students, the only place they are safe is in school. The school does what it can, but it's handcuffed by child welfare laws that put parental "rights" ahead of child safety.

    And that's not even a school in a particularly impoverished area.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Derp

      When dealing with humans, correlation is about the best you got. Performing experiments on humans that would have the potential to demonstrate causation (tear a child away from a rich family and make them live with crack dealers in the ghetto, then measure test performance) are generally highly unethical. So, no, we don't have the causation proof and we never will.

      August 9, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Mastiffs4evr

      I agree with you in that parental abuse and parental alcoholism contribute to poor school performance; however, when a teacher has six-year-olds walking into the classroom crying because their stomachs are empty, that is also a huge contributing factor.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  96. Marvin D

    Sounds as if there are a lot of teachers commenting here, which is understandable. However, perhaps you who attack Rhee and blindly defend educators could also try to understand the point of view of people like me, who aren't teachers but deal with students in a work situation year round. It is UNDENIABLE that over the year kids appear to be getting worse at spelling, problem solving, logic, simple arithmetic, and just about any other general intellectual skill. Kids also show less general knowledge, and a complete inability to compose even simple written sentences. This being the undeniable case (despite what "testing" may or may not show), surely you can understand the frustration of people like me who wonder, "what is going on that schools are producing such poorly educated young people?" I tend to side with Rhee because I share her frustration, and am faced with, on a daily basis, the results of our sub-standard educational system.

    Regarding Dr. Ravitch, her article reads like a pure defense of status quo, as she defends her own efforts to protect what is obviously a broken system. I too would love to see her debate Rhee, and would enjoy watching as Rhee dismantled each and every apologetic stance Ravitch would take.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Derp

      The # of kids in poverty has been on the rise. The # of kids that don't speak English at home has been on the rise. The # of single parent families has been on the rise.

      Teachers also have no real tools for keeping unruly students in check. Have you been in a classroom in a poor neighborhood lately? The kids are monsters. You couldn't pay me enough to do that.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • BSME for Kids

      Marvin – The true status quo in American education is two-fold, with both components residing far from the classroom.

      First component is the dynamic that champions a defacto national curriculum. This defacto curriculum presents a relentless mile-wide, inch deep disjointed factoid based curriculum at a pace that is only successful with the silver spoon crowd. Fold in the scores of textbook publishers each with their own individual approached and styles and interpretations of what in this this defacto curriculum is important and you soon have scores of textbooks that are inconsistant in the depth and breadth of the material. Between textbooks the differences may favor one concept over anther, may skip a skill all together or simply be wrong..

      The second part of the status quo is a billion dollar testing industry that, in light of the many text book interpretations of the mile wide-inch deep material, can not possibly make one comprehensive test that will assess with any accuracy the knowledge kids attain from all of the multiple interpretive textbooks.

      Most of the truly successful countries "nationalize" the curriculum writing by placing its creation and revision out of the hands of for profit companies and into the hands of teachers. Many of these same countries never "test" their kids and instead leave student assessment and placement back at the classroom level and in the hands of their professional educators where it belongs.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Gareth


      The quality of a solution to a problem is based on whether it actually works, not by how much those affected by the problem WANT it to work. Many of us have had similar experiences and share your frustration, but I think that frustration is part of the problem, in that it has allowed ideas that sound good but have little evidence to back them up, like Rhee's, to be over-promoted. Of course, she COULD have been right. But it's been a few years now, and we can look at the evidence. In fact, the frustration you spoke of means that aggressive management policies (closing schools, firing teachers) have been employed in a number of places (New Orleans, New York City). I am not aware of any real successes. Can someone perhaps point to some?

      Whereas data on another approach (more support of teachers, in terms of salary AND training), which can only come from other counties (e.g., Finland) because it's never been tried here, suggests that it DOES work. (This is looking at changes within that country following reforms.)

      My point is simply that these are KINDS of data that we need, and progress should be based on data, not impulses born of frustration.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • readingexchange


      It is the educational policy-makers over-emphasis on test results that results in producing poor educational results.
      Rhee loves data.

      Teachers have not been free to exercise academic freedom in the classroom for sometime. There are so many in effective mandated programs that teachers are required to implement which causes the students to be the real losers.

      Unless you have been a teacher, you have no idea the level of top-down oppressive interference that is negatively impacting our students.

      You may ask why teachers do not speak up. When they do, they are marginalized and labeled trouble-makers.

      The overwhelming majority of teachers are dedicated and hard-working. They need support from people like you now more than ever if they are to continue to fight for our students.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  97. Jian

    This is a terrible article. There are many Asian immigrants who came to this country poor and living in poverty. Parents speak little to no enligh sothe kids are pretty much on their own when it comes to school. Why is it that many of us excel in school and move up socio-economically? We don't make excuses, make sacrifices, and know failure is not an option. We will find a soluition no matter what so blaming poverty is BS.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Peshwar

      Thank you for saying this so clearly!!

      August 9, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Derp

      Asian kids from poor families do worse than asian kids from rich families. Go figure.

      August 9, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Gina Marni

      The biggest issue is the environment, the behavior issues, even with the best behavior management, our schools are zoos.

      However, just because your kid can pass a "state" test does not mean they are receiving quality education.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  98. ac

    If any one place must be blamed, it is our USELESS PARENT CORP.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  99. Loki

    Tenure ? Why do teachers need to teach controversial issues ? This is typical liberal garbage. Try just doing the job you were asked to do and paid very well for... Controversial issues are best handled by the parents... not you.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Nathan

      Loki – It isn't about controversial issues it is about teaching science. Did you know that it used to be accepted practice to teach children that God put thee dinosaur bones in the ground to test our faith?

      August 9, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • KG

      Why do we need tenure? Hmm... let's see. If I make close to 100k as a teacher and my principal knows he can hire 2 teachers at my salary, what's to stop him from firing me and hiring 2 others? Uh....tenure/seniority rules. And don't say that a principal wouldn't do this to an EFFECTIVE teacher making this kind of money because I have seen it done!

      August 9, 2012 at 11:47 am |
      • Mastiffs4evr

        In which states do teachers make $100,000? The average teacher's salary in Indiana and Illinois is $42,000.

        August 9, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • KosherKow

      wow, you obviously have no experience with educators judging by your comment. teachers are not paid well considering all the money spent on classroom materials (which districts do not provide), hours grading/prepping after the school day ends, and then there's the summer myth. contrary to popular belief, teachers actually have to formulate lesson plans and prep their rooms during the summer/off season. my wife is a teacher and it is unreal to see how hard she works and in return have opinions such as yours.

      education and educators should be valued. you want that top educator, pay top dollar, or we can keep giving admins 6 digit salaries.

      controversial topics should be taught in school to provoke critical thinking and outside views. these sheltered test centers we now call schools will be our undoing as a great nation.

      August 9, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  100. Samuel

    It is very difficult to do well on a test if the only thing on your mind is hunger.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Ray from Austin

      I respectfully disagree. Please feel free to read my post from earlier. Also, considering we have record obesity in this country coupled with school lunch programs and other aid, I don't think our students have a reason to go hungry.

      August 9, 2012 at 11:48 am |
      • Samuel

        Just because we have record obesity doesn't mean we also don't have high rates of hunger. One in five children in the U.S. are not sure if they will eat a meal each day outside of the school setting.

        In response to your previous post;

        Yes, poverty in other nations is different than poverty in the U.S. but don't pretend that not knowing where your next meal is coming from is an inconsequential factor in school performance. Also, just because it isn't as bad doesn't mean that it shouldn't be addressed.

        August 9, 2012 at 11:56 am |
      • Carol

        The students aren't starving for food, but real nutrition.

        August 13, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • inachu

      Hunger is so so so true!
      I had a evil math teacher who looked like she was the original spawn of all witches. She was happy that no student did not like her. She only like female students and everyone knew she was a militant lesbian and failed majority of the males.

      August 9, 2012 at 11:48 am |
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