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.

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

    You just have to stand in awe of the gall it takes to claim that testing is ruining schools and that giving individual American families the freedom to choose a school for their children destroys education.

    Diane says to give our K-12 school system the credit it is due. I sure will.
    #1 On average in the last two decades 10% of Americans drop out of high school.
    #2 On average in the last two decades 20% of Hispanics failed to finish high school.
    #3 The labor costs for faculty and administrators has gone up 400% in the last two decades compared to what we spend per pupil in the classroom.
    #4 Teachers tenure has made it impossible for districts to manage poor teachers and fires teachers with egregious behavior in the school environment.
    #5The three-yearly OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report, which compares the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds in 70 countries around the world, ranked the United States 14th out of 34 OECD countries for reading skills, 17th for science and a below-average 25th for mathematics.

    So you get all the credit for the way our schools have failed us in the last two decades Diane.

    August 9, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • Gina

      You're NOT a teacher. Talk to US. We are the professionals in the field. Testing is ruining education across the board. Teachers are teaching to a test. Those who have students that could pass a test whether they show up or not are not being help accountable. Ironic when you think about it. Some of the BEST teachers are those in our Blighted American schools. A kid who never shows up for school except on test day, a kid who has never touched a book because of something called test prep....should not be a factor in my evaluation.

      A teacher working in la la land of the burbs, who has kids that will pass a multiple choice test, should not be evaluated on her kids' test scores!! It's not indicative of her teaching... Hello?

      August 9, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
      • Chris1985

        Okay Gina,

        You've been posting feverishly on this forum for quite a while now, and you've been repeating the same mantra over and over again about investing in education to disrupt poverty and about how terrible standardized tests are.

        Please elaborate what exactly you think should be done to fix the our education system.

        I think most of the people commenting on this board care about our education system, but simply disagree on how to achieve it and/or the cost necessary to achieve it. I don't wish to be insulting, but as I read all of your comments, I can't help but visualize you hyperventilating and screaming at the screen as you type, and that makes it difficult to take you seriously.

        August 9, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
      • Greg


        I had a student last year who missed 35 days of school out of 180. His mom got a doctor's note every time he missed, yet he would say he was riding his four wheeler or go cart. This mother was always a pain complaining that teachers were not doing enough to help her child. He was a constant disruption when he was present. Cussed teachers, threw things and refused to behave. He told us that he didn't have to do any work and flat out refused. Then his mother would come in angry asking why his grades were so poor.

        She was embracing this popular view that teachers were incompetent. Even though she was a high school dropout, not working, she knew how to teach better than any of the teachers. She must have asked me 5 times what my credentials to teach "someone with his needs" were. His biggest problem was that his mom believed everything he said and never held him accountable or punished him. He even called his mom a "b!tch" at school in front of us and she just screamed at him while he screamed at her. She constantly said she couldn't control him and then the next day would say we were mistreating him.

        Not only do students like this inhibit their own ability, but they disrupt every class they are enrolled.

        August 9, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
      • Gina

        Chris 1985,

        Thank you for your concern, but no worries, I am not hyperventilating. Imagine what kind of a movie of the mind you would have if I actually had the time to sit around and blog all day!

        I do have a passion for my job, I love my students, and I actually care about the direction that this country is taking.

        The solution is simple. All of our schools should be run like Sitwell and Andover etc. Experts in education, even you, should be well paid to walk the hallways, get to know the students, and SEE good instruction. You were a student once. Good teaching is simply good teaching. We do NOT need to literally torture these kids (rich or middle-class or poor) with these expensive multiple choice tests.

        Instead of paying the testing corporations billions of dollars, we could actually promote job creation by hiring coaches to independently and consistently and continuously monitor our schools and CHECK student PORTFOLIO work. Portfolio work is not a multiple choice test. Key word: Student. Instead of focusing so much time on the teacher witch hunt, all would be revealed in our students' portfolios.

        If you came to class to check on your student's progress, I would not show you worksheets Chris. I would show you your daughter's sonnet–the one she wrote and read out loud to class as the other students smiled and cried and eventually clapped. I would show you her argumentative essay, not a 5-paragraph essay, but an essay that she could literally get published in the New Yorker. I would show you her revision process–how she ratiocinated and used vivid verbs and each time she looked at a piece of work, she looked at it like it was a piece of art!

        Like our prep schools...Like our best schools in this country...I do NOT believe in multiple choice tests as a sign of intelligence ora sign of critical thinking. I see the illusion. And, just because my own kids can pass the test, I am so AWARE of the FACT, that this does not mean they are getting quality instruction. But, a portfolio, viewed by professional administrators and coaches and teachers would indicate excellent instruction.

        Will we always have poor in this country? Yes. But, as a teacher, I can't worry about it. I can be understanding and not freak out over missed homework. I can understand when a student just had a baby and has to miss three days of class to go on job interviews... Fine...we will take care of that. But, I cannot accept the fact that our inner city schools are UNSAFE HOLDING PENS, pushing kids through the broken system.

        If 70% of these kids from terrible environments want to learn...if 70% can be persuaded to learn (especially in high's tough...they come to us so destroyed...), if 70% can simply show decent respect, they can learn at the highest expectations. In our high-schools, for those students who disrupt all learning: SOME CHILDREN WILL BE LEFT BEHIND. But I would rather LEAVE 30% BEHIND than 99% behind because the system sacrifices ALL to make sure ALL of them SHOW up to class. This is America...the minute any student enters a public institution, behavior should NEVER be an issue. I don't care if MR. Magoo walks in to teach English. Sit up, keep your eyes on the speaker, and do NOT speak when someone else (student or teacher) is speaking.

        If I had a magic wand, it WOULD be fixed. Guaranteed! And sure...we would still have the poor and those that fall behind, but at least we would have a literate society. I would much rather be around poor literate people than poor illiterate and angry and violent people.

        Our low income schools do NOT have achievement gaps...they have BEHAVIOR gaps....

        Greg's post is another... Here, we have a teacher who knows the REALITY. He is not buying into the illusion.

        I don't want merit pay. I don't care about tenure. I just want to see my kids get the opportunity they deserve, regardless of their ignorant or poor or criminal parents. I, unlike some teachers, don't want to call them my "babies" and pat them on the head. I have seen the lights go off in their eyes. I have seen work could rival the work of kids in our top prep schools. With a good teacher and a safe is the limit.

        August 9, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
      • texasteacher123


        Like you, and I am stunned (especially in high school) by the behavior. And I have strong classroom management. I also have strong relationships with my kids. As you know, once most students feel that a teacher cares about their education, they will move heaven and earth to cooperate and give learning a shot 🙂

        I teach in a district that offers grad lab, a computerized program. It's more money for corporations. It inflates graduation rates, and sadly, it UNDERMINES education.

        A few of my kids told me, "We could take this in grad lab, but we heard about you, and we want to take the class instead."

        Awwww. A friend of mine, through tears, cried, "Awww, they want to be whole." know. The solutions aren't that difficult if people would just listen. Why are teachers not a part of the conversation? So sad. So unprofessional. So disrespectful.

        August 10, 2012 at 1:16 am |
      • texasteacher123


        Greg, like you, I am stunned....

        August 10, 2012 at 1:17 am |
      • F J M

        I was a PROFESSIONAL in electronics. Talk to me. I had to go through the educational system just like everyone else. I saw some bad teachers and many good teachers. I had to take many tests to prove that I mastered the courses. The teachers did not teach to the tests as they are doing now. Each new course was a stepping stone for the next course. That is the problem with the "new" teaching methods. The ground work was not taught well enough for the students to advance to the next course but they are passed forward. I came from a rural Alaska village and know about being poor but that did not stop me from learning. Excuses do not solve problems about teaching. You probably seen your share of teachers that do not know how to teach because I saw my share as a student. You are also wrong to say that you are forced to teach to the tests. The students would pass the tests if they were taught the subject matter thoroughly. That means that slow students would be given extra help until the understood the subject. Homework was assigned to me in math as an assessment of how well I was learning the subject. I moved to the next area as I mastered the subject. Homework was like a mini test and educational tool. The good teachers were motivators. Bad teachers just presented the material. It is nice of you to "stick up" for your fellow teachers but you have to admit that you have seen teachers that should not be teaching just like I have seen engineers that should not be engineers.

        August 10, 2012 at 1:57 am |
      • Gina


        OH definitely. I know of many teachers who suck! They suck out loud as a matter of fact. But, I also know doctors, police officers, presidents, vice-presidents, congressman, principals, mothers, fathers, and plumbers that suck. Suck out loud.

        I don't teach to a test, but I am crazy brassy, and not afraid. And, because I excel and giving my kids college level instruction, they THRIVE. And, on THE day...better say the WEEKS that they are tortured in gestapo like testing conditions that would make most people furious (if they could see it...), they pull it off for their teacher. Even if they don't do it for themselves, they work it out on that day.

        However, you will never have a corps of master teachers be 100%. We will have to settle for good, solid, and yes, even mediocre...and, many of them are simply afraid. So afraid that this witch hunt does not care about their professional development, but they are causing many of those who could be outstanding to simply MAKE IT THROUGH THE DAY.

        Sure...I had bad teachers in school.. And my forefathers sent MEN TO THE MOON...

        August 10, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • Stan from Chicagoland

      Dave, I used to do educational research. Everything Michelle Rhee said is true. I am stunned that ms Ravitch would look at American schools of today and pronounce them fit for anything. Education is filled with incompetence, bureaucracy, and excuses. Nothing will change until you begin to fire thousands of "professionals."

      August 9, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
      • Bonnie Capatelli

        Stan has produced yet another stupid, vapid, hate-filled rant, pretending to be about "education".

        It's not. Comments like this are completely about the deep, vicious animosity these extremist right-wingers have for the very concept of public education and the people who teach our children.

        In many cases, they know that what they're saying is completely deceptive. They know that no teachers can "make" all students do better; some students can't or won't perform, despite the teacher's best efforts. Anyone who ever attended a school knows what I'm talking about.

        Please disregard vile "Hate Bombs" from people like Stan and Dave. They're obviously all about the hatred.

        However, notice that extremists like these two are pretty much the only ones defending the charlatan Michelle Rhee these days. Everyone else is moving away from her. It's so transparent, watching Rhee and her crafty, mendacious tactics. I'm glad she's being abandoned by almost everyone except for the extreme right-wing. And that is very telling.

        August 10, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • Vince

      Did you even read the article? All of these anecdotes were primarily explained by the fact that the United States is number 1 in poverty. If 25% of all students live in poverty, these rates are certainly higher when broken down across racial lines. Therefore it makes sense that 20% of Hispanics drop out of school. They drop out of high school so they can get a job for their own families. Also, education is a value passed down from generations. If every generation of your family went to Harvard then you're not going to drop out of school. If you have never had a family member graduate high school you are more likely to drop out of high school yourself.

      I actually had a parent tell me "as long as he tries hard and passes then I don't care, I never made good grades in school". This parent valued any grade above a "D" as acceptable. These low standards at home mean that the student has no incentive to work hard. When I was in school I got a "C" on a test in 1st grade, my mom was extremely disappointed at let me know, I was also grounded until the next test. I can still remember that moment 25 years later and I never got below a B again. I was the black sheep in my family too. From a huge family my 3.65 GPA in high school was the lowest of my 7 siblings. When you're poor you don't worry about grades, when you don't value education you don't worry about grades.

      August 9, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • Bonnie Capatelli

      Dave Thomas has posted an especially obtuse rant here. He cites statistics that demonstrate nothing. Too many kids drop out of school? Yes, they do. But more than 60 years ago? Or 30 years ago? Or 10 years ago?

      Too many kids aren't proficient in math, reading and other subjects? No doubt. Were there fewer of these low-achieveing students in the past?

      Do your homework, Dave. It might help.

      But you're not really making an "argument" here; you're just bashing our teachers and blaming them for this "educational crisis" you're trying to get us to accept as real. Aren't you?

      And, even though your data points are meaningless drivel-strewn together in an obviously malicious way to encourage more public hatred of teachers-let's pretend for a moment that our schools are "terrible" and "without hope" under the present system.

      So...what are you proposing we do about it? Do you have any REAL ideas? Any specific proposals that actually WORK? And I mean genuinely WORK; there's no evidence that more testing, charters, vouchers, or virtual "schools" will help anyone but private, for-profit companies that are determined to destroy universal public education and replace it with yet another "Free Market Capitalism" model.

      And boy, hasn't that produced wonderful results? (See September 2008 for more details...)

      August 10, 2012 at 8:15 am |
  2. greatsociety

    We should have a War on Poverty! That would solve the problem.
    Oh wait....
    (when the only tool you know how to use is a hammer – everything looks like a nail)

    August 9, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  3. truzak

    Yeah, Rhee is wrong about public education.

    Apparently in Ms. Ravitch's view, we are graduating too many people from public high schools – not enough dependency on government welfare.

    Apparently, not enough high schools kids are killing each other on the weekends – we need to reduce the welfare rolls.

    Apparently, public school education is doing "just fine". So let's throw all the more money down the black (is that being racist?) hole is turn out illiterate citizens wholly dependent on the federal plantation to house them, feed them, and give then an allowance to buy drugs and guns. This is the legacy of the "investment" Obama desires for future generations of Americans. And predictably, the very people who are most hurt by his insane policies are the ones who will vote for him again in November.

    August 9, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  4. Alice in PA

    People who truly want to participate in an informed discussion need to do some research. First you need to read Bracey’s book about educational statistics where you will learn about the fallacy of rankings ( someone always comes in last, even in the Olympics) and how SAT scores are rising for minorities.
    Then go to the PISA international test website and the PIRLS test ( we came in first on that one but no one mentions it) websites so you know about these tests and how close the scores are for most of the OECD countries. Add the NAEP also and look into the controvery about the cutoff scores.
    Read Rothstein’s The Way We Were?: The Myths and Realities of America's Student Achievement and anything by Linda Darling Hammond.
    Next read the research on charter school effectiveness such as the Stanford CREDO study and the Minnesota voucher program. Just do a google scholar search.
    Finally, read the Payne’s A Framework for Understanding Poverty to see how the problem is not just about money.
    Finally, I would suggest spending at least a full week in a classroom and truly thinking about how it functions, what the teacher does to prepare, what the students do.
    If you are not becoming truly informed about the situation, then you are not helping and (yes this sounds elitist) you are not qualified to expect your opinion to matter. Public education is a right for everyone but like all rights, it comes with a responsibility to learn about the reality. We are in the information age here folks. Get informed.

    August 9, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • Gina

      Reality? Oh Alice, our country is living off illusion. Illusion smells and tastes better than reality.

      "Oh, my kid can pass these tests. Whew! Thank you honey. You're so smart. You're so ready for college."

      Anyone can get into college, but not everyone can make it stick. Some of theses delusional people need to ask any college professor what they are getting out of our test, test, test schools. Everyone thinks it's just "those" kids who are ignorant... It's just those kids whose school only has a 70% passing rate on tests. "Oh, we'er better, we're smarter. 100% of our kids, my kids...passed the test."

      Hellooooo? They only passed a multiple choice test! Who cares? They don't teach cursive anymore... Our society is ALITERATE....and many are simply functional illiterates.

      When their kids go up for that engineering job, no one is going to see if they can pass a multiple choice test.

      Here's a funny story. A friend of a mine, a master writing teacher, decided to teach summer bible school camp. She informed the kids, "I am going to ask you a few questions about yesterday's lesson."

      Sad, but little girl cried out, "Is it going to be a true or false question?"

      Poor baby... only a 4th grader, and True and False and multiple choice answers are an engrained part of her CULTURE...

      Yuck!! Shame. Wake UP.

      August 9, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • DaveZ

      Thank you for the post and references, Alice. You are spot on as there's a lot of emotion needing to be replaced by intelligence.

      August 9, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • Susan

      Thank you Alice for calling out the posts that offer rants and accusations without any evidence. One anecdote does not qualify as an informed opinion. Deep understanding of the complexities in public education requires both experience and knowledge. Knowledge is not watching a movie about teacher/school bashing. Knowledge is not gained by watching Fox or CNN or any one information source. Those sources of information only convolute the issue. Armchair critics who think they could do it better should give it a try. Most would fail. There are many attempting to help in the name of reform or consulting, but when profit is the motive rather than student outcomes, they fail as well. Too bad their contracts are paid and they're gone by the time test scores come in again. Nowhere in the article do I see claims that our system is perfect or that there isn't room for improvement. What I see is the sensationalism of negative media and rallying of the "stupidification" of America. I love that the article points to families and communities as responsible parties. Since when are teachers able to teach away poverty? There are bad teachers, absolutely, and I support stronger administrative procedures for terminating the "dead wood". However, we should not generalize the entire population as uncaring lazy freeloaders. It is not effective to attack teachers and blame them for all of society's ills. Remember, it takes a village?!

      August 9, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • F J M

      Gee, Alice. The research that you cite just happen to be from elitist points of view. I can cite other points of view that would refute your sources. Results are what matters. Colleges say that students are not prepared to enter college by their low scores and have to take remedial classes. Teachers say that they have to teach to the "tests". That does not sound like teaching. That sounds like prepping for the test. Ms. Rhee sounds like she wants teachers to teach and not prep the students for tests.

      August 10, 2012 at 2:12 am |
      • Alice in PA

        So what is your research? And supposed research from foundations does not count. It needs to be peer reviewed so that it cannot be a bunch of lies.

        August 10, 2012 at 8:27 am |
      • Alice in PA

        Ravitch is against teaching to the test and Rhee is for standardized tests. Maybe you should read more of what they have written, not that Rhee has written anything credible that can get published outside her own website.

        August 10, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • manzoa

      If the best you can offer is more research from university types...not convincing. Especially suggesting that anyone should waste five seconds reading anything written by Linda Darling Hammond...a person would learn more about public education watching reruns of Welcome Back Kotter.

      August 10, 2012 at 8:17 am |
      • Alice in PA

        so what do you read to become educated about education?

        August 10, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  5. Geechee

    The NEA is on a mission to do to the American public school system what the UAW has done to the US auto industry, and they will stop at nothing to achieve it.
    Perpetuating the status quo is what these folks are all about, because that ensures continued employment for these parasites and marginal performers.
    Just look at last year's grade-fixing scandal in the Atlanta Public School System, which reportedly involved over a hundred teachers.
    If what you say is true, lady, why are parents all over the country clamoring for and suing to get their kids into charter schools and voucher programs?
    Not surprising she would appear on a CNN venue.

    August 9, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Gina

      Are charter schools teaching to a test? Are they?

      I have friends teaching in charter schools. Are they magically better teachers because they are currently teaching in charter schools?

      I would think there is room for non-religious charter schools, but they should not be an excuse not to make public education better. And, if they are religious, like the religious schools in other parts of the world, they should not receive my tax dollars to stay in business. They should not use my tax dollars to purchase books in Louisiana that claim the KKK wasn't all that bad, nor that humans and dinosaurs lived together a few thousand years ago....

      August 9, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
      • jean

        You forgot to add that voucher students will now learn that fire-breathing dragons really existed, the Loch Ness monster does exist, and the Great Depression really wasn't as bad as depicted. Tax-payer dollars at work in Louisiana.

        August 9, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
      • TeacherinNC

        Charter schools are public schools and (at least in my state) cannot be affiliated with any religion because they receive tax dollars.

        I taught at a charter school for four years and we did not teach to the test. Teachers who taught subjects that were tested usually only reviewed for the test for a week or two before the testing began. Our scores were always really good because the administration gave teachers the freedom to teach how they wants and trusted their ability. We were hired on a one year contract, so every year you had to prove yourself. They were not shy about letting teachers go if they felt it was necessary, but they always worked with the teacher first.

        Also, not all states have teacher unions. For example, unions are not allowed in my state, North Carolina. We do not have pay as high as many states. However, I agree that bonuses and merit pay will not do that much in the end to really improve scores. I personally do not think unions should be used, but I do understand why they are beneifical. I think it has gotten to the point where they are producing more negative results than positive. I think being able to easily let teachers go is essential to keeping a high quality staff. Having an administration who really knows what is going on in each classroom is also helpful. I have been lucky to work at schools where the administration has always been visible and to me that makes the teachers work harder and feel like they are valued.

        As a teacher I feel that there are so many peoplle in society who read articles about teacher union or about how our education system is broken and they automatically start giving their opinion and bashing teachers and assuming we all are part of unions and we are slackers. The majority of teachers try very hard and work a lot of hours to be the best they can be. Of course, there are teachers who need to leave and stay because they don't know what else to do and like the benefits. I agree that people really need to look into education and do their research before automatically deciding what is happening in schools. Actual educators (people who are still teaching and have at least 5 years of experience) should be consulted and be involved in the discussions.

        Also, to quickly comment on the poverty issue. I have taught in extremely high poverty schools and many of these kids do have difficult home situation that make it harder for them to succeed in the classrooms. However, there are plenty of high poverty kids who do want to learn and be successful. They just need extra help a lot of the time. I live in poverty throughout elementary and middle school. To me not being successful was never an option and I always knew I was going to college. I didn't let poverty define who I was.

        August 9, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
      • F J M

        They can take my tax dollar and I would not mind. Many of us pay taxes and have a different point of view as to where it should go. I think that 50 % of the taxpayers would probably approve their taxes go to private schools even if they were religious. NEA is afraid that they would lose their power if poor families could send their children to private schools. We can now talk about enslavement. That must be the goal of NEA. Keep the poor people poor so that they remain the slaves to the democrats.

        August 10, 2012 at 2:22 am |
      • Gina


        I agree. It is very sad.

        August 10, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • Alice in PA

      Nice try. There are no legally binding collective bargaining rights for teachers in Georgia! They have a union, but no union rights. It's not the unions. In fact, states with teacher union rights in the school code perform better.

      August 9, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
      • Shirley

        None in Texas either, although so many seem to think there is a union. The underpaying of teachers is scandalous, but the work overload is worse. Too many standards make for a mile wide and inch deep curriculum. Having the responsibility to educate any child who walks through the door is what makes public education not an even playing field with private schools, or most international comparison schools. I am all for getting rid of bad teachers, but all that we are doing is making the good ones quit. BTW, I understand Michelle Rhee could not hack being a teacher. She was in tears much of the time.

        August 9, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
      • Gina

        Thank you. Sheez. Why are so many people so ignorant.

        It makes sense. When teachers take care of themselves FIRST...When the system takes care of teachers... WHO BENEFITS.

        THE KIDS DO! What a concept. And instead of trying to beat down the witch hunt environment, we could be discussing the REAL issues.....

        August 9, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
      • Susan

        Alice has the stats – I don't see anyone else posting counter facts...just opinions and "my friend teaches here so I know..." and blah, blah, blah.

        August 9, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  6. Jeffrey Cole

    A shameless defense of her own employer. She and her state sponsored industry has ruined American education.

    August 9, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  7. suibne

    now aren't we surprised that CNN would be on the wrong side of an issue? heheh. PUBLIC SCHOOLS in America have been ruined by socialist politics and psychology. They are done. Fortunately there are a few private schools out there making up the difference in quality. Quantity? WAIT till you see the morons being pumped out in the five years.

    August 9, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  8. MJWalters

    Another liberal idiot willing to kill black babies. Her only concern is that not enough of these blacks were killed before birth and now someone has to deal with them.
    Michelle Rhea was leading DC schools to be a great district which cared for and had the poor blacks in the district beginning to thrive, and the liberal left just can't let that happen.
    They have to have them downtrodden and poor, or they may realize who is really keeping them down.

    August 9, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Steven Bernard

      ...First of all her name is Michelle Rhee...I would think someone so impressed by her track record would spell her name correctly...secondly, if you noticed, CNN listed statistics in which over 80% of students in the Washington D.C school system are below minimum standards in math. And who was the chancellor of the Washington D.C. school system??? Well non other than Michelle Rhee...I guess to MJ Walters this is considered "thriving." Michelle Rhee doesn't have the answers to public education, because if she did she would win a Nobel Peace Prize. The social and economic complexities which effect a child's education go far beyond the realm of thinking of a self-serving opportunist like Michelle Rhee....Throw in the fact her former district is under investigation for doctoring standardized testing numbers under her watch. Or consider she receives hundreds of thousands of dollars from corporate education reformers trying to make a buck off American taxpayers. Or perhaps ponder her idea of classroom discipline while a miserable excuse of a Teach for America rent a teacher was to tape her students' mouths shut... Can we really take this person seriously???

      August 9, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  9. Gina

    For the ignorant that can only make attacks instead of caring about kids and country:


    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Aliteracy (sometimes spelled alliteracy) is the state of being able to read but being uninterested in doing so. This phenomenon has been reported on as a problem occurring separately from illiteracy, which is more common in the developing world, while aliteracy is primarily a problem in the developed world.[1] In 2002, John Ramsey defined aliteracy as a loss of a reading habit usually since reading is slow and frustrating for the reader.

    August 9, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  10. Ralph Dundas

    Ravitch leaves out the salient points: Michelle Rhee tried to improve the abysmal Washington, D.C., public schools, where spending per student is among the highest in the U.S. Rhee tried to hold teachers accountable, and fired non-performers. Of course Ravitch opposes merit pay. She's a shill for the teacher's union, NEA, which advocates that once azy, incompetent teachers get tenure, they should be allowed to stay for life. Former Mayor Adrian Fenty was working with Michelle Rhee to try to make real improvements in the D.C. schools. The residents of D.C. proved that they are not serious about improving anything in D.C. They threw Fenty out for Vincent Gray and his cronies, who are all Marion Barry's cronies. Remember Marion "bitch set me up" Barry? Sixty to 70 percent of D.C.'s residents just want to squawk about "we need more money for education." They just want more money for Gray's and Barry's thievery and corruption, because they think Gray and Barry will spread some of those benjamins around to them. Spread the wealth! Yeah! And try like hell to implement a "commuter tax" on the Virginia and Maryland people who drive in to work in the District. Gray and Barry are running out of D.C. money for their thievery. They need some new sources! You couldn't possibly convince me to live or work in D.C.

    August 9, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  11. Bruce Odom

    The best education reform that we could make would be the prohibition of coaches from teaching any academic classes. That might solve two problems: poorly taught students and the obesity problem (on the assumption coaches and students would do a lot more PE.

    August 9, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  12. Dylan

    The author can't have it both ways. She praises the group she worked for (NAEP) as the only valid indicator of education levels on one hand. On the other, she down plays the measure of the international tests, except for where it shows we are at the top when poverty in the school district is not significant.

    The best point in this article is that Teaching to Tests and Evaluatiing Based on standardized tests is not a benchmark that any teacher or school system should be judged on. It seems to me that Rhee is correct in her assertion that we have a broken system in this country that needs serious reform. I don't think the author is doing anyone a service by trying to cover this up. Poverty is a problem, but it is not THE problem.

    August 9, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • Gina

      I noticed that too. Get rid of all this ridiculous testing. American kids don't crave science and art and math and history because they are numb. Numb due to TESTING for corporate profit.

      August 9, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Alice in PA

      I think her point was that it is the only test given across the country to a representative sample and has been given for a long time. I do not think she is advocating that standardized tests are the only measure of learning.

      August 9, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  13. Lilac0245

    Over 700 comments on this article, and I had to type in a search to bring it up from the website?

    August 9, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Jim

      Tenue is one of the main problems. It is used to protect bad teachers and bad behavior. Voucher programs would make schools compete and give parents choices.

      August 9, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
      • Gina

        I don't care about tenure. I care about kids. Most of these teachers don't even know what their retirement plan is....
        They are so beat down... don't make me laugh.

        BELIEVE ME, it's the good teachers that are getting run out. Good leadership has tools in place to extricate bad teachers, but these silly ex-teachers who are principals, don't have the marbles to have those difficult conversations and get the FEW bad ones out.

        Most teachers today are quite good...better than I had... and my country sent men to the MOON!!

        August 9, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
      • Chris

        I think you missed the whole point of the article. Take some blame of off the teachers and put the focus where it belongs. We should focus on helping kids in poverty. tThe article says that the scores haven't changed in 25 years. You don't think that 25 years ago there might have been a Few bad teachers? Go ahead get rid of tenure and your children will be taught by all new teachers. Tenure was put in place to protect experinced teachers not bad ones. Before you rant in rave about tenure you should really reasearch it, how it bagan, and how it impacts students.
        Maybe instead of putting focus on getting rid of tenure we ahouls make sure that all students have their basic needs met; Food, shelter, and saftey. A child can not focus on school when these basic needs are not met.

        August 9, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  14. paddylol

    Is there a rubber room in NY with Ravitch's name on the door?

    Now I am beginning to understand why so many teachers can't teach. They are stuck on stupid along with their professors.

    August 9, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  15. fyouell

    Poverty makes a convenient politically correct excuse for poor performance. There is only problem. It's not true.

    See "The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education"

    "But there is a major flaw in the thesis that income differences explain the racial gap. Consider these three observable facts from The College Board's 2005 data on the SAT:

    • Whites from families with incomes of less than $10,000 had a mean SAT score of 993. This is 129 points higher than the national mean for all blacks.

    • Whites from families with incomes below $10,000 had a mean SAT test score that was 61 points higher than blacks whose families had incomes of between $80,000 and $100,000.

    • Blacks from families with incomes of more than $100,000 had a mean SAT score that was 85 points below the mean score for whites from all income levels, 139 points below the mean score of whites from families at the same income level, and 10 points below the average score of white students from families whose income was less than $10,000. "

    A few other notes. White and Asian Pisa scores in the U.S. are world class even though large numbers of white and Asian children grow up in poverty. Conversely, the black-white SAT score gap matches the gap between the lowest and highest income groups. Since not all blacks are poor and not all whites are rich, this should tell you something (if you can take off the PC blinkers).

    Note that Hispanic scores are only modestly better than black scores.

    August 9, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Gina

      My American Black, American Mexican, White hispanic, Black hispanics, Asian Hispanics....Sheez! I could go on and on....

      Do just as well as my "poor" white kids. Good instruction is good instruction. In some portfolio assignments, my white kids did not do as well and vice versa....

      O M G... I am so sick of testing that was put in place to perpetuate a legacy of white privilege.... STOOOOOP with standardized testing....

      To boot...many of my special ed did just as well as my white or black kids.... Sheez!

      August 9, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
      • fyouell

        "O M G... I am so sick of testing that was put in place to perpetuate a legacy of white privilege.."

        What a joke. Asians consistently outscore whites on standardized tests. Even poor Asian kids typically do rather well. Standardized tests tell the truth... and the truth is something that the PC crowd can't accept.

        August 9, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
      • Gina

        Since you don't know. Standardized tests are multiple choice tests for a nation of morons.

        Most of the kids in the "ghetto" are passing these gross tests.... 80% of my school's 11th graders passed. 70% of my 10th graders passed.....

        Don't you get it... somebody, the test makers, is getting PAID!!!! It's all an illusion....

        August 10, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
  16. moderateGuy

    I have a few questions here:
    1. does the NAEP testing, administered, as it is by US Department of Education, the agency responsible for the state of education in America, the agency that would look bad if the test showed the schools are failing, the agency that would, likely, lose funding if the test showed the schools in America are failing; really shows the schools in America are "excellent"; really?
    2. did the families of the children that "live in poverty" used their smartphones to contact Ravitch, or did they drove in their cars to meet with him; did they all read his article in their upstairs or downstairs internet-connected computer?
    3. According to the results of the Nashville experiment: "The annual bonus amounts were $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000. Over the course of the experiment, POINT paid out more than $1.27 million in bonuses. Overall, 33.6 percent of the original group received bonuses, with the average bonus being approximately $10,000." did the large payout of bonuses indicate the "failure" of merit pay principle, or was it just "voices" in Ravitch's head?

    August 9, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  17. BillB

    Poor kids here would be nearly middle-class in Europe and practically Elite in Africa. I think it's more related to culture than money. How much more money have we thrown at public schools in the last two decades for approximately zero improvement?

    August 9, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Rockerbabe

      Money isn't the only issue in education, but it is an issue. Little to no money and little to no improvement. It is not lost on a lot of folks that putting kids in private or parochial schools often cost north of $15,000/year + books and uniforms. Few public schools spend that much on kids or teachers.

      Two of the other reasons, not cited in this article is the affect of poor nutrition and divorce on kids. Poverty affects the ability of parents to get good nutritious food for their kids. Parents who work 2-3 jobs just to support their kids, do not have time for cooking and often rely on fast foods; not good for kids either. It amazes me, when I see kids of all ages, who have little to no experience with fruits, vegetables or dairy products. Divorce is one of the most traumatic experiences any kid can endure and with a divorce rate of 50% of all marriages, it is not a surprise that the kids have a hard time in school; and lets not forget the effects of domestic violence that is so prevalent in all families, irrespective of the social economic status of the family unit.

      The other reason "merit" pay doesn't really work, is that the pay is based on what the kids do, not what the teachers do. The teachers have no control over anything the kids do or don't do once they leave the classroom. It is the parents or the other adults in the kid's life that control this aspect of the child's behavior and activities. All the teachers can do is teach the subject matter, offer assistance as needed to their students, correct the test and special projects and conference with the responsible adults about the child's needs.

      This war on teachers is doing nothing but causing teachers to look elswhere for professional opportunities and they are finding them everywhere!

      August 9, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
      • texasteacher123

        In Texas, they throw money at us like we're strippers! Of course, it's all for test prep, not real instruction. Hmmm, not only do they throw money at us like we're strippers, but they also abuse us like we're strippers!

        Some of the best teachers I know are in Texas.

        Our ELL students, in many districts, follow each other around in packs. But Pearson, they have a program called TELPAS. Yes, a system that tracks the progress of ELL's who don't speak English well. Hmmm? How do you learn English if you are only taking classes with other Spanish speaking students? Ask any exchange student. There is something to be said for immersion. Sure, we should have bridges, but NOT segregation.

        I was shocked when I saw that most of my ELL students were not only born in this country, but even those few who were immigrants, they have been in American schools since kindergarten.

        'Something is foul in Texas.'

        August 10, 2012 at 1:24 am |
  18. Ncugini

    Mrs. Ravitch has to be joking to defend our delapidated public school system that is dire need of change. As a father if two teens I attempted as they were going thru elementary school to keep an open mind regarding all of the criticism Mrs. Ravitch denounces. While I found small vignettes to be impressed by the majority of my experience matches the scorn public schools get. Our economic prowess while still strong is not nearly what it used to be. And the prowess we enjoy today was largely buit by the WWII generation. While we still do inent great things in this country one must wonder how many doctors, lawyers, chemists...would have come from Camden Nj over the past 30 years had there been strong schools to backfill what kids weren't getting at home. What a pity Mrs. Ravitch and her ilk stand in the way of reform.

    August 9, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  19. Don

    My wife is an elementary school teacher and I can tell you that some teachers are simply better teachers than others. And some are a lot better than others. Would the writer of this article disagree with me? I read somewhere than teachers in a Scandinavian country must go through a selective process that's not unlike trying to get into a medical or law school here. Is the writer saying that's not a good idea?

    August 9, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Rockerbabe

      The same can be said for the students. Some kids learn faster and better than others and some just do not care and their parents don't care either.

      August 9, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  20. Bill

    The pitiful state of Public schools, distraction due to lack of dicipline, tenured teachers, has led to a boom in private ($9k/yr) and charter schools. In DC public schools (one of the highest cost/student) the number of calls requiring a police officer come to the school was in excess of two visits/day (~400 for a school year). In my 12 years of public school I never saw a single incident requiring a police visit. If the administration can not keep the peace, how is a kid going to have a chance to get an education.

    August 9, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Gina


      August 9, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  21. Bob

    Sorry, I hit submit before my reply was complete.

    I was about to say that I read the NCES report referred to by the "hotlink" associated with the "highest point in history" comment in the 5th paragraph. The thing I found most interesting in that report was the fact that the recent spikes in scores – for all demographics & grade levels – coincided exactly with the "No Child Left Behind" program in 2002. Dr. Ravitch neglected to mention that fact. I guess that's no surprise given her very public position & excoriating condemnation of the initiative. To borrow a phrase, an inconvenient truth, so to speak.

    My personal opinion is that public sector teacher unions are by far the biggest impediment to education in America. teacher unions are by far the biggest impediment to education in America.

    Yes, public schools educate 90% of American students. However, give us a break!! The inane rationalizations offered by Dr. Ravitch – toothaches, hearing problems, asthma, etc. – border on the ridiculous.

    The metrics provided by Dr. Ravitch supporting her claim about positive trends in NCES testing scores don't adequately differentiate between public and private schools. Specifically, she makes no distinctions between private, public and Catholic schools. Before making the points that follow and in the spirit of full disclosure, I'll point out that I'm not a teacher, but I am the product of a Catholic school education.

    There is a wide gap between scores attained by students attending Catholic schools. Teachers in the parochial system are paid half as much, they have no union, they get no tenure, and they teach the same inner city, poverty-stricken base of students that the public sector deals with. Despite all that, the parochial schools consistently deliver higher scores, lower dropout rates (1% vs. 8.1%,) higher graduation rates (99.1% vs. 91.9%,) and more going on to a 4-year college (84.7% vs. 70.1%.)

    I think those facts make an extremely atrong case that the teachers & the approach in the public sector ARE a big part of the problem. To quote Sherlock Holmes, "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

    Do yourself a favor & read the article about NYC schools by Sol Stern in the link that follows. I know it's from 1996, but it's points are still abundantly valid today.

    And by all means, please consider Dr. Ravitch's biased opinion as simply that, an opinion.

    August 9, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  22. Gina

    "Education disrupts Poverty."


    Yes, parents matter. Many of these kids don't have parents! So, what now. Ok...Let's hear it again. It's up to the parents. more time... Many of these kids don't have parents? So, what now.

    Beware: Educate them now, or get hit over the head with a beer bottle when you're 80??

    I prefer: Educate as many as you can now... hello?

    August 9, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  23. Zebula

    If we want to improve the intelligence level of our population we need to stop having so many children. The poor and the ignorant need to stop having children completely. They are diluting the quality of life for everyone.

    August 9, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • teachtoempower

      Who are you to decide who gets to do what? You must be a "DAMN good parent" or at least an arrogant, self-assured, classist, sadist who would prefer the government control EVERYTHING, including the children we have.

      August 9, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  24. Dan

    "The only valid measure is the NEAP"

    I'm a parent. The only valid measure is whether or not I think my child is learning, or getting her head filled with mush and propaganda.

    The solution is different for each state, each school, each classroom, each child.

    This means empowering the parents. Nobody in Washington, DC loves my children as much as I do.

    And I suspect that the starting date of 1964 wasn't arbitrary; something left unsaid is that all of those countries we outpaced "experimented" with a deeper brand of central planning than we did.

    It's time to move past the Soviet/Ford Assembly line approach to education. Let various approaches compete, and each family choose the best fit for them. Homeschooling, unschooling, online learning, public schools, charter schools, parochial schools... but even the playing field by having the money follow the student, with adjustments made – for example, a child who has an IEP (all kids should!) that calls for a paraeducator in the classroom would get a lot more money than a kid who didn't have a diagnosis, so that the "cherry picking" public schools are afraid of doesn't occur.

    August 9, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • Common Sense

      AMEN! Hear, hear!!!

      Could not have said it better. The only thing I will add is that the NAEP is a moving target. The test changes over time, and therefore is no accurate measure of what we are actually achieving in terms of real learning. Let the parents be the judge of what their children are learning and let them express their choices in the voting booth in LOCAL ELECTIONS. How can a central government in Washington be more responsive to my needs than the school board members that live down the street from me? Education should be handled locally and should be responsive to parents, not politically appointed wonks like Ms. Ravitch.

      August 9, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  25. jthc75

    If you want to see what's wrong with "educators" today, read this article.

    " 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."

    I suppose this is what passes for logic. Note that she doesn't refute anything that Rhee says. She just complains about Rhee and makes excuses for why Rhee's points don't matter.

    "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."

    We could afford to be 11th out of 12 in 1964. Europe was still recovering from WWII, as was Japan. We had no competition when it came to manufacturing and economic production. That is not the case today.

    "Merit pay destroys teamwork and collaboration in the school. Teachers work together; they are not in an individual sport, trying to be first."

    Great, so they're failing, but at least they're failing as a team. Rah rah.

    "Our teachers need our support. Let’s put an end to the war on teachers in general and on experienced teachers in particular."

    There is no war on teachers. This victimization claim is meant to distract us from the failures of the education establishment. There is a war on bad education, and unfortunately the teachers and unions are entrenched interests. The unions have no interest in bettering education - they will protect bad teachers just as much as they will protect good teachers. Anyone with a bit of common sense knows exactly how that turns out.

    August 9, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  26. Paul from SA

    I think the author is misinformd on Rhee's positions.

    Remove one demographic group from our national measurements, and we are #1 in the world in education scores. How to improve those students and their parents? I know, the ones with low scores have no father. The delinquents are those with no father. The promiscious are those with no father. The dopers are the ones with no father. Did Trayvon have a father?

    We must bypass the Democrat unions and liberal teachers and find better ways to educate our children. Perhaps transitioning to a teacherless webinar system.

    August 9, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Gina

      No Raw... Just because your kid can pass that test does not mean they are "educated" in an American school system that should be leading the world. Your kids can simply pass the test; they are good at multiple choice. I talk to these kids and my own everyday. They are bored with school, bored with learning, and aliterate.... functionally illiterate in many cases.

      No school, poor or rich, should be a place where real learning is not happening due to a test. And, although most are good, the teachers in these "high" performing kids have kids like you and I....We will pass a multiple choice test whether they show up or not... Hello?

      August 9, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
      • Gina

        NO..was meant for Paul...

        August 9, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
      • IsaTen

        Sure, if we get rid of tests we will immediately become #1. With no tests there will be no way to know what our children know and no basis for any critique of the educational system.

        August 9, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • Gina


      The American and French revolutions = Liberal
      The constitution = a pretty liberal concept in its time...?
      Capitalism = liberal....

      Most teachers are good. Visit some schools, and you will see.

      August 9, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • nemesis

      Actually yes, Trayvon did have a father, who was at home waiting for his son to return from a trip to the store. Don't change the subject.

      August 9, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
      • IsaTen

        Every person has a father. When the tragedy happened Travon's father did not live with his mother, was not married to her, was not waiting for Travon in Travon's home. When we talk about fatherlessness and its impact on children it is not that the childern do not have fathers, they would not have been born without some males, we talk about children growing up in fatherless homes. Get the picture?

        August 9, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Penny Wu


      (1) The non-union teachers, often found in the southern states, and getting worse results. Clearly the teachers unions are not the problem here. Nor is the supposed liberalism of the teachers.

      (2) I partly agree with you point about kids not being properly socialized. Many of the dysfunctional kids come from single-parent (and poor) families. The problem is not “Murphy Brown”; well-educated, moderate-to-high income single moms tend to have much better outcomes re child performance. Those Moms bring many resources to the table.

      (3) The problem with poor single mothers raising kids is that the child is, statistically speaking, subject to the “perfect storm”: poverty, lousy neighborhood, weaker schools, uninspiring peers, lack of parental “face-time”, minimal human interaction during the language-forming years (i.e., TV as babysitter does not foster communications skills or related intellectual development), inadequate access to health care (as likely due to the inattention of the parent as to structure issues such as lack of clinics), poor nutrition (the same over-worked mother throws a pizza or fried chicken on the table rather than a home-cooked meal with vegetables), and worst of all – the parent’s (lilely) minimal genetic endowment in areas such as “executive function” and cognition.

      The idea that these kid’s subsequent failure is somehow due to “the educational system” is absurd.

      August 9, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Gina

      This is a shame. Forget about poor kids for a second. Our kids in our "top" performing districts are also impacted by all the testing. The bad teachers, the few bad ones, show "good" scores just by showing up for work... Do you get that? The mediocre teachers' kids are passing the tests too. And yes, the master teachers' kids are not only doing well on the MULTIPLE choice test, but his/her kids are also rocking the writing compositions.

      Passing a multiple choice test is AN ILLUSION... IT'S AN ILLUSION..... If we don't get formative assessments and portfolio assessments and project assessments as a part of effective teaching, we are ALL lost as fewer and fewer Americans, regardless of race, enter the fields of math and science.

      With LITERACY in the front seat, any kid can make it by with a bad teacher or two....

      August 9, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  27. Bill

    Teachers should join the rest of the real world, no one gets tenure in the real world. Want to improve the system? Fire the bottom 10% based on performance not time in the job. You can not justify paying teachers to sit and read the paper or manage their properties sie they've been taken out of the classroom for cause. Grow up, hire responsible and productive teachers, make it easier for professionals to come into the field after a career in engineering or business, and dump the dead wood.

    August 9, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Gina

      i'm a teacher. You can put your tenure where the sun don't shine. Whatever!

      The problem are all the multiple choice tests that make you clueless suburb types think your gets are EDUCATED. Nah, for the most part, they are unmotivated, and they are ignorant and aliterate. They are tortured by tests that they can take blindfolded.

      Many kids in the ghetto are passing the same low level test!? Who cares? "My school has a 100% oass rate on a standardized test! " "Ooh, you want a cookie? Wow, your kid is so smart. Your kid is rushing into the sciences and engineering and math . Your kid is a lover of learning!" I don't care if your school has a 100% pass rate or a 70% pass rate in the schools blighted by poverty....SO WHAT?!

      Yeah, right. WAKE UP.

      August 9, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
      • ian


        You mean "illiterate"?

        August 9, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
      • Marshall Gill

        "i'm a teacher" This is my shocked face!

        August 9, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
      • Shannon

        Please do a spell check and review a dictionary for meaning if you are going to claim that you are a teacher.

        August 9, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
      • Gina

        No Ian... I mean ALITERATE... IT'S a different definition. Look it up 🙂

        August 9, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
      • Gina

        Shannon... you look it up. Do you think I have time to spell check on a blog...? I am someone who cares about kids, and I care about my country that is going down the tubes.

        Aliterate is a word, check yourself.

        August 9, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
      • Gina


        Let me look it up for you 🙂

        aliterate [eɪˈlɪtərɪt]
        a person who is able to read but disinclined to do so
        of or relating to aliterates

        August 9, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
      • Gina

        Ugh..Why are so many Americans Aliterate and ignorant....?

        Have you ever heard this Shannon... "The higher a monkey climbs a tree, the more it shows its Arse."

        Instead of "trying," and rather ineffectively, to take the splinter out of someone else's eye....duh, try taking the log out of your own.. lol... oops, I better check my spelling..... duh!

        August 9, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
      • Gina

        ,,,"those who think their kids are educated.."

        Think again...!

        August 9, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • susannunes

      Yeah, they do. Police and fire have the same rights to due process as teachers. All government employees do because employment is considered a property and government cannot deny property without due process. "Tenure" in public ed is a misnomer; it is not a lifetime job as it is in colleges and universities; it just means teachers have a "right" to a kangaroo hearing manipulated by school districts and administrators. I know of what I speak.

      August 9, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
      • susannunes

        Meant to add "right" to property.

        August 9, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • susannunes

      Seniority also applies in private sector work. It's the only fair to do layoffs and the like because of the highly political atmosphere of the workplace, especially in public employment, especially school districts.

      August 9, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  28. K.D.

    I retired from teaching a year ago, so I am a recent participate in the educational reform. Yes, there needs to be people removed from the classroom, trouble is in my state, so many of these "teachers" are called by the same first name. "Coach."
    I have seen coaches who were nothing short of horrid in the classroom remain simply because Friday night was more important than any form of education.
    Are there coaches who good in the classroom? Yes, but when a school has to chose between an average regular teacher to let go, and a coach who "couldn't teach a dog to scratch a flea," the coach is always kept, never mind his academic abilities.
    Look, our educational system is in trouble in so many different ways, no one really knows where to start.

    August 9, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  29. Scott Morris

    I believe that the failure of our schools...and they are failing overall, really lies in the parents. We need a parent at home, poviding education too. Eduction of youth is a constant process. Parents need to be involved on a constant daily level. They are not. When both parents are working jobs to afford a nice big house and a two fancy cars and family vacations, they miss the most important things. I think that is the core problem. It is economic. If a family could support itself sufficiently and comfortably on one income, I am quite sure we would see education results change for the better. In countries that outperform the USA, I see this in most of their cultures. The mother stays home and manages the household. That is not to say it has to be the mother, in my opinion, but one parent needs to be managing the family.

    Additionally, we need better pay teachers. I know many very good teachers that simply cannot afford to be teachers. They move on to better paying jobs because they get tired of living on near-poverty pay. When you have a masters degree and 12 years of recongized teaching experience, get laid off from a school system because of cutbacks (the last thing we should cutting back is teachers, but that is another argument) and have to go looking for a new job and you only can make $24,000 per year. That is pathetic.

    In other countries, and Finland in particular, a teacher is an honored position. Their teachers are all people that were at the top of their graduating class. Our teachers are mostly from the bottom half. Why? Because the more successful and excellent ones can get much better paying jobs.

    These are our problems.

    August 9, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Gina

      Well, many don't have parents. What now?

      "Education disrupts poverty."

      August 9, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  30. Gina

    Our school is such a mess that the kids don't even walk in with a pencil. The pitiful principal who only cares that they show up, so funding is not cut, prefers to feed them candy and be their buddy. Most teachers can teach if they are supported. Most teachers who left the kids for higher pay, are the three year types who come into the field to torture the teacher and paternalistically condone the horrible behavior of many of these students. I have called my friend many times and said, "You know, the kids are the best part, but the 20 to 30 percent that act like animals are winning...they are winning, and no one is doing anything to stop them because they are MONEY; they are funding." Sickened by it all.

    "Penny Wu
    (1) While ineffective teachers are probably a small part of the problem, the largest factor is that students arrive in class ill-prepared to learn.

    Whether due to family stresses (to which poverty may contribute), single-parent households where the sole parent has insufficient time/energy/resources to properly raise a child, low IQ, poor nutrition/sleep habits, behavioral/psychological problems, etc, far too many kids come to class without the necessary prerequisites to sit, listen and learn.

    August 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Gina

      They walk in with their phones and snapback though....And 20 to 40 percent with an attitude and behavior issues that turn us all into police officers and day care providers!

      Those of you that don't know. Know this. You really DON'T KNOW. And, you should educate yourselves.

      I call for undercover operations. I call for cameras in the room. After streaming, many of you would find the nearest toilet to vomit in.

      August 9, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  31. BobbyBrick to fix the problems with education all we need to do is fix all the social problem that exist in our society. Great article! Or...those in education can focus on what they are in control of, as in getting rid of lousy teachers, removing disruptive children from schools and focusing more on education and less on sports. (ie. $60 million football stadiums).

    August 9, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • BHBQ

      Bobby, thanks for your sensible response. However, personal responsibility is no longer tolerated in our school system.

      August 9, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Gina

      Bobby is correct. However, keep this in mind. Many of the worst teachers have become ADMINISTRATORS, and through their horrible leadership, the BEST are leaving, and the few (most are good Bobby) that are BAD, simply find a hole to hide in and worksh*t our students to death.

      Just because your kids can pass these tests does not mean they are educated. If you were a teacher, and your evaluation depended on a TEST score, YOU would teach to a test too. The biggest problem is not the teacher (let GOOD leadership handle the no-loads), it's this multiple choice test that Pearson and ETS and all the other big money makers are cashing in on.....

      Remember, our country sent men to the moon with no testing....

      And, yes...I don't think the problem is poverty IF I have a classroom that is cleared of the hoodlums....

      Don't worry about your kids' teachers; WORRY ABOUT THEIR CLASSMATES!

      August 9, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • John

      i agree. And fishermen in a sinking boat should just keep fishing and shut up about the leaks.

      August 9, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Ellen

      Just curious. Where would you remove disruptive children to?

      August 9, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
      • Penny Wu

        Ellen – I would have a class for “special emotional needs” (i.e., disruptive) students. I would do my best to teach them too, but would not expect much in the way of success. The fact is that no matter where those kids are, they are not likely to learn.

        Why keep them in class with students who are prepared to learn, sabotaging those student’s futures? Why condemn an entire neighborhood’s kids to a failed educational experience and probable future poverty because 25% or the neighborhood’s kids arrive at school damaged/dysfunctional?

        August 9, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
      • Gina

        Oh Ellen, I hear this from people who don't have to put their kids in classes with other kids that act like animals.

        I say, put them in your school district. No, just joking! Your kids deserve LEARN without disruption... 🙂

        You PUT THEM IN A FACILITY THAT ALLOWS THE OTHER 70 PERCENT TO LEARN. I don't care if kids are poor or black or yellow or white...they deserve a place of peace!!! YOU want to sacrifice the 70 percent for the 30 percent who are future criminals thanks to all the American legacies that have us in this mess......

        I KNOW ONE THING. As a teacher, put them in a contained environment and drown them in music and literature and reading and writing and BASIC math, surrounded by police OFFICERS!! FIGURE IT OUT!

        August 9, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
      • BHBQ

        Ellen, here is another suggestion–don't make education a right. Make it something you have to earn. Can't sit in a class, kick them out. Make it the parents problem and cut off any type of aid to that family. Give people incentives to behave and you will be surprised that they will. Everyone thought Rudolph Giuliani was a joke in NY when he proposed the broken window principle. don't let anyone get away with anything and they will learn to behave. Low and behold the murder rate dropped in half.

        August 9, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Suzanne

      Removing the disruptive students is the best idea to fix what's wrong in schools today.

      BUT.... it will never happen, not, at least, under Obama!

      His ed dept is pushing the canard that racism lies behind the disparity between black and non-black suspension rates. In our school, teachers are terrified to write kids up. Outrageous disruption, noise, intransigence all have to be tolerated. The teachers who teach certain subjects are mostly doing crowd control and management; it's not "teaching," and no "subject" is being taught in those class periods.

      It's a terrible scandal that's been building up and festering for many years, but obviously this "strategy" is designed to make it worse. Check out Heather MacDonald's article about this at City Journal.

      August 9, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  32. Penny Wu

    (1) While ineffective teachers are probably a small part of the problem, the largest factor is that students arrive in class ill-prepared to learn.

    Whether due to family stresses (to which poverty may contribute), single-parent households where the sole parent has insufficient time/energy/resources to properly raise a child, low IQ, poor nutrition/sleep habits, behavioral/psychological problems, etc, far too many kids come to class without the necessary prerequisites to sit, listen and learn.

    This deficiency is strongly correlated with poverty, but I doubt that it is caused by poverty.

    (2) US students do well on PISA tests when students of low Socio-Economic Status are excluded from the pool. Clearly the US educational is not failing all US students. In that limited sense I agree with Ms. Ravitch.

    However a strong correlation between poverty and the many pathologies that plague the low-SES group (drug addiction, crime, single-parent families, minimal education, unemployment or non-involvement in the workforce) suggest a strong pattern of bad decision making starting with the decision to produce a child when inadequate resources are available to raise the child; poverty is likely an outcome more than the cause.

    (3) We could test the “it is poverty” hypothesis. Pick a city (say, Detroit), hand every poor family $10,000 on Jan 1 of each year for 5 years. Let’s see if there is a sudden improvement in student performance. I doubt that such a change will be observed.

    August 9, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Gina

      Yes Penny,

      In our school, kids come to class with no pencil, with no paper, but they have on snapback and Jordans... They have nicer phones than mine... But, they have NO pencil or pen, expecting me to be Target. I tell them, "we are wasting time, and I am not Target, moving on..."

      My friend works at a school where her principal is NOT the typical 3-year teacher who ESCAPED their kids, but a MASTER TEACHER Principal. And, when he walks in the room. Kids sit up. Track the speaker. and YESSSSS, they better have something to write with.

      Ooh RAH!!!

      August 9, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Boisepoet

      You think poverty is only cured by throwing money at it? It's cause is sometimes, as you already noted, a pattern of bad decision making that creates the situation where one has no opportunites for economic advancement. Access to resources such as health care, education, counseling, job training, and then having the jobs available to help the individual advance are all parts that need to be addressed to help cure "poverty". Handing everyone money and expecting a better result is just silly and makes an otherwise well-written comment appear ignorant.

      August 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
      • Penny Wu

        Boise – No, I do not. Perhaps I should have said “simple poverty” because I believe “lack of dollars” is what most people making comments here mean by “poverty”. Lack of dollars is not the problem, it is a symptom. Giving people dollars is not a solution. My thought experiment was design to support that view.

        The numerous factors you cite play a role in perpetuating poverty. IMO they are not the main cause.

        IMO the largest single factor here is IQ, though education and disciple play a role. We have evolved into an economy where there are fewer jobs, and ever-lower compensated jobs, for those who bring the least to the table in terms of cognitive ability. Regardless of race or ethnicity, in white and black and Hispanic communities, we see those at the lower end of the cognitive-ability bell curve, people who could once get high-paying jobs on, e.g., automobile assembly lines, now relegated to minimum wage jobs at Wal-Mart (if they can find work at all).

        August 9, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Rick Mahon

      You are obviously intelligent, but you are clearly not poor, have never studied poverty, don't understand what poverty really is, and therefore have built a house of cards argument that has no value. If you really want to start to understand this issue, I recommend "Unequal Childhoods" by Annette Lareau. You will increase your knowledge of this subject ten-fold.

      August 9, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
      • Junemarie

        I am very impress by the way everyone is stating their opinions like rational adults and giving me much to think about, So I thank for that.

        August 9, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Geoffrey

      @ Penny Wu : We could test the “it is poverty” hypothesis. Pick a city (say, Detroit), hand every poor family $10,000 on Jan 1 of each year for 5 years. Let’s see if there is a sudden improvement in student performance. I doubt that such a change will be observed.

      The premise for this comment is faulty at the least. Your proposal equates to taking someone who has been starving for months and treating them for a full course meal at the Sizzler. The answer is not throwing money at people, but training people for quality jobs, giving them resources to help them get over "the hump". A lot of people living in poverty are operating cognitively with their limbic system, because they are under attack from poverty and systems whose chief aim is to keep them in poverty everyday. So, I do agree that your proposed hypothesis will render no changes, but it will also only prove that poverty is indeed a factor.

      August 9, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  33. Linus have very impressive credentials...yet you seem to be so far away from what the actual problem is with our educational system. How can you actually blame poverty for the reason why our educational system is in disarray? Are you really saying that if a kid has a toothache, they are going to do poorly on their exams? If that is your argument...then you don't have an argument.
    How do you explain Charter Schools? Those cater to underprivileged, POOR inner city kids, and yet the Harlem Children's Zone somehow manages to have a 100% rate of kids going on to college. I guess maybe they are lucky that no one experienced a toothache while they were enrolled.
    The bottom line is that it starts at home, rich or poor. Granted having money will certainly give you a leg up, but simply being poor is certainly not the reason our education system is what it is.

    August 9, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Gina

      Ugh, Linus...

      They pick and choose their students. To my point, the problem is not poverty or the TEACHERS, the problem is the behavior problems in our schools. As Michael said, from those of us WHO KNOW, we are discipline poor. And, by the way, the kids in these charters and your kids are not EDUCATED...they can simple bubble in an answer well.

      August 9, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
      • Penny Wu

        Yes – when a school can 'cherry-pick' its student body, no inferences can be drawn that can subsequently be applied to the larger population.

        But poverty is more often the outcome of a chain of bad decisions (to drop out of school, to have children without the support of a committed partner, to get involved with drugs) or genetic misfortune (low IQ, mental illness) than the cause of poor school performance.

        August 9, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
      • Linus

        What does it matter if they pick their students...the kids are still poor...which is the basis of your whole piece. If you want to shine the spotlight on one school that is bad because the kids are poor, that is fine...but you can't blanket the entire educational system like that.
        I'm sure there are school's in Beverly Hills that are filled with chaos and bedlem...and they aren't poor.
        Michelle Rhee was on the right track...she simply ran into unions that are resistent to change (another huge problem with education) and parents who are afraid to cut the cord (i.e. by extending the school day).
        Just for the record, I completely agree with you that the education system in our Country is about as screwed up as it can be, I just don't believe it is only due to the poor kids. And remember, it is that very inequality that built this nation...the world needs ditch diggers.

        August 9, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
      • Gina

        Yes Linus...Yessss, the kids are still POOR, but they WANT to be there, their parents WANT them to be there... A big part of learning is the intrinsic component!

        Most of my kids are doing well, but we have 20 to 30 to 40 percent who ONLY WANT TO SHOW UP! Hence, it is BAD behavior that is stopping teaching and learning. Even though the testing would still be a a teacher, you an fake teaching to a test if your kids have learned the core basics. KIDS can't learn in a ZOO.... Regardless of poverty.

        If YOUR evaluation depended on kids' scores LINUS....Would you want kids that come to school ready to learn, or kids that not only scrape their crack head mother off the sidewalk every morning, but kids who call you a du&* A%$ M*&^%$r BLEEPER and jump in your face every day? Which kids would you want your pay check and mortgage payment to rest on LINUS??

        August 9, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Gina

      When you can select your kids, your teachers CAN teach!! They are NO better at teaching than the teachers at my school. Come to Jones high school in HOUSTON. That would be a good show... SURVIVOR TEACHER!! lol.

      A school filled with beautiful and intelligent children who can pass those tests, but 30 to 40 percent of them are hoodlums, holding teachers and their classmates HOSTAGE in a PIT of misery....

      August 9, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
      • Penny Wu

        I am not sure who you are responding to, but I disagree with most of your points.
        (1) No one is stating that all poor kids are dumb kids. In every group you will find a distribution of intelligence and other qualities. What cherry-picking accomplishes is several things:
        – It roots out the trouble-makers, creating an environment in which the teacher can do her job and kids can focus on lessons. Teachers in public schools have their hands tied in this regard. In terms of student body, they must take what they get.
        – It surrounds kids with higher-quality peers. This raises the bar on expectation. Students have to work (much) harder just to be “average”.
        – It means that the teacher has a more homogeneous group to teach. Far less time/effort is needed to bring along less-able or less-prepared students.

        (2) No, I do not believe that schools in more upscale neighborhoods are “filled with bedlam”. The very capable, highly motivated parents would be in the principal’s face in 5 seconds, voting out school boards and bringing law suits. The reason suburban schools tend to get much better results is largely because they are more orderly environments for teaching. Better teachers (on average), less poverty and better educated parents help too.

        (3) I do agree that extending the school day, and school year, would be helpful. But it will be most helpful where kids are already doing well. Keeping kids in, for example, an inner-city disruptive class setting where education is not happening for an extra two hours a day will just mean 2 extra hours of chaos.

        (4) The world needs ditch diggers?? Please provide a link to the jobs offerings in today’s newspapers looking for ditch diggers. The collapse in demand for minimal-skilled employees is a huge problem in our country and in many other advanced economies. It is a huge factor in driving the increasing inequality of income/wealth.

        August 9, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Gina

      I actually tell them, "You keep acting up, and you will be in somebody's ditch for five dollars an hour."

      I use that ditch digging line all the time. I say it out of concern.

      Yes, many will be ditch diggers, but many, will needlessly become criminals that could attack your wife or your daughter or your granddaughter.

      I see them everyday. Beautiful and intelligent, but on the edge. Many can be saves. NOT ALL, but many. It is unacceptable that my country has a high school like Jones High School in Houston.... UNACCEPTABLE!! My sister works there.... IT is a crime!! I don't care what your poverty level is....when you enter an American School... have a pencil, sit up..shut your mouth when someone else is speaking and let's get to learning, not acting like this is juvie hall....." And that structure...that environment cannot be left for the kids to solve. They are kids. The expectation must be SET and ENFORCED.

      August 9, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Luci

      As I understand it the uniqueness of the Harlem Children's Zone is that the students needs are being met. NOt from the Normal societal supports that can be found in many poor neighborhoods, but by a condensed and completely effective system of services. And although other areas such as Hartford, Ct. areas might have some of the services that are also provided at the Harlem Children's Zone, the services are completely unconnected, and hard to find let alone utilize. Another problem is that while needs might be met by agencies or organizations, there is no process that will help eliminate the need. These are My Personal experiences. I would love to learn about what individuals have actually experienced. perhaps then we could be satisfied that we aren't wasting our time on opinions and learn that there are many situations that we just don't know about. Just because i said what i see inHartford, doesn't mean other people who live in Hartford will see it the same way. we have people debating whats going on through the entire nation. There needs to be more openness to accept the realities that NONE OF US KNOWS EVERYTHING. We barely see our own situations objectively. Long Suffering and Mercy = Love.

      August 10, 2012 at 1:20 am |
  34. Tom De

    Rhee and Ravitch make compelling arguments. There's good teachers and bad teachers. As well as problemswith Poverty and illiteracy. Imagine there are many more issues , requiring multiple approaches.
    We need to declare basically a war on illiteracy in this country .
    Would like to see our leaders ask our citizens to volunteer to help in after school programs to help under achieving students garner the basic skills in math, reading, and writing . Doubt many of these children are getting support/help from home.
    This is an opportune time with so many baby boomers retiring to help in the schools.
    This would be a rewarding experience for the retiree as well.

    I am a baby boomer that is just plain tired of complaining about so many in jail, doing crime, and welfare . Upon retiring will be volunteering to help kids in an after school program. I'm sure its not the total solution. But , I see it as a step in the right direction.

    August 9, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Gina

      Yes, Tom De...

      I have seen book talks work! I have had thousands of dollars of books stolen by kids who have reached 10th and 11th grade and have never touched a book. They have only touched reading packets and answered multiple choice tests...

      With literacy...With REAL literacy....Everything else can fall into place! When a kid reads about science with a movie in his mind, he may become that future scientist, regardless of poverty or his/her crack head mother!!

      YES.... IT'S ABOUT LITERACY. We need to move away from bubble answers and get independent READING coaches in our schools to READ OUR CHILDREN'S CREATIONS...READ THEIR PORTFOLIOS..... REAL assessment!

      August 9, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • kuhiokane

      Not just anyone can teach literacy. They can read to kids, if they're literate, but to develop literacy takes and understanding that only those who have been trained to teach kids how to learn, to listen, to be critical thinkers, to visualize, as they read. I feel the idea of citizens taking some time to read to kids is a good one, but to make them literate requires more than someone reading to them.

      August 9, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
      • Gina

        It's a good start Kuhi. You recommend multiple choice. THIS is America... by 4th Grade, we SHOULD NO LONGER BE TEACHING KIDS HOW TO READ, HOW TO READ. WE SHOULD BE TEACHING THEM HOW TO READ TO LEARN. Read to learn. Read to learn.

        I guess you would rather pay for more multiple choice tests? Do you teach? I have seen worlds change through book talks. Yes my dear. I have seen kids go from NEVER READING to reading 50 books in one year.

        So, of course, teacher training is important, but until you are a master teacher of reading and really don't know.

        August 9, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
      • Gina

        How do you teach literacy? Once you teach a kid how to read, you then have to INSPIRE literacy. Most of our kids can read, but they are NOT functionally literate. You can't teach "de-coding" forever...And, when I, and other master teachers read to our kids, it's not like how you were read to...

        We inspire life-long readers...something that a multiple choice test can NEVER do.

        August 9, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  35. Jackie

    "Teachers need tenure so they have academic freedom to teach controversial issues." Seriously? If this were an article about college professors – or possibly even high school teachers only – I might agree with this statement, but what "controversial issues" are kindergarden teachers or second grade teachers teaching that they need the protection of tenure? I am a former teacher, the daughter of a teacher, and the sister and cousin of teachers and I strongly disagree with the idea that elementary teachers (K-8) need tenure. I saw many tenured teachers who didn't care anymore and were just waiting out the time until they could retire with their cushy pension. All they did was photocopy worksheets to have their students do while they played on the internet. I'm not saying all tenured teachers do this, but I saw enough of it in inner-city Chicago schools to know it's not an isolated occurrence. And, at the end of the school year when it was time for the annual layoffs, it wasn't these teachers getting let go – it was the young, idealistic teachers who were doing everything they could during school and after school hours to help their students that were the ones being let go (I should know, it happened to me more than once).

    The author is correct that idealism and the freedome to exercise professional judgment are important to obtain and retain high quality teachers, but tenure is not. The analogy about the wood is missing a piece – there is dead wood because it was hired, or because good wood was hired but killed and then can't be fired. If schools could fire the poorly performing teachers (not based on test scores alone, but also based on peer evaluations, principal evaluations, parent evaluations, and potentially even student evaluations), they would be able to get in more idealistic teachers who would be interested in finding new and inovative ways to help impoverished students. The idealistic teachers won't change the poverty situation of the students, but they can at least try to help them rise above it.

    August 9, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • kuhiokane

      Jackie, you need some schooling. As a former teacher, I'm surprised you don't know that tenure does not protect bad teachers. I could go into some policy detail here, but you can read all about it in your local school district's copy of hiring and firing policy. Also, a good teacher is someone who can develop learning skills for students. These teachers come in all sizes and ages. That only the young, idealist teachers will be that good teacher who involves themselves in the whole child is a specious statement. You need to go into your schools and you'll find that the best teacher is one with at least 10 yrs. experience and there are many who are much more adept at providing learning experiences than just the young idealists.

      August 9, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Robert97

      I don't see an argument for tenure, at any level. So they can teach "controversial topics"? Maybe after the kids can read and write, do math, critical thinking, and at the high school or college level, making progress toward career preparation. Then the teachers can do "controversial topics."

      August 9, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  36. John NYC

    I have my children in New York City public schools, where I doubt very much Ms. Ravitch's children ever ventured.

    Diane Ravitch is living in a past where America indeed fueled the technological and industrial innovations that fashioned our modern world, driven largely by public education. But, America now lags the world in innovation and growth. A dysfunctional public school system is as much a symptom as a partial cause of that failing.

    One only has to observe first hand the hoops through which dedicated and competent School principals have to jump to avoid getting stuck with marginally competent or outright incompetent teachers or administrators to know that Ms. Rhee is more right than wrong and Ms. Ravitch is more wrong than right.

    The absurdity of measuring American education by a rigged "national" internal test that fails to put our schools to the challenge of besting the rest of a rapidly evolving global community suggests just how out of touch Ms. Ravitch is.

    My children are succeeding because we are fortunate to have them in a public school whose principal more or less "scares off" the incompetents the system sends her way. As parents we are part of her scare job, since teachers who come to one of the handful of truly great Elementary schools in the New York public school system know that parents will be lining up in the hallways in protest should they bring their ineptitude to our doorsteps. The fact that these cosseted and protected incompetents then gravitate towards schools where mediocrity and failure reign is a tragedy that could be averted if only there were more people like Ms. Rhee with the courage to challenge the power of entrenched interests, none of which is greater than the UFT.

    Ms. Ravitch is right about her diagnosis of a major cause of the problems besetting our schools. Poverty indeed plays a role, but so do dis-engaged parents and a teachers union that protects the weakest links without adequately advancing or rewarding the strongest.

    The system will fail as long as administrators and principals are hamstrung by the inability to simply fire the worst teachers without putting them in the UFT's infamous "Rubber Room" where the incompetent draw salaries for staying away from students and classrooms as the interminable termination process drags on for years.

    My vision of a better future includes Special Needs programs and schools funded by taxpayers for those who need such services and cannot afford them along with a Voucher system that will force public schools to become competitive with existing private alternatives and that would no doubt give rise to a "cottage industry" of new, alternative schools. But as long as entrenched interests make it impossible for such ideas even to get a reasonable hearing, I am not optimistic.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  37. Alice in PA

    Wow I am utterly mazed at this. Rhee, a person with almost zero experience in education and is under investigation, spouts some nonsense about failing schools and no one comments except for teachers, who know first hand that she brings nothing to the table but failed ideas. Okay, that makes sense. But whenDiane Ravitch, a respected voice in the education world, dares to suggest that the American dream is not really available to everyone and people go ballistic. She is quoting research that educators have known about since the 1960s. Real educators know that students' home life is an enormous influence on how much they learn. And we know that many of those home lives are not a positive influence on students.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Gina

      Yes Alice, but, when these kids enter an American institution, a public school, would you agree that it should be a safe place for students and teachers?

      You just can't stop at poverty and bad parenting....? Fine, but we have many who live in horrible conditions that can be saved through education–that's if a stray bullet on the way to school does not take them out.

      Once you cross the threshold of an American school...Horrible student behavior should not be tolerated.

      And, for those of you who ask, "where do we put them?" I say, figure it out. I can offer suggestions, but I know one thing, if you don't want them around your kids, then why should they be around my kids, my students....??

      Get them in a contained environment. It's not the majority. I work in a gang infested community. 70% and more can be reached...they love their school. It's that 20 to 30 percent that need not be considered money for their attendance.. Believe me, they will just "show" up.... They have nothing better to do until night falls..... GET THEM OUT>

      August 9, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  38. BLTInDC

    Lots of talk about how poorly our schools are doing, but nothing is ever done to make them safer and better for our students. Here's my observation, we are interested as a nation on who is more popular, who makes lots of money, and who draws in the most scandal. We Facebook and Tweet on all things trivial and trending and forget about dealing with the reality of our own situations. Bullying is at an all time high and academics no longer engage students. Kids aren't safe in schools. Schools are afraid of being sued and parents aren't taking responsibility for their kids actions. No ownership, no responsibility, no accountability! Public schools don't have the human and financial resources as well as support from taxpayers and the lame ass congress to teach and engage all kinds of learners, especially those with special needs. Those with the means put their kids in private schools because they are trying to give their kids a good start in life. Sadly, this is supposed to be the best country in the world, but until we all work together to make ours schools better it will never happen! I am not rich, I grew up in the public school system, I realized very quickly my education was not on par with peers I engaged with around the states and I was embarrassed. I pay my taxes and believe in supporting schools in any way that I can, but it's an uphill battle when we've lost our sense of community and doing what's right for our kids. I guess that is why I am seeing more reality shows like Toddler's and Tiaras...parents seeking fame and fortune through their, sad!

    August 9, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • westinclt

      Wow, you speak the truth, which, no one (especially legislators and other politicians) is prepared to do. Research shows that the brain can learn when emotionally content, safe, and happy. Is this the picture in our schools? Not by a long shot. We teach that the rules do not apply to everyone and THAT perpetuates the race tension and life on welfare. Sad.

      August 9, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  39. Boomer in Mo

    I'm not a teacher but spend a lot of time in lots of public schools. All but one of those schools has high levels of poverty and lots of working poor parents. Poverty often goes hand in hand with unengaged parenting, and such parenting impacts education negatively. Some parents are working two or three jobs but others are just plain lazy. They have kids and don't bother to raise them. Children copy their parents. If Mom or Dad don't read at home, the kids won't want to either. The example is reading is unimportant. Some parents can't even be bothered to get the kids on the school bus in the morning. In families, and communities, where education is viewed as important and something to be taken advantage of, students just do better despite the fact that there are some really bad teachers. Most teachers are pretty good from my experience and there is the occasional super-star teacher. If a child is EXPECTED to learn by their parents, they usually do learn. Too much blame is placed on "bad" teachers and not enough on "bad" parents.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Gina

      Yes Boomer, I am a career changer, but I, like you, think most teachers are wonderful. Yes, many are abused by incompetent principals who are abused by incompetent superintendents, causing an environment of passive aggressive women and a few men who shut down and simply walk around looking BEAT down... if it wasn't so sad, it would be funny.

      I don't care where I teach in America, this "discipline poor" environment should CEASE! It should simply be unacceptable. The kids are tortured with testing, so a moratorium is needed, and then this country should enable literacy coaches to enter these schools....

      We all know, those of us who know, that good teaching is good teaching. We all know who the good teachers are...we know who the mediocre ones are (they just need help...not torture)...and we know (so do the kids!) who the BAD ones are...As "leaders," school districts and leaders should handle it!! Don't let them fool you. Most are Good...many are AWESOME...and a few suck–Get them, and let us stop the witch hunt, so we can get these gets educated.

      August 9, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  40. Gina

    Moratorium on standardized TESTING?

    Use that money to hire LITERACY coached from around the nation. ALL teachers should be WRITING and READING instructors. Yes, even MATH teachers. Students NEED book talks. They need teachers who MODEL all lessons. They need teachers who READ OUT LOUD (even high-schoolers), and make that movie of the mind come ALIVE. ALL kids need this, from Beverly Hills to Harlem to Jones high school in Houston. Kids need to SEE their teachers write. Students need to WRITE. Students don't need worksheets or fill in the blank and for the LOVE of G-d, they don't need more multiple choice bubble in the answer.

    Use all of this testing money on literacy coaches to go into EVERY school and check PORTFOLIOS. We need to see creation. When you create a piece of writing, you can write. When you bubble in an answer, you cannot write. When you read like a writer, it's like watching a football game as a player. When you READ like a writer, you can write like that writer. When a teacher can read a book out loud and make it come to life, you will be amazed at HOW many kids want to check out that book. When you ask a kid to read a book publisher's passage, and then you ask them to bubble in an answer, you are TORTURING THEM!!!!! STOOOOOP!!!!!!!

    I can TEACH any kid, poor or rich, but I CANNOT teach when a classroom is a zoo. I cannot teach when your GT or privileged "over" achiever thinks they are SMART because they can pass a STUPID bubble answer test that gets their neighborhood listed as being in a "top" performing district. My arse! Multiple choice tests are not indicative of a quality EDUCATION.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  41. Ken

    Rareky does not read an article this long where almost every thing thing said oir claimed is wrong. Such consistent error cannot be mere happenstance; it must be intentional.

    This woman may be the nicest person in the world for all I know, but her ideas are wrong and dangerous. She should never be allowed anywhere near any teacher, classroom, school board, or educational institution of any kind anywhere in the country. In fact, decent society should shun her for expressing such pernicious "thoughts".in public.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  42. Teacher4All

    The comments are ridiculous and display a smorgasbord of ignorance. Teacher merit pay is absurd and has been proven ineffective as those that teach in communities that are predominantly made up of two parent homes where parents are hard-working and responsible professionals and/or possess high moral values always fair better than those who teach in areas where the demographics are exactly the opposite. The irony is that the teachers in the lower achieving schools often have the advanced degrees. The lack of parenting and fatherlessness is the fundamental culprit in the educational system. Poverty in itself is not the problem. I come from a family that has a history of poverty and yet doctors, nurses, educators, architects, business owners and many other responsible citizens were produced. I have seen teachers who were not good at all and yet their classes excelled with little effort on the part of the teacher.

    Why? Because the students could read and write and they had parents at home who would help them understand the textbook and would hold them accountable for homework. The teacher just literally had to assign the work and demonstrate a few examples and if they didn't get it, no problem, Mom and Dad would help them figure it out. The author is right in most of her argument, but I would have to disagree with the absoluteness of the poverty one. The former mayor of Memphis and Superintendent of Memphis City Schools was raised in poverty like many succesful people today. Poverty isn't the problem "Morality is." The result of having sex will oftentimes end with children. We have through media made it into a passtime or exercise that you indulge in with any and everybody without the protection or benefits of marriage. Facts are that 71% of high school dropouts, 71% of pregnant teenagers, and 78% of the nation's prison population comes from fatherlessness. The single parent home is a threat to a healthy society and education. Children yearn for mommy and daddy, that's their since of security that allows them to excel in any and everything. I give kudos to those who are single parents and are doing their best. I know that some situations we didn't ask for and are not our doing so I applaud you for doing what you can with what you got. I myself came from such a setting but not without scars. Unfortunately, majority of single parenting is preventable. Don't be selfish like Nia Long or Halle Berry and have children without a husband. They need the security of both parents, that they will see more than just on the weekends. This is the real-problem with our education system. "It may be tight but it's right, if you can't say Amen then Ouch is Fine."

    August 9, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  43. ibgubu

    Ms. Ravich, First of all, the USA did not go on after 1964 to become the most powerfull economy in the world. The USA was already the most powerful economy in the world as we have been since WWII. Get your facts straight. Secondly, yes we are still the most powerful economy in the world, but China is catching the USA very quickly. Ineffective teachers are a problem in our education system, but the real problem is the economics of the public schools system. Almost every public school system in the USA basis the money spent per child onm education on the wealth of the district where the school lie4s. The upper middle class children get a great education, but those living in the ghettos and poor school district do not. We punish children by providing substandard education based upon the fact that they happen to be born to poor parents. as the years progress you have more and more poor people getting even more substandard educations. People will complain that doing otherwise is Socialism. Well, the Constitution of the USA is a "SOCIAL CONTRACT." The idea of government is that the people give up some of their freedom to do whatever they want in order to have ALL people protected from other people doing whatever they want. My last point is this, the USA needs all of the brightest people that we can get to keep our country moving ahead and leadiuing the world in insustry, science, and math so we can continue being the world's most powerful economy. There could be thousands of people out their who could be that one person who is going to come up with the next "BIG" idea that will change everything. The problem is that this persons parents were poor so he went to a lousy school in the "Bad" neighborhood, and we have lost the intellect that could have propelled us to the top for years and years into the future because people think that Socialism is a bad word. People, WAKE UP! Your government was founded on a SOCIAL CONTRACT. Socialism is for the good of the entire country not just the wealthy and the corporations. Socialism is not, and never has been Communism. Grow up, think for yourselves, and lets take this country back from the wealthy and the coprporations who only want to drive wedges and put up obstacles to partisanship so they can keep their wealth and laugh and play while the poor get poorer, and the middle class ceases to exists and we end up living in Thunderdome.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  44. Michael

    After watching my son teach French and Spanish for 10 years in high school in the public schools of Mississippi and watch how the schools work, the most significant finding that I have observed is that schools are "discipline poor." The administrations have gotten to the point that their main interest is if the students are sitting quietly in their rooms and are not in the least concerned with learning. Most Mississippi public schools "teach the test" which means that they prepare the students for the tests at the end of the year that gage what rating the schools receive. There is no room for "real teaching" and "real learning" with innovative techniques. Teachers spend their days in the boredom of "teaching the test" and the impossibility of disciplining kids when the administration returns them to the room after shouting at them to be quiet, sit down and shut up. This lack of administrative support and lack of innovative teaching support is driving away good, decent teachers who know how to teach.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Gina

      YES MICHAEL! YES!!!!!!!! THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!

      August 9, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Gina


      I don't know how much more I can take; school is about to start and I am so angry.

      THE KIDS ARE THE BEST PART. The lack of support is mind-blowing. Kids will be kids, but it's up to us to make our schools safe and peaceful and a place rich in literacy and music and art.

      COMMUNICATION IS THE ESSENCE OF BEING HUMAN. Art and writing and reading and music and singing and speaking and thinking are all forms of communication....And, it's all being stifled as we scramble around standardized testing instead of what kids can create through reading and writing and speaking.

      Would we ever have a flutist display his knowledge by TAKING A STANDARDIZED multiple choice test? No.. So why do we ask our readers and writers to display their literacy by becoming master bubblers....?

      Once educate, we can all pass a silly test, but you can't test before you educate!!

      August 9, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  45. Norm

    Just another example of what's REALLY wrong with education. Whether its teachers, parents, adminstrators, students, or politicians the answer is always the same:

    "It not MY fault, its everyone else's"

    August 9, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Gina

      You teach. Then we'll see who you blame. It's not the kids, and under good leadership and with excellent training, it's surely NOT going to be the teachers.

      August 9, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  46. TJ

    Hi RL

    I know of several students who fit your description .....students are impoverished........ fathers returning to their countries.....totally dysfuntional families.........parent in prison............... BUT they still made it and made it well into college. So in my opinion poverty and other social ills don't necessarily make for a drop out!!

    I do tend to agree that 'evidenced based learning' is a good beginning of solving the problem.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  47. NorCalMojo

    Personally, I think the problem is in administration, but teachers protect them, so they shouldn't complain when they share the heat. Whenever there are budget cuts, the administrators threaten teachers jobs when they should be trimming the fat in administration. The teachers' unions play along with this tactic, so they shouldn't whine about the fall out.

    People are tired of excuses. School systems need to figure out how to work around their problems and get the job done. That's what they're paid to do.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Ann Green

      Teachers protect bad administrators? How do you know this? As a retired teacher, this was not my experience. I can assure you that is a terrible and difficult situation to teach in a school with a bad administrator. Having worked with a bad administrator in the past, I don't know any of my former colleagues who ever provided "protection". Furthermore, suggesting that teacher unions support administrative "fat" is entirely off the mark. Teacher unions exist to represent and support teachers, not administrators. Given the sad state of public school funding in my state (WI), our district has had a razor thin administrative staff for years. As far as your comment, "School systems need to figure out how to work around their problems and get the job done.", what on earth do you think educators do? I worked in three different school systems (2 public, 1 private) during my nearly 30 year career. Improving student achievement was always the priority. It's extremely difficult to do in high poverty schools – not an excuse, simply a fact. Ravitch's examples are spot on.

      August 9, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  48. 4Mel

    I agree with posters who say that not all teachers will perform at the same level – it's true in any profession. Some are just better than others. Nothing personal – it's a complicated combination of personality, education/training, raw intelligence, and sometimes people just aren't a good fit for their job. It happens.

    At the same time, students aren't all going to perform well in the mainstream. Some, no matter how hard we try, are simply not going to excel. In fact, some will inevitably fail regardless of their socioeconomic situation. It doesn't mean anyone is doing anything wrong, nor does it mean we leave the others to fend for themselves. We just need to accept the fact that there are always going to be stratifications in accademic performance.

    What makes the U.S. a global leader is that our top students, rich or poor, those with the ability to truly excel, have the resources necessary to do so.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  49. mklsgl

    Both are wrong to a certain degree. There are lots of lousy teachers and merit-based pay doesn't weed them out. Poverty is a problem only when the community enables it to be.

    The true measure of successful teachers happens when their students score well on the their college entrance and placement exams.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Alan


      College isn't for everyone, and students who choose the trades, military, etc. are not failures.

      August 9, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  50. ICkaBod

    Actually both these ladies are wrong. The reason kids in some public schools have poor test scores is that many of these kids have below average IQ's.

    It is not polite or politically correct to say this but its the truth. There is a serious brain drain away from inner city and some rural public school districts. Anyone one smart enough to afford it in these areas leaves or sends their kids to private shcools.

    Many of these kids are just plain "not-bright". Many of their parents (or parent) are also not bright and do not read well if at all at home, and do not read to their kids when young to help then learn words and the concepts/ideas behind them. Bed-time stories anyone? No – – just plug in a cartoon movie CD and let them fall asleep watching it.

    Lets face the hard truth about this. I am sorry if this ofends your pride out there. It is the truth and everyone knows it.

    Another big problem is that most parents are brainwashed into thinking that all their kids should go to college. Another huge problem in education. Young people should be encouraged to go into trade schools to get real jobs.

    And don't get me started on all those college "studies" programs for women, blacks, etc. – – how worthless can you get. What do you do with a 4 year degree in women's studies? Study women?

    And to top it off let me also say that most of the liberal arts and sciences are worthless in college for a using later in life. Don't tell that Basket-Weaving PHD hippie professor lady/guy know what you really think of their art history major or they will explode on you.

    Science, Tech, Research, Management, Analysis, Production, etc. Anything else is just a hobby and should be treated as such.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • 4Mel

      Totally agree on your first two points. Someone is always going to get the best score, and someone will always get the worst score. And college isn't the best fit for everyone.

      I do disagree, however, with your point about liberal arts degrees. A good liberal arts education - one in language, history, philosophy, etc. - can teach and refine critical thinking, research techniques, analysis, writing, and a number of other skills that are fundamental to performance in the professional business world.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Gina


      You are funny! Wow. I have taught several AP classes in high poverty schools. My kids could probably run circles around you and yours. Sadly, my AP kids are surrounded by horrendous behavior, lost in the shadow of a school whose 30 to 40 percent should be removed, but instead, those who choose not to learn are a reflection of the majority on the bell curve incompetent philosophy of American education.

      You must be joking... ha ha... ?

      August 9, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  51. BLKvotingAmerican

    WOW, this is the same message that has been stated over and over again in America since before the 1920's and still people in this country act as like "so what"............SAD. Go ahead greedie American's continue down your slipper slop but DO NOT cry when you reach rock bottom AGAIN.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • ThinkBigger

      Are teachers entirely responsible for a child's education, no. Are they partially responsible, yes. The problem with all things Americans concern themselves with and what's reported is the lack of middle ground. I went to public school my entire educational career and in fairness, I was a bad student. However, some teachers knew how to control the situation (me at times) and others did not. Some teachers knew how to engage their students, and others did not. Some teachers knew how to...TEACH! My biggest issue with the teacher's side of this story (or at least what I hear is their side) is that they want to have us believe that it's not their fault at all and that holding them responsible (firing bad teachers) is tantamount to treason. I see people around me get fired when they do a bad job, and I see people get raises when they do a good job. And therin lies an issue. If I can't lose my job for being bad at it, and I can't get paid more for being good at it, then what do you think the outcome will be. I don't know what studies have been done of merit pay but I'll take Ravitch's word for it that it hasn't worked. Then change the way it's done. Hold principals and school administration responsible to assign merit if test scores are unfair. Will some teachers (employees) be mad at what the principal (boss) decides, sure they will. But that's life and this isn't third grade field day anymore where everybody gets a ribbon. Treat teachers like their job is, well a job and then maybe they'll have teh mindset to pass that onto the students – Isn't that what mom used to tell us about going to school?

      August 9, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  52. yneemee

    Teachers ARE part of the problem... some of them....
    as are parents... some of them...
    as are students...some of them
    Poverty while not helpful is meaningless... many people born in poverty ... former presidents, former slaves, plenty of common folks have risen past poverty and been successful. The entitlement society is going to be in for tough times when all this falls apart and there is no longer anyone else to blame

    August 9, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  53. BSmeter

    do we have to choose only one problem or the other????????

    August 9, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  54. Gina

    Poverty is an issue, but the bigger issues for ALL American students is the testing. Our kids are bored. Our kids don't love reading or writing, the backbone of every subject. Our kids who can "pass" the test think they are accomplished. The parents of kids who can "pass" the test mistakenly believe their kids are getting a quality education. A good number of kids in "low" performing school ARE passing the tests, but SO WHAT? I've seen the tests. These tests are LOW level. These tests are not what our children can create. Guessing or correctly answering a "bubble" in test does not make your kid smarter than the kids who can pass that "same" test in the Ghetto.

    Most teachers will tell you that if a class room is out of control, no learning is happening. ONE kid, just ONE kid can SHUT DOWN A ROOM. From what I have seen, the more poverty ridden, and the higher the grade level, the worse the behavior becomes (predictable).

    This "behavior" gap is not the MAJORITY of students, but in our lower performing schools, when you have 8 to 10 big boys out of 35 trying to stop instruction, IT'S OVER! This is the problem. Under NCLB, many of these hoodlums (who deserve an education in an alternative setting) are MONEY for the school. They encourage the kids to show up for ATTENDANCE. These kids show up and in many ways, RUN the school. It is the most sickening thing I have ever seen.

    I don't care about poverty, but I expect ALL American schools to be SAFE at ALL times! A PUBLIC school should be safe and a place of PEACE at ALL times. Period.

    And, no. Your top performing district is not necessarily a district that promotes rich literacy through reading and writing, which is the back-bone of ALL subjects. From Beverly Hills to Gangland USA, we are functionally illiterate, and we no longer teach cursive in our public schools–Disgraceful.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Sharon

      I am a teacher who taught both before and after testing came in. There are negative to testing but there are also some positive. It focuses teachers on making sure students are truely mastering the topics. Before testing and in untested topics such as science and social studies, teachers, students and parents do not focus on making sure mastering is truely happening.. A topic was taught quickly, if you got it great, if not you move on. This is far worst. Children and parents need a goal. Today with testing, we teach a topic, give a test and then go back on work on topics we still are not mastering. As a math teacher I can honestly say math knowledge is far greater on average the. It was 10 years ago when I began

      The negatives: The results of the tests are being used for the wrong purposes . Since a teacher can be fired and principals replaced and schools closed based on these test result

      August 9, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
      • Gina


        A multiple choice test does NOT show mastery?? Portfolio testing would show mastery.

        O M G.

        August 9, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
      • Gina

        Many of the 7th and 8th graders that I taught...barely know their multiplication tables...and, I 'm not blaming the teachers... Even for math...Literacy is the key.

        August 9, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Sharon

      I am a teacher who taught both before and after testing came in. There are negative to testing but there are also some positive. It focuses teachers on making sure students are truely mastering the topics. Before testing and in untested topics such as science and social studies, teachers, students and parents do not focus on making sure mastering is truely happening.. A topic was taught quickly, if you got it great, if not you move on. This is far worst. Children and parents need a goal. Today with testing, we teach a topic, give a test and then go back on work on topics we still are not mastering. As a math teacher I can honestly say math knowledge is far greater on average the. It was 10 years ago when I began

      The negatives: The results of the tests are being used for the wrong purposes . Since a teacher can be fired ,principals replaced and schools closed based on these test result, teachers and administrators are focusing far two much time on test prep. In my school we devote 6 weeks. This intensive extra test prep of drilling in test taking skills etc is just to boost scores a few points to meet some stupid growth formula goal. It does not add to student overall understanding

      Testing is needed but the results should just be used to evaluate areas of improvement . Without testing their is non target to achieve. The anti-testing crowd tends to be the anti-completion leftist socialist crowd. Without competition we do not compel ourselves to do better. Let's just not keep score in a basketball game

      August 9, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  55. HearTheTruth

    August 9, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • johntaylorgatto

      Public education is designed to fail.....what "democratic" country would allow its education to be so under-funded when 30+% of the average citizens' income is given straight to international banking, and NOT to public services?

      August 9, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  56. Rex

    American education is failing because American culture is failing. Quit blaming it on teachers, money for schools, etc. Our kids don't place an importance on education because their parents don't feel it is important. While everyone in American knows about Michael Phelps, Gabby Douglas, Lady Gaga, etc, as well as all of their vital statistics, very few can tell you who the lead engineer is for the Curiosity rover (or, for that matter, what the Curiosity Rover is), or what is the significance of the Higgs boson. Our kids are mirrors of ourselves, and until we as a society place more emphasis on math and science than on sports, celebrity, or who is winning DWTS, then why would be expect our kids to be interested in science? Only when we start elevating mathmaticians, engineers, and scientists to the level of rock stars (or higher) will we be able to turn this around.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • AM

      Rex, you're comment is the most intelligent yet. I could not agree more.

      August 9, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
      • Name*Gaby


        August 10, 2012 at 1:23 am |
  57. marineace

    They're both right.....

    August 9, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  58. DiscoveredmyPassion

    WOW...I enjoyed reading the different comments but I have to be honest about my view since I am in the classroom 95% of the school. Not only am I a substitute teacher but a tutor/mentor/an advocate for children/youth abroad. I am also a single parent who raised 5 beautiful children who are now grown and productive. I have spent the last 4 1/2 years working in the classroom, and though I agree wholeheartly with Ravitch who definitely made some valid point so did Ms. Rhee but very little valid point. Ms. Rhee mentioned that students haved low tests scores do not reflect on poverty and it's an excuse, is an insult to our intellect. The question I have for her is when was the last time you have spent 50% if not 95% in the classroom, not to mentioned in the urban communities??... What box is she in that she apparently have not engaged to see that poverty affects our children's progress to excel. Ms. Ravitch, you most certainly hit it on the nail how our children are affected by lack of food, medical issues, parental involvement to name a few. We cannot continue to ignore the major problems that are affecting our children's progress to succeed on any test. In addition, I believe that 65% of parenting involvement is essential to their child 's success. As a single working parent, I raised 5 children and made sure that I was involved in their education. There was no compromising. When I remained involved my children did exceptionally well. Their attitude lit up when I showed up at their games, teacher-parent conferences, and attending PTA meetings. My involvement with my children was not only at school but at home. Family time is as significant to a child's success and I am a witness to that fact. I am proud to say that I have a daughter who became a nurse when she was 24 yrs old and she is now a liaison for Tri-Health who specialized in Oncology; I have a daughter who is a supervisor for Anthem, a daughter who is studying to be a lawyer but also wants to be a teacher, a daughter who is gifted as a cosmotologist and a great artist, and finally, my son who became a MVP twice in his freshman and senior year in high school and then a tenacious leader in his junior year. His senior year he was award a Leader for the Star, and was given the proclamation from the commissioner of Hamilton County. He was also awarded a full Basketball scholarship at a Christian College and now prepared to complete his degree at Kentucky State this 2012-13 school year. Regardless of the test given, no educators should turn a blind eye to know what the problems are, there are several and it has to be rectify to assure that our students are receiving what they need. Parents involvement must be involve to assure of their child's success. Blaming is not going to help, there are teachers who don't care and those who do...I say eliminate those who don't and the ones who do be given the recognition for their effort and continue with educating our children effectively. I have committed whether I am a Sub teacher but my responsibilities to all of our children lies in my hands to give everything I got to make sure they succeed. I may not reach them all but those I reach will not leave school uneducated. If we do not work as a team, we have already failed. Stop the blame game and let's come up with some solution to help our students to excel.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  59. Alfred Hussein Neuman

    I like mike. But I would throw in teachers unions that protect teachers above educating and above children.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  60. Kim

    Wow – this author is a delusional apologist. The public education system in the US is for the most part, and more than almost any other issue in the country, a national disgrace.
    1. The US economy is strong – not because of the public school system. The US economy is strong because of innovators, a good deal of privately educated elites, a good deal of foreign educated people, and a formerly strong blue collar work ethic.
    2. Poverty is a factor, but is also an excuse. Asian kids in poverty always do better in school than other kids because of their cultural priorities and pressures.
    3. Rhee does not merely blame teachers – she has worked hard to change the way the administration and unions function.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Gina


      The American Black living in poverty has a legacy that the Japanese immigrant does not. I teach kids in poverty, and all I need is administrative support, so those who act like animals in my classroom are quickly removed. The system encourages their attendance, so they can make money. Teachers are THREATENED if attendance is "late" because that is how they get paid.

      I don't think poverty is a good excuse, but I also don't think an American high school should be a holding pen. That is the disgrace. I have taught brown, black, and white kids of poverty to write at levels that soar beyond their rich American counterparts, but that can't happen if my school is a holding PEN for white, black, brown, or Asian thugs.....

      How sad. Noone gets it! The solutions are simple. Stop testing and let kids READ and Write and have a place of peace where teachers can teach.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Mimi

      Agree with Mimi. I work with a family from the Middle East as a volunteer for the Refugee Service. Five of the 6 children in the family who are in school are honor roll students, and will likely get full scholarships to college. They are so very poor and live in public housing, have so little in the way of material things . The parents barely speak English, but those kids are eager to learn and willing to go the extra mile to make the highest grade possible. They've helped each other overcome great odds. They also have discipline in their home and follow traditional values they've learned from their honest, hard-working parents. Teachers get no respect from their students because their parents have not taught them how to respect anyone. Many times, it's the old saying "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" when it comes to kids. How sad.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Mike


      You really believe that the only reason the American economy is so strong is because of privately educated elites? What nonsense.

      You obviously haven't been in a school. Not all "Asian" kids do better, particularly those who come from poverty. Whether you choose to admit it or not, poverty IS the single best predictor of student outcomes in school

      In addition, if you simply compare our schools with low levels of poverty to those with similar rates around the world (i.e. comparing our schools with less than 5% poverty to Finland) we outperform them all.

      August 9, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
      • Gina

        I work in schools with high poverty. My kids score off the charts when behavior is controlled. My kids do just as well as the kids down the street when the environment is free of bad behavior and the principals are not giving the kids snickers bars. Yes, poverty is an indicator, but it's the behavior and the horrible testing that is hurting the kids.

        August 9, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • BHBQ

      Amen Kim. Doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of Crazy.

      August 9, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Gina

      If Rhee supports standardized testing and merit pay...she is a FOOL.

      August 9, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  61. bing520

    It is not fair to compare American K-12 with that of other advanced nations. American educational system is different. The difference is reflected in the achievement of American higher education, which is still unmatched in the world. While American high school graduates knows less than their counterparts in other advanced nations, American produces a large number of superior college graduates and postgraduates. For the past 60 years, any foreign student serious about advancing his/her knowledge wanted to come to an American university. The trend has not abated. Compared with foreign freshmen who have already been indoctrinated with knowledge difficult for 16-year-olds to really comprehend and digest, American freshmen come to higher education as a clean slate, free to pursue without preconditioning whatever their hearts desire. This is the beauty of American education though it has a big drawback, which is, American high school graduates inadequate in math and language will not be able to compete with, let’s say, Japanese graduates in today’s manufacturing environment that demands a worker’s understanding of math and complex manual.

    For Michelle Rhee to focus on the disparity in test scores between American and foreign students, it is to misunderstand American education.

    American educators, faced with a huge diversity in student body, must select a common denominator vastly different from that German, French, Japanese or Chinese educators would select in a more homogeneous society. A Chinese high school graduate would normally be equipped with in-depth knowledge of Chinese philosophy, but know little about other cultures. A typical American graduate would know a lot more about other cultures. It is hard to measure success in this regard.

    I think poverty plays a lesser role than Diane Ravitch claims. Ours is one of the richest nations in the world. Many less wealthy nations have much better international scores than the US. The unequal distribution of income is a fact in all nations. Our income distribution is ranked at 26th among OECD nations. (South Korea, #1, and Italy at the bottom) If poverty is a reason, our test score should not be at the bottom.

    Poverty level is defined differently by each country. Comparison across nations is difficulty. Our national poverty is at 9.3%. It is not clear how many poor kids were tested in this countries and how many kids were tested in other countries. Ravitch’s conclusion that American poor kids drove down our test scores lacks supporting evidence and premature.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  62. RBeane

    For everyone who has been continuing Rhee's rhetoric.

    Are you willing to stay with our students in poverty? Making sure they are fed, bathed, and have gotten enough sleep? When mom and BF get into a fight at 3am are you going to break it up so the student can sleep? When dad's GF #3...4...5...starts staying at the house and treating the children more like unwanted pets than kids, will you be there to stop it? How about in the morning when grandma is working her first job and the kids need to be up and ready for school, will you shoulder that responsibility as well? After school when grandma is working job #2, will you go over to babysit and make sure there is food on the table? Will you do the same for all of the kids who's sole parent/adult in their lives is working 3rd shift? On that first day of school will you make sure all of the kids have new clothes and are bathed? If not, what do you recommend we as educators should do to boost their confidence around their peers? Who will be the person to brush the kids teeth so they will speak out loud without feeling self conscious about their breath? Since students in poverty live by rules very different than the middle class values that the school is based upon, will you be a big brother/big sister to mentor them on how to behave in class? We need representatives for many of the students with special needs as well because their parents will not show up for required meetings that determine the course of action needed for their child. The schools also need lots of athletic and band equipment for the students that cannot afford it. Participation in extracurricular activities goes a long way toward making students feel welcome and a part of the school, can you afford to supply us with what the students can't afford themselves?

    Michelle Rhee has had one quote in her educational tenure that I have respected and tried to follow and it went something like this: Adult conveniences should never get in the way of what's best for kids. She could go much further and connect more people if she would focus on this one.

    Loyal concerned citizens of America, where do your conveniences stack up? Can you fill our student's in poverty needs?

    August 9, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • DiscoveredmyPassion

      RBeane, you are on target. You've expressed what I know goes on with these kids lives and that what educators needs to understand. Are we willing to go the extra mile to help them is the question, I love you for that. That's the reality!!!

      August 9, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Alan

      Poverty is NOT the problem. In the 1900's most of America was in poverty. Kids went to school and learned. Parents were in the home. Education was a value. It was worth more than new Michael Jordan shoes or "gold teef." Look at any KIPP Academy which is down the street from a failing school and you will see success. Why? Because there, parents support the system, kids know they will be held accountable and teachers don't belong to unions. No poverty is not the issue. We know that because all the well-educated people who come from Africa are great successes and have all made "our" poverty (which means no gold teef or new Jordans) to look like living in the land of riches. Stop making babies out of wedlock, clean yourselves up, pick your pants up off your ass, and accept responsibility for your kids. Then, kids will have a chance.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
      • Gina

        Again.. many don't have parents... So, do we just abandon them and use our schools as testing ground for multiple choice tests...

        These same tests are also being given to the kids who do have parents...? It's all connected... NO longer a nation of swimmers... We are all floaters...and many are sinkers.

        August 9, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • BHBQ

      I will gladly do so. I grew up in a home with an alcoholic mom and absentee father in spanish harlem. Everyone I grew up with in my neighborhood has been in prison at least once. I went through the NY public school system and on to Law school at UVA. I can tell you my success was a mixture of many things, but good teachers make a difference. Thanks to Matthew Pearson, teach for America teacher I had in HS. He showed me what education could really be like. No thanks to the many teachers who read the paper in class while we did problems out of the book. They ruined most of my friends. Poverty is never an excuse, it should be a motivation. I never wanted my family to grow up the way I did. More important than education, I can tell you are values. I had many influences in my life that taught me the value of hard work, honesty, diligence and respect. That has carried me further than all the books I read, or stuff I forgot that my teachers taught. Teachers that don't model that for their students should be fired, period. No ifs ands or buts.

      August 9, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  63. Donald Paul Winston

    Wow. This is the first sensible thing about schools and teachers I've ever read on the internet. It's dumfounding how Rhee and other clowns like here can be taken seriously when they blame teachers for the real or imagined poor academic performance of our nation's students.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  64. disagreement

    In my mind, the biggest problem is American culture. Most people just don't care about achieving anymore. In Japan, parents understand the importance of school and make sure their kids are doing well which fosters a competitive spirit in their children.

    Here in America, half of the parents couldn't care less. Kids are often made into outcasts for putting serious effort into school. The only way to fit in is to be a total d bag who does drugs and plays football. These kids go through life not realizing the importance of learning until they are working at a low paying, unfulfilling job, or can't find work at all.

    Hey they can still go to college though and get some nonsense degree that requires no effort to avoid reality for another 2-4 years. And if not that they can try to be the next Kim Kardashian or Charlie Sheen. WAHOO

    August 9, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  65. huxley

    Inattentive parents are the real problem. 2 parents (or 1 parent in single parent household) working, expecting the schools to raise their latch-key kids for them. No sense of community, no supervision. XBox is the only babysitter.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Joe from Indy

      They don't expect the schools to raise their kids in most cases. They have to make a living to raise the kids. If they stay at home, you'd be saying, "lazy parents won't get a job so I have to pay for their welfare check". People like you are the problem. You could just try contributing positively.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
      • Gina

        No Joe... Many do drop their kids off like it's day care.... I can't reach 70% of my parents due to bad or disconnected numbers. But that's ok. I just need principals and a system that removes the animals.

        August 9, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
      • Gina

        It kills me when 70% of my kids lose a day of learning because of 30% who think school is a zoo.

        August 9, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Gina

      Again, with the parents. We know this? So now what? American classrooms need to be safe, so those kids who don't have parents CAN LEARN.

      August 9, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  66. Jjchicago

    I graduated from a public high school in Illinois. I can say with confidence that I had a lot horrible, lazy, uninspiring teachers with low standards for their students. I also a few amazing teachers. Unfortunately, they still had low standards and gave out a lot of high grades to lazy students. If you want to know what is wrong with the school system, ask graduates of the system.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • snowdogg


      "ask graduates of the system."

      Didn't you mean... "axe graduates of the system" ? LOL

      August 9, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • niknight

      Unfortunately, the low standards required by teachers to pass classes (especially in urban areas) is not at their discretion. Since Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), which is the metric that schools are graded on under NCLB, takes failure rates into account, many of the lower performing urban school districts actually limit how many students can fail. The first school I worked at had such a policy. We could fail no more than 10% of the students, or we would jeopardize our AYP scores. This unfortunately means that students can be as lazy as they want, so long as they aren't in the bottom 3 of their class, and they will still pass.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
      • Gina

        Nlknight is correct...during meetings, my urban school actually color codes graphs (lol) to show all teachers who has the HIGHEST and LOWEST failure rate.

        Many teachers understand that it's more about the learning than the grade, but in today's world, sometime we HAVE to use the grades as leverage.... Especially in high school-they are terribly grade hungry....

        August 9, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Donald Paul Winston

      You are a bozo. Blame yourself when you get a bad score on a test, not the teacher.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
      • Jjchicago

        You called me a "bozo" but you didn't even comprehend what I wrote. I never received a bad grade in high school. I always did well regardless of how much I studied. I wish someone had given me a poor grade to motivate me to work harder.

        August 9, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Silence

      Jjchicago Were you one of those lazy students? Or are you a troll for the likes of Rhee? How do you know that these teachers were not already being told what they could teach, how they could teach and what standard of grading they could use. Many schools will not allow teachers to give many Ds and Fs.
      By the way, Chicago's school system is not like the school systems in the rest of the country. To paint the entire American school system with the same brush is just plain lazy.

      August 9, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
      • Jjchicago

        I didn't go to public school in Chicago. I went to a small public school in northern Illinois. Sadly, it is considered a great public school.

        August 9, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • Gina

      JP...what you don't understand is that the system forces many of these teachers to teach to a multiple choice test.

      If I were to guess, I bet your teachers were also simply beat down by the horrendous behavior of your classmates who count as money for the school.. If they show up, the school gets paid.

      Teachers who love teaching, find becoming a daycare provider or pseudo-police officers, to be very disheartening. I only make it through because I consider it WAR. I'll be doggone if I become a day care provider. I RANG that panic button as many times as I had to in order to get the criminals OUT.

      August 9, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  67. BHBQ

    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."

    Does Ms. Ravitch live in the real world. If this is true, why don't they work for free out of idealism. Why are teachers always fighting for higher pay and more benefits. The reality is pay is an outward sign of achievement in our society (not perfectly correlated, but nonetheless relevant). This article is a silly argument. Yes teachers need to be supported, but everyone in every job needs to be held accountable. You can't overcome all of the obstacles that stand in the way of kids learning, but if you can't move the process forward, you should get out of the way. Teachers unions are in the way as they are not moving the process forward. We need support for teachers and merit pay, and good evaluation metrics, and instant firing of ineffective teachers and school choice, etc. These are not mutually exclusive. They are all necessary in providing a better education for our kids.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Donald Paul Winston

      What crap. Teachers are the most idealist people in the country. They do not become teachers to make a lot of money. They want to teach kids. You are out to lunch.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
      • BHBQ

        Donald you are speaking to one. I taught HS in the South Bronx. Don't tell me what moves my compatriots. I have seen the good an the bad amongst my fellow teachers.

        August 9, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • J

      What if "crack" comes into the community. Should the teacher that sacrificed their health and time working tirelessly to take care of these children loose their job, (the test scores will certainly go down)? What if the child's family is going through sickness or divorce (which is very common)? The child will certainly have lower scores due to these factors. So, should the teacher be fired then?

      What about pay? Teachers have to fight to keep up with inflation. The school boards cut their pay and health care at every chance. Public school teachers in my state must have at least the equivalent of a masters degree. Shouldn't the teachers be able to afford to raise their family in a normal house in a normal neighborhood. We went to graduate school and have many loans to pay back. I don't think that is too much to ask for.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Joe from Indy

      Pay is not a sign of achievement of anything but a higher paycheck. Capitalism is NOT a meritocracy. You live in a fantasy land if you think otherwise. People work really hard in low pay jobs and can't get anywhere because they are too busy trying to make ends meet to get an education or look into the ways of getting help with one. People that do go to school are often times not even able to find a decent job that pays for what they are worth because the rich are reaping the benefits off the backs of the lower and middle classes without doing much work. And most of those people were born into money. Being born into money isn't an outward sign of achievement of anything.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • eliotpound

      "They are all necessary in providing a better education for our kids."

      And so are the commas you fail to include in your version of something called prose. Beyond that, you are out to lunch. Come spend a day in my low-income, poverty-stricken classroom, please.

      August 9, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Gina

      Come teach for a week 🙂 Don't believe the hype.

      August 9, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  68. jorge washinsen

    The best sign that some will always live in povety is that we have to go out of the country to get people willing to pick our crops. We have plenty of uneducated here to fill the jobs.There are so many who will die on our streets from some form of violence before any of what they did learn is put to practice. When our society was convinced by l;iberal government that they ,and they alone, could solve their problems the battle was lost.Socialism is now complete.Old Kruschev said many years ago in his communist style "I will bury you without firing a shot."

    August 9, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  69. SaveTheUSA

    Who's the 666 clown?

    August 9, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  70. Contra Archy

    The only evidence of "failed schools" in America that I've ever encountered are the comments to news stories on the Internet. Of course, that would be a self selected sample....

    August 9, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  71. mimi

    "It takes a village to raise a child" every one plays an important role in a child's academic life and of course it begins with each individual parent/s and moves onto the influential adults in a persons life. Public schools are just a mirror of what's out there in the culture/society. Public Education is like a public swimming pool; everyone comes to pee in the same hole, and just the same every drinks the water. But undoubtedly, there are more students in our present day society that are displaying more mental illnesses than in previous times, i.e. (1940 – 1960's) . More children than ever before are being born from unwanted conceptions, raised in broken marriages, not well educated adults, being raised by grandparents, single parents, parents in jail, parents who have been laid off, or are drug abusers. Studies have proven that a child that is loved, accepted, nurtured and trained under the some spiritual guidance i.e. religion or active faith of parents, Christian, Judaism, Hinduism, Muslim, Buddhist, ect. are better off emotionally, and well adjusted socially than other children/students. So the best that a loving, caring parent can do as far as education is concerned is to choose between homeschooling, or private school. Public schools unfortunately are managed by a government bureaucracy that has become dysfunctional bec. they have left out the essential; fear and acknowledgement of a G_d. Which equals taking out the moral compass by which a human needs guidance to become a productive, responsible citizen.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • lrosy

      I totally agree with you. It is so sad to read or hear people like Rhee making this kind of statements. Only God knows how we the teachers work in the classrooms to help the children. I am tired of people like Rhee and tired of the system Thanks for your comment.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • raw28

      So from your reasoning, children are doing poorly because God is missing out of their single-parent household and their untreated mental illness makes their often jailed father upset. Thus, they need religion as a buffer from poor teachers and high poverty rates.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • mklsgl

      I hope you're not a parent or a teacher.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  72. Syed W. Ali

    The author is wrong. Being "poor" is a stat, not a reason why the children are not doing well. Parental support is key to child's success. Kids from well-off households fare well because parents make the choices required for success.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • david menzies

      The author must not be a high school, middle school, or elementary school teacher, nor a parent of a child in school, nor serve on a school board, nor live in a community with low-performing schools. Her byline reads like your typical "ivory tower" pseudo-intellectual dispensing her wisdom from on high.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Toufong

      The author is CORRECT. Poverty–not having enough to eat, living in fear of losing your home, living in a neighborhood of crime, living in a squalid environment–DOES have an affect on educational performance.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • niknight

      Or maybe the reason that poor parents have less involvement with their children is because they are working two full time jobs to make just enough money for rent and food. It has nothing to do with their decision making process

      August 9, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Sharon

      The term "poverty line" in the LBJ great society and popular liberal meaning (money) hold no weight in the education discussion except to draw the parallels that lazy, sick(mentally or physically) and drug addicted people have less money and whose children perform poorly at school. Giving them more money, providing free healthcare, housing etc has not make a dent in their problems educationally or emotially . It is a failed methodology .

      Both rich brats and poor ghetto children who receive poor parenting and love do equally bad in school. The problem is the same, the lack of love and proper home training on manners, work ethic etc leads to poor performance in school.

      All Low income children in the country receive free healthcare, vison care, free school lunch etc. That is not a real issue of need. The problem is that many of the worst parents do not bring thier child to check ups reguarly . In addition there are a large population of chronically Ill children or thier parents which does negatively effect educational outcomes. With that said, doctors orders are not always followed or patents send thier children to school infrequently

      August 9, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  73. tal180

    My sister is a substitute teacher in the Tampa Bay area and said the most difficult thing in teaching is that most of the kids do not speak english and they think it's funnly to speak spanish in class. They couldn't care less if they get an education or not. Just there for the free lunch.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  74. joe providence

    Education does not equal success, a high standard of living or relative economic stability – Japan is the perfect example of that – a highly competitive based society fixated by national tests and stringent educational scrutiny has resulted in a wealth of highly skill and educated part time temp workers who are dismissed summarily for the slightest infractions – most are living in what we would consider substandard lives devoid of security, self respect or dignity. We don’t need to all be rocket scientists or business wiz’s to have rewarding and full lives – I refuse to be dictated to and forced to live in a mold that big business designed in their self interests – we find success and richness by demanding it for ourselves and letting them know that it’s the price they must pay to exist in our world.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  75. Homer

    Student poverty is the cause of poor educational achievement? Huh? This author is engaging in a self serving shell game.
    Maybe, just maybe, the poor educational system is causing the poverty in the first place.
    Maybe, just maybe, the test scores averages would be higher IF we were not hung up on trying to provide education to people who come here illegally, who live in poverty because they send what money they do have home, and don’t even speak English.
    Maybe, just maybe, the system would function better if the educators themselves had done a better job of sticking to basics rather than wandering off into all sorts of trendy “new” teaching techniques and programs.
    Maybe, just maybe, the system would function better if there were far less overpaid “administrators” sucking up the resources needed in the classrooms
    No, poverty is not THE cause of the problems. The problems are the result of a systemic failure brought on in no small part by the educators themselves.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Jimmy B


      Yeah, it's pretty simple stuff Homer. See, if the kids are starving from hunger when they get to school? It kind of makes it difficult for them to focus on the school work. And if they're concerned that their family is about to be evicted from their apartment? They're priorities are not centralized around studying for their history test. See how it works?

      August 9, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • depressionbaby

      Not maybe; PROBABLY, or even CERTAINLY!

      August 9, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
  76. Walter

    Average starting salary of a teacher...$37k....ten year mean salary...$51k

    Average starting salary of a business administration major...$65k....ten year mean salary...$110k

    It really doesn't take a genius to figure out why the brightest and best are not going into teaching.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  77. jorge washinsen

    Even if you can can afford to send your kids to private schools you are still going to have to pay for the loafers who will never change.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Fred

      Private school students do a lot better statistically ... mostly because the parent's have the means to provide these children with an environment conducive to learning. Poverty is the biggest problem ... but I blame the broken welfare system for all this. People (parent's) are addicted to the "easy", yet very poor life. I work in the Bronx, the welfare cycle in some families is 3 to 4 generations long. I know parents that feel proud about having food stamps. It's sad.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  78. Christopher Manion

    Tenure for grade school teachers? High school teachers? What a laugh! Tenure is for scholars doing original research, not for "public servants" teaching a curriculum designed by someone else.

    Why do so many millions of students - high school "graduates" arriving at the college level - need remedial math, reading, English, and basic science before they can even walk into a college classroom? 90% in California's community colleges, 50% in their State College system, and 30% in the "elite" university system.

    Ms. Ravitch, fifty years of the war on poverty have merely enriched millions of bureaucrats like yourself, while leaving the poverty level right where it was. Isn't it time we tried something else?

    In the meantime: This is a poor flakking for incompetent teachers and powerful unions.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Brad

      I could not agree more sir. Ms. Ravitch opted to selectively pull out statistics that suggested americian students were actually performing better than critics state... and then immediately went on to point out that americans succeeded in the 60's DESPITE being in the bottom tier for international standards. American public schools are not doing well. Like any organization that is failing, you have to look at the management first. Our public education management is more concerned with pension plans and tenure than they are with coming up with a systemic, sustainable action plan to improve our children's performance in math, and the sciences.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Keith

      My thoughts exactly. What controversial subjects is she babbling about!

      August 9, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  79. BillyBob117

    What a BS article--poverty is not the issue-trillions of dollars have been thrown at the school systems since the 60's. The students are being taught by a union that revises history and spends more time with their hands out that trying to properly teach the students. Why is it the left constantly believes that more and more of our money must be thrown into a broken system-Then the left keeps lowering the poverty bar, so all can be under their thumb--

    August 9, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Toufong

      Denying the facts doesn't change the reality.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • LevelHeaded

      Poverty IS the problem. If you don't believe it, go to the NAEP website ( and run the test score stats for white kids by Free/Reduced Lunch status (i.e. family income). The scores are consistent across the board. The kids on free/reduced lunch score lower on average than the kid who can pay for their lunch. It's the same for every racial group. Standardized tests reflect family income, as well as exposure to the majority culture. It does not reflect intelligence, potential, or how good or bad a teacher is.

      August 9, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  80. chuck

    Douch e bag

    August 9, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  81. TomHank

    What are you trying to prove? We have more than enough trolls already.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  82. JohnN

    I don't accept any argument that lumps all teachers together as if they were some undifferentiaed collective. Statements like "Teachers are working hard" or "Teachers are excellent" or "Teachers are overpaid/underpaid" are meaningless . There are thousand about throusands of teachers in this county and their quality varies wildly. Some are pure gold. Some suck. Yes, Diane Ravitch, I can absolutely assure you as a parent of two public schoolers that some teachers suck ! And these medicare to bad teachers (which are not some trivial fraction) create headaches and nightmares for students, parents and school administrators. The question is: how good are U.S. schools at lifting up and promoting good employees and weeding out the bad, as any organization worth its salt must do ? The answer is that they do a remarkably poor job – even compared to other public organization. Good teachers go unrewarded while bad teachers remain in place year after year, either due to the low expectations of administrators, the laziness born of having a monopoly, or the power of teachers unions. No – this is not the only challenge in public education. Sure, there may be too much testing, or too little parental involvement, or the ongoing challenge of teaching in poor communities. However, this should not distract from the practical benefits that come with managing school personnel for the kids first. Thank God for Michelle Rhee who can simultaneously embrance the concept of public schools while refusing to surrender to their flaws or blame broad societal problems for their managerial shortcomings.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  83. Dr. M

    One more thing. Education departments at most colleges and universities simply exist to perpetuate themselves. They produce nothing, write nothing fundamentally sound or intellectually rigorous, and are populated with the joke of all doctorates–the D.Ed. The very best teachers I had in all the lower levels came from true liberal arts schools in which they actually learned about literature, history, etc. Now education majors learn about, you guessed it, "education." It is nothing but a joke major, one that is absolutely destroying our country's education of its kids. The best thing the next Prez could possibly do is to have an education czar do away with the current Dept of Ed, and go back to content reqs, and initiate culture change from the top down.

    This whole poverty excuse makes me sick. During the Depression in which virtually entire blocks of kids were FAR poorer than the poor that Ravitch whines about were better read, better education, and were better prepared, than the simplistic grads we're chunking out now. Sad but true. Grads are historically ignorant and culturally stupid and politically dumb.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  84. jorge washinsen

    You can learn in any public school if knowledge is your goal.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  85. Bob

    Respectfully, I think Dr. Ravitch herself is wrong and uninformed if she thinks ineffective teachers play no part in the ills of our public educational system. Granted, they are not the sole problem, but a problem nonetheless.


    August 9, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  86. Chris

    Take it back one more step and you've nailed the problem. The issue here is the breakdown of the family. The education of children is a partnership of the parents and the teacher(s). When you have broken families, you have a much more difficult time with education. The lack of hope on the part of single mothers leads to apathy with the whole idea of education when she believes her children will work in menial jobs (if at all). We have to get family values back on the table and yes, that means traditional gender roles, as well. This was the way we were designed to work, this is the ONLY way we can EVER work properly and sustainably.

    Ladies, there is no shame in being a homemaker. It is a tough job that should be praised when done well. Don't ever let these shrill, deviant feminists tell you otherwise.

    Guys, you had BETTER take responsibility for your actions. That means you honor your wife, work hard and do your job well. Most of all, you had better BE PRESENT and active with your children and your wife. Your honor is shattered if you shame your family by running around or leaving altogether.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Pedro

      Ravitch is self-deluded. The kids coming out of public schools today that I see as an employer cannot write, do math and most of all, cannot think. The American public education system began to fail when the NEA morphed from a professional association into a union. The union system rewards longevity and not excellence. I live in DC and Rhee, during here brief tenure, did a remarkable job in reforming the astonishingly mediocre schools here.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • John

      1950 called, they want your views back.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Kim

      This is the dumbest post I've read. Family values has nothing to do with your version of "traditional" gender roles. If you knew anything about history, women have been working since the beginning of time. A woman being a homemaker is great, but so is a woman working. It is the choice of the family. There are plenty, and likely a majority, of traditional family values homes where the woman works in an occupation other than homemaker. The character, values and education of a child has nothing to do with whether or not the mom works. Wow – I can't even believe how lame you are.

      August 9, 2012 at 3:02 pm |

    Do we have some poverty – yes
    Do we have some ineffective teachers – yes
    Do we have some behavior problems – yes
    Do we have some parents that are not educated and not interested – yes

    Do we have kids that come from rich or middle class families – yes
    Do we have some great teachers – yes
    Do we have some well-behaved students – yes
    Do we have some really educated and involved parents – yes

    Despite all of the good and bad, are we still behind in education compared to other countries – yes

    Why? This country doesn't put enough focus on education as they do in other countries, and we are not teaching our kids the right things. All kids don't learn the same way, but our system teaches everybody the same. Re-train our teachers to do adaptive teaching. Quit using standardized testing as a litmus test for mastery of a subject. Quit moving kids through the system if they haven't learned anything.

    Teach ALL kids about MONEY and household bugeting, credit, and saving. Teach them about jobs and working, paychecks and taxes.

    All kids won't be math and science whizzes, but they need this education to survive no matter what they do.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Janice

      You are right on!

      August 9, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Brad

      Won't happen. Wanna know why? Because the unions will not allow the level of change needed to the curriculum necessary. Want change? That means that union members will have to be compensated for their failure to change with the times, or adjust to new technologies. Funny... in my line of work, if someone's skill sets fall out date... they either update, or find work elsewhere. However, in the public school system... they get tenure. No need to change. Just hang around long enough, and you will never have to.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  88. jorge washinsen

    You can bet the dumbest appearing student of any age can turn on a cell phone and can install numbers faster than their parents.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Calliope

      LOL!!! True so True

      August 9, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  89. Mei

    I agree with most everything in this article except tenure. Other professions do not have tenure, so I don't think teachers should be granted this special privilege. Yes, experience is important but the author's own words show the reason NOT to have tenure: "Teachers need tenure so they have academic freedom to teach controversial issues." Controversial issues can truly harm a school setting. Schools today spend more time pushing homosexual issues than they do with math and English. Today schools are politcally-correct zones and a lot of teachers take advantage of this. This puts them at odds with many parents who do not want their children indoctrinated into ideologies they don't agree with.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  90. RM13


    August 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  91. AZNative

    Nice try, no banana today!

    August 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  92. Dr. M

    As someone who is a college professor at a small college that has a typical "education department," I can say with 100% certainty that Rhee is right and Ravitch is dead wrong. It is a poorly kept secret that the worst students major in "education" (true at our college) and that the various "education majors" are so loaded with "methods" courses, and phony courses that subject content has shrunk and shrunk until it is a tiny minority of the course content. In other words, if you want to be a secondary level history teacher, common sense dictates that you ought to take the VAST majority of your classes in History. Not so, anymore. Now, the students are loaded with tangent classes that are about "special ed" reqs, legal reqs, PC stuff, etc. and to keep the overall credit count the same, guess which classes get cut? Content.

    These two facts have combined to produce worse and worse teachers, becoming more and more ignorant. The entire system is fundamentally broken.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Ghasz

      Dr. M
      Would you consider yourself a "teacher"?

      August 9, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Alexander Rogge

      That is exactly what I've noticed. Educators are the worst for experience and ambition in the subject area being taught. An education "degree" combined with some standardized tests makes a "highly-qualified" teacher, but I've met teachers who know less than the students they're teaching. Surprisingly, these teachers seem to have forgotten the very same course material that they must have sat through in order to have finished high-school themselves. So, in five years they've managed to avoid the college courses that normal students had to be exposed to, while also wiping out their high-school experiences and not picking up the slack by reading the relevant books and papers on their own. That's also why you won't often find public schoolteachers keeping up with the relevant journals and books, and doing research related to their field. They learn to fit inside the box and become trained educators, but they have no clue what is really going on in their field. Then the teachers get mad at the students when the students reach out for more intellectual depth, and learn to challenge the teachers' lack of knowledge and ambition.

      August 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Alfred Hussein Neuman

      You are so right. It is also a well known secret that if you need to get some "A"s to boost your GPA, take some education electives. My daughter switched from being an exploratory education major and she was amazed at how poorly the majority of education majors did in the education classes. The non-education majors all received "A"s on assignments, but the majority of the education majors had "B"s or "C"s. My daughter switched to graphic design because in her words, she didn't want to be associated with an education degree. And before the teachers union trolls criticize my girl, she has a 3.97 GPA after two years

      August 9, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  93. ysc

    I'm curious to hear Ravitch's views on the "rubber rooms" mentioned in the "Waiting for Superman" movie.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  94. Texas Nanna

    Smaller classrooms, more individualized attention (to cover learning problems and help kids in poverty) and put a mentor teacher on every campus. This costs money. So what? Do it. It comes down to teachers having to do too many things that are NOT instruction. Frankly, I think every team of teachers should have their own secretary. They should always have a half day Friday to team with the admins. Admins should teach at least one class. There, problem solved. You're welcome.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  95. Tim

    Would anyone incourage their child to be a teacher today? It seems like they are to blame for everything. I would not want my daughter to be in a career with such disrespect. I am very curious what kind of quality, educated person would be attracted to this field in the future?

    August 9, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  96. AZNative

    Poverty IS the enemy. My experience has been that worrying about whether or not you can pay the electric bill or meet any of your obligations can overshadow your ability to parent effectively all the time. I have been fortunate, I've had help from my family. I now counsel every young person, including my child, that money DOES matter when raising a child. YES you have to have money, don't fool yourself. Please talk openly to your children I know it's the only means to making a change in anything. Change is for the future.

    August 9, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  97. Concerned and disgusted!

    There are more then one reason why American schools are failing. To name one or focus only on one, would create a scapegoat for others.
    Yes , America is one of the leading industrialized countries where poverty is huge issue.

    Another one is our HEALTHCARE . The writer of this article is correct. Many children have no adequate health care.... Many of those children's parents have none either.
    Many people work, trying to feed their families, pay their bills, and there is no money left for health care. If they are over certain income bracket, they're not qualified for help, so they just go without health care.

    To make a visit to dentist without insurance, to have work on your teeth done, you spend one week's paycheck... To visit a doctor, have some tests done, and prescription filled, cost the same. A visit at the hospital can put you in debt for years ... Insurance premiums are so insanely high, the only if one works in a company that pitches in to pay it, one can have it.... but even then it is very costly. Many companies don't offer it, and many are even dropping it,.... .Children go without health care or without food and adequate necessities. So do their parents.
    Next ting is, the almighty $$$$$ ! Teachers are not trained, children are not fed decent lunches, everything is downsized, or downgraded.
    And then this thing of discipline... Teachers are not allowed to discipline the kids in schools nowdays. Kids are programed to believe, by the media and the pop culture, that they RULE.
    The schools are dealing with issues in- your- face type rebellion of kids which they can't handle, so in order to make themselves not look as 'helpless and week', they lower the standards, and won't deal with issues, but have decided to ignore them and f go along with the "culture", making allowances for lazy, kids and trouble-makers, ignoring their destructive behaviours which also influence the other kids which otherwise would do much better....We've got to remember that kids look up to other peers, and those who are "daring" ar usually viewed as "cool" and inspiring to others to do the same.. .
    So you see, the worms of decay are chewing on American education from many sides. In order to fix our ed-system, our society would have to reject and come against many different issues that are plaguing it. But until people are fed up and say, we've been snowed over long enough, it's enough! ... the decay of our education, and of our stand in the world scene will just go down hill . Once I heard a leader of one of the Western industrial countries saying to an American journalist, that here are two things 'we as a country want to give as a gift to our people'- a excellent education that can prepare them for their lives AND Health care that keeps them healthy and able to work without fear of abandonment if they have misfortune of getting sick.
    And his country is showing results .....
    America didn't' learn this lesson.
    Because in America, our citizens are being viewed through $$$$ signs. Our results and consequences also show!

    August 9, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Alfred Hussein Neuman

      If we had heath care, the children would do better? Ineffective teachers would teach better? Disengaged parents would be engaged? Poor families would not have to worry about money? You actually believe that bunk?

      August 9, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  98. Barbra

    knock it off

    August 9, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
1 2 3 4 5