This post is the second in the "Op Ed: Opinionated Educator" blog series from former TFA Corps members that discusses issues and topics in education today.
In her new book, "Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools", Diane Ravitch, who is of the all-is-well-let's-keep-the-status-quo camp, argues that education reformers have conspired to dupe the public into believing that public education in this country is failing because of poverty, not because we lack highly-effective policies to support quality teaching in low-performing schools. In making her case, Ms. Ravitch goes on to register her complaints with school choice, comprehensive teacher evaluation systems, data-based instruction, and school accountability.
As former teachers, we found these complaints to be disconcerting. To that end, we decided to channel our inner-teacher and provide our readers with a few reading comprehension questions based on Ms. Ravitch's book.
1. Based on the following quotation from Diane Ravitch's recent book, what can the reader infer about the author's expectations?
"Of course some schools and districts have very low test scores and low graduation rates, and this has always been true. Most of these schools and districts have two features in common: poverty and high concentrations of racial minorities."
A) She expects schools that serve students of color to succumb to the strain of racism
B) She expects schools that serve low-income students to succumb to the strain of poverty
C) She expects students in wealthy communities to continue to benefit from privilege and elitism
D) Education reformers who strive to combat the effects of racism and poverty are misguided and dangerous.
E) All of the above
2. Knowing that 85% of charters are non-profit, Ravitch's claim that "for-profit corporations run charter schools" in an effort to "privatize" the public school system, can be interpreted as:
A) a lie.
C) purposely misleading.
D) a refusal to acknowledge that parents exercise school choice when they choose to live in neighborhoods with high quality schools.
3. When Ravitch says that "the public schools are working very well for most students," the phrase "most" refers to:
A) Students attending schools in communities where medians incomes are above the poverty level
B) Students who are the recipients of adequate funding for their education
C) Students whose teachers have access to appropriate resources to address students' individual learning needs
D) Students whose first language is English
E) Students whose parents are college educated and above
4. Diane Ravitch does not want states to adopt the new, rigorous Common Core standards because she believes that ________ are _________.
A) all students / already well-served by the schools they attend
B) educators / unwilling to agree to a threshold standard of college readiness
C) public schools / incapable of continuing to encourage innovation and creativity if they agree to a uniform idea of college readiness
D) parents / not entitled to more transparency from the schools that serve their families
5. Upon reading the quotation below, what might a parent in a failing district, with students zoned to a failing school, think?
"When they speak of 'data-driven instruction,' they mean that test scores and graduation rates should be the primary determinant of what is best for children and schools."
A) So, I should just trust school leaders who already seem ill equipped to address my concerns to come up with other data to determine what best for children and schools?
B) If highly sought after schools use test scores, graduation rates, etc. to make their institutions appealing to parents, shouldn't I expect the same of my school?
C) Without measureable data, how could my child's teacher have a breadth of perspective on what learning needs they should address?
D) Does she mean that as long as I prioritize that my son or daughter enjoy school, it's okay that he or she can't read?
6. When Ravitch mentions that "teachers will be judged by test scores," she fails to add that test data is only 20% of the new teacher evaluation system in New York because:
A) she is unaware of this fact.
B) she doesn't want public school teachers to find out that the new evaluation system measures effectiveness in a variety of ways.
C) she thinks that 205 is almost the same as 100%.
D) she knows that attacking the ed reform movement will lead to a 30% increase in book sales (although unofficial reports suggest this will lead to a 30% decrease in student achievement).
Every test is a learning experience, whether it's a 3rd grade state test, the SAT, the Bar exam, or a tongue-and-cheek blog post. But in all seriousness, here are our conclusions. Ravitch's newly released diatribe reads like the bible for anyone who is anti-reform, anti-progressive and, ultimately, anti-student. On the other hand, education reformers are pro-reform, progressive and pro-student. We advocate for access to a quality education for every single child, regardless of their skin color, the neighborhood they live in, the language they speak, or any learning disability they might have. Charter schools are a means to this end, providing choices for parents who had none before. Common Core curriculum and testing are a means to this end, raising expectations so that every child is ready for college when they graduate high school. Using quality data to inform teaching is a means to this end, so that teachers know what their students need, and so that communities know whether learning is happening. If Diane Ravitch opposes all these strategies, then parents, teachers and every member of the community should begin to wonder what her end game really is.