RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Bernstein writes: "The American Public School system is dying a slow death. And many leading educators feel it is being poisoned by a drumbeat toward privatization - marketed as choice - along with a regimen of useless, costly, and sometimes racist testing programs that cater to a privileged class. Among the most high profile educators and educational researchers raising her voice on the issue is Diane Ravitch, a research professor in education at New York University."

Elementary school. (photo: AP)
Elementary school. (photo: AP)

So Many Children Left Behind: An Interview With Educational Reformer Diane Ravitch

By Dennis J. Bernstein, Reader Supported News

23 March 16


he American Public School system is dying a slow death. And many leading educators feel it is being poisoned by a drumbeat toward privatization – marketed as choice – along with a regimen of useless, costly, and sometimes racist testing programs that cater to a privileged class. Indeed, the battle cry for the last two administrations is choice/charter schools and privatization.

Among the most high profile educators and educational researchers raising her voice on the issue is Diane Ravitch, a research professor in education at New York University. Ravitch served as the Assistant Secretary of Education and as counselor to the Secretary of Education from 1991 to 1993. She is the author of ten books, including “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.”

In a recent interview, Secretary Ravitch expressed deep concern regarding the current presidential campaign’s profound lack of attention to the failing K-12 public school system and the abject failure of the last two administration’s attempts to mitigate the failures through an expanded program of privatization and a regime of costly and useless testing.

“For the past 15 years, the nation’s public schools have been victims of the failed federal policies of the Bush and Obama administrations,” said Ravitch. “15 years ago, Congress passed George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law, which required that every child in every year from 3rd grade to 8th grade had to be tested. There’s no other country in the world that tests every child every year. It’s just on overload. No Child Left Behind was supposed to close the achievement gaps, raise the graduation rates, and do all kinds of wonderful things. But none of the things it was supposed to do came true. So it was ... it became a toxic brand.”

Ravitch and other critics of testing and choice assumed that, since the policy had failed so measurably under Bush Two, when Obama took the reins of power he would transform the policy. But according to Ravitch, the Obama administration put No Child Left Behind on steroids, and did so with the appointment of Arne Duncan, a charter school cheerleader, as Secretary of Education. Duncan pressed on with the policies of No Child Left Behind and expanded them under a new name, Race to the Top. According to Ravitch, it became a race to the bottom.

“When Obama ran for office many people, particularly educators thought he was going to change this policy, because it obviously failed,” said Ravitch. “Schools were being closed around the country based on No Child Left Behind. Almost all the schools that are closed are schools in poor communities. They are schools where black and brown children go, especially poor kids. Then Obama came in, brought in Arne Duncan as the Secretary of Education, and doubled down on No Child Left Behind. They announced a program called Race to the Top. And that turned out to be even more reliant on standardized testing than No Child Left Behind. At some point you have to realize the testing has driven education out of a classroom. Kids are spending hours and hours, weeks and months, preparing to take the test, because the tests are so consequential. Your school might be closed, the teachers might be fired, and the principal might be fired if the test scores don’t go up every year. So this is where we are. It’s been disastrous, and ... none of the candidates talk about education much. So Republicans want more of the same, and the Democrats hardly mention it at all.”

Dennis Bernstein: Welcome. Thank you for joining, Secretary Ravitch.

Diane Ravitch: Good to be with you.

DB: Alright, let’s talk, let’s go a little bit deeper with the impact of this kind of testing regime that has dominated K-12 for the past 15 years. There are many reverberations, and several of them are quite disturbing.

Ravitch: Well, yeah. And the main thing that it does is to cement social class and racial differences, because the one thing that testing does very accurately is that it correlates with family income. The kids who come from advantaged families, where they travel, they have library cards, they read to the kids at night, they have all these advantages … these kids do best on standardized testing. This is not just in the United States, it’s all over the world. The haves get the high test scores, the have-nots get the low test scores. So we’re taking this measure, and saying you’re a good student or a bad student, you failed, when what’s being measured more than anything else is family income.

The impact that it’s had on teaching has been horrendous. I have a blog that’s had almost 26 million pages at this point, and most of my readers are teachers. And there’s not a day that goes by without some teacher saying, “I can’t stand it anymore. All I do is administer tests. I give pre-tests, I give post-tests, I give interim assessments.” This is what education has turned into. And this doesn’t help kids. They don’t get better because the stakes are made higher. They don’t get smarter, if you raise the bar. I mean, the Obama’s administration’s gift to America was the Common Core Standards and they’ve been a disaster everywhere, because the tests associated with the Common Core Standards were made so hard that kids in every state, the majority of the kids, have failed. And if you were teaching, as I know you once did, and most of your kids failed the test, they would say, “Well, what kind of test did you give?” You have to give a test that the kids have some chance of passing. Not that you dumb the test down, but you have to know if it’s a test for 4th grade, it has to be for 4th grade level. You don’t give a 6th grade test to 4th graders. And that’s in effect what we’ve been doing all over the country because of Common Core.

DB: What’s the financial cost of testing? And does it take away from, for instance, all the possibilities for art and music programs? Does the money go to testing programs?

Ravitch: Well, what’s happened is that the test scores matter more than anything else in American education today, and that’s been true for the past 15 years. And so more and more time is devoted to testing, and less time, fewer resources are available for art or for music, or almost anything. Most states in this country have been defunding education, dis-investing in education. I think that’s because most of the governors now are very, very conservative Republicans. And they don’t want to invest in education. They would rather privatize, and have vouchers, and have charters, and let people be paid to homeschool their children. Things of that kind. They don’t want to invest in public education.

So public education is being hit by a tsunami. The tsunami is, first of all, this pressure to get higher scores every year, and the budget cuts which give you fewer resources and larger class size. And the emphasis on testing also means you lose your art teacher, you lose your music teacher, you lose your social worker. There are cities like Philadelphia that are virtually bankrupt. And the answers from the government, state government, has been “Well, let’s have more charters.” And then the charters start pulling money away from the public school system, and all over this country we have, except in the affluent communities, we have public schools going into a tail spin because of underinvestment and because the charter schools are sucking away, luring away, the kids who are likeliest to succeed, and pushing out the kids who have special needs, the kids with disabilities, and the kids who don’t speak English. And that way the public schools are overburdened with the most expensive children to educate.

DB: Let’s just talk a little more about the other side of the destruction of the public school system, and that’s the so-called privatization, the charter schools. Now it was interesting, and you point this out in your recent writing, that Bernie Sanders, when he was asked about charter schools, said, “Well, I only like the public charter schools.” The point is that it shows his incredible ignorance, and not that I don’t have a great deal of respect for him, but in that context there really aren’t any public charter schools, right? By the very nature of it.

Ravitch: That’s correct, I mean, all charter schools ... the definition of a charter school is that it’s funded by the public. So there is no such thing as a private charter school. So when he says he’s in favor of public charter schools, he’s not really ... he hasn’t been briefed adequately, which I find surprising considering he sits on the Senate committee in charge of education.

But even the schools that operate for-profit, and by the way that’s something brand new in American education … Up until recently we never had for-profit public schools. This is part of the charter movement, though there are now for-profit charters that get public money. And a certain percentage of that money is siphoned off to enrich the owners of the school. That’s part of the charter movement. Now that is a public charter school. That’s what they call themselves. In fact, the national organization for charters is called the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. So the charter movement says, again and again, that they are public schools.

The problem is that they’re really not public schools, and I always think that they are private schools getting public money, because first of all they can choose their students, even if they have a lottery. They can push out the kids they don’t want, and they end up with a very small number of kids with disabilities, with virtually no kids with severe disabilities, and also with very small numbers of English language learners.

They have the ability to set their own discipline rules, so they can say, “well if your shift wasn’t tucked in, you’re suspended.” And they have very high suspension rates, many of them do. There’s this genre of charter schools called No Excuses, and the No Excuses schools will suspend kids for a million different reasons. They’re supposed to sit quietly, hands folded, walk in the hallway in a straight line, never speak unless spoken to, etc., etc. For some reason there’s something about our day and age, and our culture, where particularly white people admire that black children are being beaten into obedience. Not physically beaten, but emotionally pushed into this very, very conformist behavior.

But the charter movement contains for-profit, it contains corporate charter chains and it also, within the charter sector, there’s a very large chain, it’s either the largest or the second largest that is run by foreign nationals. These are called the Gulen Schools, and they are associated with a Turkish dissident political group and they have about 150 charter schools across the country. So I found it very surprising when Senator Sanders said he supports public charter schools, because all charter schools claim to be public but many of them operate for-profit. All of them have a private board of trustees. Their board meetings are typically not open to the public. Many of the charter owners, especially these big chains ... in Florida there’s a large chain where they’ve assembled a real estate empire of over one hundred million dollars built on taxpayers’ money. But the money belongs to the charter owners, not to the public. So it’s all very bizarre, and the people supporting it are, first of all, big philanthropies like The Gates Foundation, The Broad Foundation, especially The Walton Family Foundation.

DB: The Koch brothers are in on this, right?

Ravitch: The Koch brothers support charters, ALEC [American Legislative Exchange Council] supports charters, all the right-wing and red-state governors support charters, and the hedge fund managers all over the country support charters. So there’s a lot of money behind charters. When the mayor of New York City tried to push back and say he didn’t want quite as many charters as his predecessor, Mayor Bloomberg, had proposed, the hedge fund managers created a group called Families for Excellent Schools and poured five or six million dollars into overnight advertising, and beat the mayor back. In fact, they ended up being major contributors to Governor Cuomo’s campaign in New York. And Governor Cuomo became a huge charter supporter because that’s where the money is. If your buddies from Wall Street can put up a million dollars, there are very few politicians who will say “No.”

DB: Wow. It’s interesting to me because there were always these battles about who was writing and producing the textbooks, and we know so much of that stuff comes out of very conservative places like Texas ... So they control the information flow, but this is one step beyond, in which they actually control the structure of school. And I would imagine the Kochs, among others, are quite interested in what the exact curriculum would be, what the chapter on slavery might look like.

Ravitch: Well, a number of the charters are associated with conservative Christian groups. Now the other piece of this, which I should mention, is the voucher movement. Almost half the states are giving vouchers to religious schools, and most of the religious schools are fundamentalist schools. Because they are the ones who have low tuition, and then the vouchers were five or six thousand dollars. You’re not going to get into a really good school with that amount of money. But you can certainly go to a fundamentalist school where you will have books that are written specifically for fundamentalist Christians.

DB: So, the battle is on for the presidency. They’re not talking about this most extraordinarily important issue. If you’re talking about everyday people and families and what’s at the core of people’s concern, it is the educational system. So what would you suggest? What would be the important questions to ask these candidates to draw out what they know and perhaps direct them in a proper direction?

Ravitch: Well, I would hope that ... There have been so many debates and so many town halls, and the only time I’ve ever heard a question asked about K-12 education was the other night in the Dayton town hall. The question was asked of Bernie Sanders, but it wasn’t asked of Hillary Clinton. I wished that the same question had been directed to both of them. But I think what I would want to ask is: Do you support public education, and do you oppose privatization through charters and vouchers?

What typically the charter supporters say is: The charters are public schools. But they’re not public schools, because there are now charter schools that are for affluent children. There are charter schools that exclude kids with, as I said before, disabilities or who don’t speak English. And public schools shouldn’t do that. Public schools are supposed to accept everyone, and they don’t have a choice in this. But under the banner of school choice we are being pushed to accept schools that are far more segregated even than the public schools. Where the public schools are segregated the charter schools are completely segregated. So I think that if the journalists were to ask some questions, they would be forced to answer and they would have to know what a charter school is. And not let them get away with saying “I’m against private charter schools.” There are no private charter schools. They’re all getting public money.

DB: Now, in terms of Bernie Sanders ... it’s hard to accept that they don’t know that this is a crucial problem. One has the sinking feeling that it’s just not important enough or all the candidates have determined that this is not an issue that they care enough about to raise. I think that it speaks to this larger issue about how we feel and treat our children. Could you talk about that?

Ravitch: Uh huh. Well, you know, I think it’s something to be very much concerned about that the journalists don’t ever think about it. Why aren’t they thinking about it? This is one of the most important things that a society can do, to educate its children. And for every state in the country it’s the single biggest expense they have, the cost of education. So, why would they not ask? The federal government, in the last 15 years, has played a much larger role than it ever has in our history.

And there was a law passed just last fall called The Every Student Succeeds Act, which basically moves most of the responsibility back to the states, but still maintains annual testing and is a boon to the standardized testing industry, and has funding for more charters. So in a way not much has changed. And I think that when No Child Left Behind goes to its well-deserved death and the so-called Every Student Succeeds Act takes over, no one will notice a difference. I mean, I think that a point worth making is there’s something weird about naming a law No Child Left Behind, because many children were left behind. And there’s also something weird about naming a law Every Student Succeeds because there’s nothing in that act that is going to make every student succeed. Our policy makers have fallen for this idea that if you just keep raising standards everybody gets smarter. But it’s like saying to athletes, “Well, you know, if you can’t jump over a 5 foot bar, let’s see how well you can do if we raise it to 7 feet.” No, it’s not going to work. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t make any sense.

DB: Finally, before we let you go, Diane Ravitch – and we do appreciate the time you’re spending with us – Bernie Sanders has come out strong against Rahm Emanuel, in part because of his treatment, his disgraceful treatment of the teachers in the Chicago area, and his incredible disrespect in closing schools in minority communities. Hillary Clinton still supports him. Your thoughts on this?

Ravitch: Well, I think that Rahm Emanuel is one of the worst mayors in the country. So I was very happy to see Bernie Sanders saying, “I don’t want your endorsement.” Because first of all, he closed 50 public schools in one day. And I think he, at some point, is going to be in the record books for having closed more public schools than anyone else in America. He’s opening new charter schools at the same time that he’s closing public schools. So I was very happy to see Bernie Sanders say, “I’ll have nothing to do with you.”

DB: That struggle there is one to watch in terms of the stand that the teachers took on behalf of their students and the system. There were a number of courageous teachers there and there are really extraordinary people, teachers, young teachers, administrators, and parents who are trying to, at all levels, stand up for public education and an education that really means something to their children. Again, it really speaks volumes the way this country ... how the education system and its sort of abuse, if you will, of children.

Ravitch: Right. Well, I have great respect for the Chicago Teachers Union. I think that they’ve really been a model for the country, in terms of saying – the teachers are trying to do what’s best for the kids. And the Chicago schools have had layoffs of thousands of teachers. Many, many schools including the 50 that Rahm Emanuel closed at one fell swoop were closed. And every time a school is closed, a community is shattered. I was today writing a post for my blog which will be up tomorrow morning, I think like 10 o’clock in the morning, that the model right now for education is Walmart.

Walmart comes into a community, wipes out all the local stores, and then if they decide that they don’t have enough business they close, they leave, and the community is devastated. There’s no more Main Street, all the people ... there’s no more shoe store, toy store, drug store. All of that got absorbed by Walmart. And the Walmart family collectively, the Walton family, is worth over $150 billion. And they have a hard time even paying minimum wage to their workers. But that seems to be the business model that’s infiltrating education, at this point, through the charter movement.

The real goal of the charter movement is to destroy the teachers’ union. Because something like 90% of the charters are non-union. This is why the Walton family, and the Walton family through its foundation, puts up $200 million a year to expand charter schools, because they are the most effective way of busting unions. They rely on a group like “Teach for America” to supply new college graduates who are not union members, and who will be gone after 2 or 3 years. But that’s very, very destabilizing for a community. Because in most parts of this country the schools are staffed by people who have made a career of teaching, not young kids come in to burnish their resumé.

DB: Thank you, Secretary Ravitch, for joining us.

Dennis J. Bernstein is the executive producer of Flashpoints, syndicated on Pacifica Radio, and is the recipient of a 2015 Pillar Award for his work as a journalist whistleblower. He is most recently the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+12 # Shades of gray matter 2016-03-23 17:31
WAY, WAY, WAY before we even start talking about free university tuition, mostly for the RELATIVELY privileged, we should be leveling the playing field with FULL SERVICE, drug, crime, gang free Urban & Rural Education Campuses, pre-school-13th grade (as needed)oases of learning.
$73B a year better spent there than for subsidizing fraternities & sororities, no?
+29 # REDPILLED 2016-03-23 17:48
And better than $600+ billion a year wasted on endless wars and 800+ global military bases.
0 # HowardMH 2016-03-24 09:29
Here is a big part of the problem:

If this coward is not a wimp, why was there a real need for a new group of protesters called, “Black Lives Matter” to be formed during the presidency of a black president?
• The wimp runs the most secret administration EVER!
• Black Schools are decaying and falling apart with rats running around in the classroom while there are kids still trying to learn in those rooms.
• Out of 13 presidents since Harry Truman only 3 have been rated lower than the Wimp
• What other president would have the military drop leaflets over an area telling everyone we are going to bomb you in a few hours, before the air strikes started?
• When the French Aircraft carrier was deployed to Syria in response to the bombings in Paris, they destroyed more Oil Tankers in a few weeks than the US has destroyed in a couple of years. Obama the Wimp didn’t want the drivers to get killed, even though they were transporting Oil for ISIS to be sold on the Black Market. (I could go on with more examples of the Wimp, but if you haven’t got the message by now you never will).
Black Lives Matter is spot on in just about everything they are protesting against. They are not like the Tea Party idiots that are so dumb most of them do not know what they stand for, except they are against whatever anyone else is for, no matter what it is.
+1 # MidwestDick 2016-03-24 10:26
Both and ...
Saying there is a more important way to spend money on a program, saying before we clean the floor, we must wash the tables usually leaves both jobs undone.
Let's do both and ...
+2 # lorenbliss 2016-03-25 20:29
Ms. Ravitch, who is one of my heroines (and in a perfect world would be minister of education in some civilized nation that is also sophisticated enough to appreciate her talents), tells us all we need to know about charter schools when she says, "They can push out the kids they don’t want."

Put the socioeconomic selectiveness and zero-tolerance discipline of charter schools in the context of the One Percent's six-decade demand for forcible population reduction and the damning of huge segments of the citizenry as "surplus" -- that is, insufficiently exploitable for profit and thus unworthy of life -- and we see how the charter schools function as yet another cunningly disguised apparatus for slow-motion genocide.

The "undesirable" children so excluded are thus denied education, cast out and abandoned to a savagely social-Darwinis t world in which they either die of neglect, are gunned down by police or scooped up by the slavers of the for-profit prisons.

Thus capitalism, as it matures into fascism and/or Nazism, shows its bottomless moral imbecility. Whether imposed by the euphemistic, slow-motion genocide of austerity, denial of education and enslavement, or by the obvious means of death camps, dead is dead.

Again I say: welcome to the de facto Fourth Reich.
-5 # leftcoast 2016-03-23 17:59
"For some reason there’s something about our day and age, and our culture, where particularly white people admire that black children are being beaten into obedience. Not physically beaten, but emotionally pushed into this very, very conformist behavior." I thought Charters catered to unblemished white people???????
+5 # chasashmore 2016-03-23 20:17
Quoting leftcoast:
I thought Charters catered to unblemished white people???????

Though there are many who do cater to such, there are a significant number of charters in predominantly black urban areas as well, with an emphasis on very strict discipline, whatever one thinks of the virtues or non of such an approach.
+6 # Cassandra2012 2016-03-24 16:19
The point is however, that those who run these charter schools answer to virtually no one and are usually run by pals of the local politicians --e.g., governors and mayyors, whose pals are in it for the $$$$!
+7 # Texas Aggie 2016-03-23 22:04
They do, by and large. The schools that force conformism on minorities are the public schools, especially the ones with cops running loose in the halls.
+2 # backwards_cinderella 2016-03-24 04:08
Where I live, lots of charters have mostly black students. You know them by their uniforms.
+21 # Mmjjbb 2016-03-23 18:16
Diane Ravitch is a hero to many educators across America and beyond. She is helping to fight against the "reformers" that are destroying our public education system. If you are a parent, refuse (opt out)to have your child take the annual tests (grades 3-8). If enough parents opt their children out of these tests, it will bring the system down!!! It is your right as a parent to do this!!!
-15 # Depressionborn 2016-03-23 19:33
We had to take an annual HS test. It took most of a day. Big deal. The Calc instructor would give us a 10 minute test to see if we were getting it. In history class we had books to read and a weekly test that would be short and no one would know what to study for, so we would read the whole book. So what?

Has something happened to school to make testing a problem?
+17 # chasashmore 2016-03-23 20:26
Quoting Depressionborn:
We had to take an annual HS test. It took most of a day. Big deal. The Calc instructor would give us a 10 minute test to see if we were getting it. In history class we had books to read and a weekly test that would be short and no one would know what to study for, so we would read the whole book. So what?

Has something happened to school to make testing a problem?

You haven't followed what has happened with standardized testing, which is the point of the article. I grew up in the 50s and 60s, and we also had testing like yours, and that's been a time-tested aid in teaching, with twin aims of telling the teacher whether the students are following the materials, and of getting the students to study. And the tests were designed by the teacher to supplement her curriculum.

But what she is speaking of is a different animal, with standardized tests for all students everywhere, with no adaptation to the needs of the students in the class, and with very high stakes for students, teachers, principles, the existence of the schools themselves, and districts.
+8 # Depressionborn 2016-03-23 20:43
thanks chasash. But why would a rational school board ok such nonsense?
+16 # Texas Aggie 2016-03-23 22:06
Because it is the law and they have no choice in the matter. Besides, how many rational school boards do you know?
+7 # Peachy 2016-03-24 00:07
Co-optation/man ipulation, and power and MONEY!
+5 # Johnny 2016-03-24 10:16
Quoting Depressionborn:
thanks chasash. But why would a rational school board ok such nonsense?

+12 # economagic 2016-03-23 21:28
"Has something happened to school to make testing a problem?"

Whew -- I'm afraid you're a little behind the curve! The schools in which you and I were educated exist scarcely anywhere in the U.S. today, even if you went to a mediocre school for its time. (I'm from the very beginning of the postwar boom, but have always identified more closely with the war babies and even the later Depression babies.)

The fact that you ask that question means that you would not be able to get much of a clue within the constraints of this forum. If you really are interested in what is going on in K-12 schools today, please start by subscribing to educationopport unitynetwork.or g, then read some of Ms. Ravitch's books.

Jonathan Kozol, Neil Postman, Paul Goodman, and others were writing with insight into the plight of public schools in the 1960s. Successive waves of education "reform," even including NDEA (1968), have made matters much worse. I was one of a relatively small number that actually benefited from NDEA, which had the curriculum mostly right but was implemented in the worst possible ways, leaving much of a generation worse off in some areas (especially math) than they would have been had they not gone to school at all, and it was one of the best of the lot.
+21 # futhark 2016-03-23 19:56
I was a high school student in the 1960s when the science curriculum was being reformed to give students actual experience in doing investigations and drawing conclusions from the data. This was called "inquiry based" learning and included Biological Science Curriculum Study (BSCS), which I didn't have, Chemical Education Materials Study - CHEM STUDY, which I did have, and Physical Science Study Committee (PSSC), which I also had. These programs were formulated to boost the understanding of science among American students as part of a broader program to close the science and technology gap with the Soviets perceived with the success of the Sputnik and subsequent Soviet spacecraft. I think they were quite successful, and looked for them when I went into the science teaching business in the late 1970s. I especially liked the CHEM-Study program, but found it to be out of print by the mid-1980s when I was assigned to teach chemistry.

What followed over the next couple of decades was a significant reduction in the number of available texts in each science area and an increasing retrenchment toward teaching "the facts' rather than the processes of science, all for the convenience of standardized test writers. The 1980 physics text I used for 2 decades was actually better aligned with the accepted standards for that subject than the much touted "standards aligned" editions available at much higher cost 20 years later. I smelled a rat here.
+7 # economagic 2016-03-23 21:37
Whoa-ho! I missed the BSCS, got PSSC, and apparently missed ChemEdMS but lucked out with a pair of superb teachers, one of whom was the football coach! My brilliant physics teacher was also my brilliant math teacher for two years, and after goofing off in college, I floated through two graduate degrees in economics beginning 30 years after high school on the strength of the math I learned from her.

In 2014 I reconnected with a classmate I had not seen in 48 years. We marvel at the caliber of education we received then, in a public school in Oklahoma -- not exactly a hotbed of liberal education then or now -- even without considering how much more the best schools provide today.
+4 # MidwestTom 2016-03-23 20:08
The poor are reproducing much faster than the middle and upper classes. The country is getting poorer. Combine these two trends and you get what we now have.

People blame the teachers in the intercity schools for the poor performance of the their students. This is unfair. Each student body shoulded be evaluated on a student by student basis to determine such things as do they get good food, is their a parent home when they arrive from school, do they have an arrest record, do they have a child, and many other environmental questions. The answers should eventually be formulated into a teachability score for each student, and those scores should then be used to determine how tough a job a particular teacher faces with each class. We cannot simply keep reporting that X school is failing and close it down because Y school had students with better test scores.
+14 # economagic 2016-03-23 21:45
Sorry, I hit the wrong thumb. Reproduction rates account for about one percent of the problem. The way the U.S. shafts poor children and/or children of color, even compared to the post-Brown 1950s, accounts for 30-40 percent. The other 59-69 percent is the result of education "reform" driven largely by Republican politics for more than 40 years.

Your comments are otherwise reasonable, although they address only a tiny sliver of the problems of today's dyseducational system.
-7 # backwards_cinderella 2016-03-24 04:10
Midwest Tom, only the rich have lots of babies. Get with it already.
+19 # futhark 2016-03-23 20:08
The rat was the textbook publishing industry that had been consolidated into a few companies, all pressing for adoption of continually updated standards in various disciplines, with textbooks constantly being revised to meet these new standards. The cycle of standards revision and textbook adoption was condensed as far as the traffic would bear.

Now, Newtonian mechanics hasn't really changed in a couple of hundred years, so why would there have to be new editions put out every four years? And why make the pages of a high school science textbook as glitzy as the Las Vegas Strip? It was all marketing and had nothing to do with making the concepts more understandable for a wider range of students. This is not even to mention the stuff that was put into these books to make them look fancier but actually distract from their purpose. For instance, there are no standards for rotational mechanics in the high school standards, nor should there be, but the text has a chapter on that topic that is hard to avoid when using the text as a curriculum guide. I'm just glad to be retired since 2010.
+2 # Depressionborn 2016-03-23 20:51
thanks futhark 2016-03-23 20:08

can schools still use good textbooks, or is home schooling the only book choice?
0 # economagic 2016-03-23 21:52
Amen, although that industry seems to have escaped most of the "merger mania" of the 1960s, and the LBOs of the 80s-90s. I'm not sure just when the steak was completely replaced by sizzle, but judging from the DIY publications of the 70s and 80s, the process was well advanced by 1980.
-6 # economagic 2016-03-23 22:14
Unfortunately neither Ms. Ravitch nor the interviewer is very articulate here, with neither seeming very well prepared. Pacifica should do better. A lot more and more coherent could and should have been said in this time and space.
+10 # danireland46 2016-03-23 23:10
Throw out the Social Contract, Forget the Common Good, if there's a buck to be made, GOP -centric Capitalism will rear its ugly head: public be damned. Todays decisions by our Plutocratic overlords are condemning not only our society but our space ship Earth.
+5 # Johnny 2016-03-24 10:26
US schools and debtor nations like Argentina are not the only victims of neoliberal imperialism. The whole purpose of privatization is to channel public money to corporations and individuals who buy governments, like charter schools, for-profit prisons, privatized water, military "contractors," health insurance companies, private hospitals, etc. Government does not provide for the public good; it provides for the private profit of the individuals and corporations that pay bribes and buy elections.
+3 # Depressionborn 2016-03-24 13:21
[quote name="Johnny" Government does not provide for the public good; it provides for the private profit of the individuals and corporations that pay bribes and buy elections.

Yes, Jonny, the purpose of government is to control the masses and to provide favor to friends and relatives. What else?

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.