Education news this week has been breaking at a dizzying pace. This interview with on Democracy Now with Diane Ravitch, a professor of education at NYU, New York University, and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Leonie Haimson, a public school parent and executive director of Class Size Matters, is well worth a read. Here are some highlights:
DIANE RAVITCH: Well, you know, I think this week, in the last week of July of 2010, turns out to be a pretty momentous week. First of all, six civil rights groups came together and issued a joint statement that blasted Race to the Top and also the blueprint, the Obama blueprint, because he is building—although he doesn’t admit it, he’s building his education agenda right on top of the Bush education agenda, which is to test and punish, to close schools, to evaluate teachers in ways that are unfair and unsound from a research point of view, to increase the number of privately managed charter schools. All this is going to be immensely destabilizing, and it’s going to hit hardest on minority communities, because most of the schools that will be identified as the lowest-performing schools will be in poor Hispanic and black communities. And there will be massive—excuse me, massive destabilization. This is not good. And the civil rights groups recognize this.
There was a second report out that came out this week from a group of community—from an organization of community groups from across the country, echoing the same complaints: we don’t want more community schools, we don’t want more charter schools, we want better public schools—help our public schools get better, not by more testing, not by more charters, but by sensible approaches like more pre-kindergarten, smaller class size, more support for the people who are teaching in those schools—commonsense approaches, which this administration seems to be avoiding and looking for the quick fix that George Bush pursued and that Mayor Bloomberg pursued, and it didn’t work. So I think there are immense implications here.
And we also saw in the Congress where Congressman Obey tried to strip money away from Race to the Top, away from merit pay and away from charter schools. And the administration’s response was, "Don’t take money from Race to the Top. Take it away from food stamps." And Joel Klein said to take it away from Title I. These are all programs that benefit the neediest families in our society, and there were prepared to harm people who are in need of help in order to preserve the President’s favorite program.
So I think that the implications of this week, with the test score explosion, the blowup of the fraud in New York City, and these two grassroots groups saying, "This is not working, and take a more commonsense approach, and stop this destructive test and measurement and punishment approach," this is big, because up 'til now everybody seems to have gone along with the rhetoric of President Obama. But you have to separate his rhetoric, which is always very elegant, from what his administration is actually doing, which is just more Bush, more No Child Left Behind.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And Leonie, what’s going to happen now here in New York State? All these parents that had been told that their children were doing well, were meeting state expectations, are now suddenly—will suddenly discover in the next few weeks that their kids are in need of help, that their scores were not what they were before. What is going to happen in terms of the kind of remediation that New York City and New York State are going to have to now do for students that they weren’t recognizing before?
LEONIE HAIMSON: Well, I think parents are rightfully going to be devastated when they find out that the whole thing was a fraud and that their children are not doing well and not succeeding and not learning. Unfortunately, I don’t see any evidence, either on the state level or the city level, that they’re prepared to give any more help to these kids to really make sure that they succeed. Our budgets are being cut back radically. Class sizes are going to go up hugely in the fall. A lot of the support systems, the after-school programs, the tutoring, the interventions programs, are being cut. So it’s going to get worse, not better. And the only policy that this administration has in order to supposedly help these kids is holding them back. And the overwhelming research shows that holding back kids does not help, it hurts, and it leads to higher dropout rates in the end. So, we have no culture of helping to support schools in this city, and it looks like, across the nation, we again have no culture and no expectation that the Obama administration really wants to help our schools improve. They just want to shut them down, fire the teachers, privatize them, and impose other sort of test-based accountability reforms that simply don’t work.
I'd like to hear from some parents. What are your thoughts on the events of the week? Are you concerned about testing? What type of education reforms would you like to see?