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Video: What Ravitch Does Wrong (And Gets Right) On PBS

Let's start with the mis-steps:  Ravitch leads off with the notion that teachers have been "demonized" (ironic given her constant demonization of reformers), describes Gates et al as privatizers (a claim that's factually hard to support though it sounds good), and claims that the billionaires' influence is unprecedented (which Rockefeller, Ford, Carnegie, Soros, and the Koch brothers might be surprised to hear).  

 

But she's right about reformers having picked some questionable or at least unproven strategies for reform (removing charter caps, value-added, and ending LIFO are my favorite duds), and that reformers have ignored poverty (and early childhood, and wraparound services) in their rush to make changes.  If she'd ease up on the red meat anti-reform stuff (let DVR or someone else take that role) I think she'd make it harder for reformers to ignore her.  

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JD: It's not either/or. Many of us do believe that the effects of poverty and the pressures on the middle class have an enormous impact on students' learning.

BUT, we (and I as a parent) also believe that teachers are enormously important. Unfortunately, teachers have borne the brunt of some devastating mythology (see rubber rooms, dance of lemons, above) that demeans the entire public school system. "Status Quo" is not something ANYONE supports, but that's the black/white line as drawn by the reformers and their well-funded, slickly executed campaigns.

We need great teachers. Great teachers need to be treated (and behave) as professionals. They should have flexibility, room to be creative and they should have support in terms of funding, policy and achievable expectations.

Reformers are not grassroots parents. The parents are the easily manipulated and frustrated poor, ELL and SE parents who cannot figure out why their kids are doing so badly.

There is a school on he corner, there are teachers in it but our kids lag behind. These kids were miles behind on the first day of kindergarten. Their vocab was half of middle class kids. David Berliner does one of the best jobs on why poor kids don't keep up. (low birth weight, nutrition, glasses too late, dental too little too late, no place to study, no roll models, and on and on.) the common denominator is poverty.

Demonization seems to be the only thing either side seems to do anymore. That’s really become my issue as of late. There are kids at stake here. This isn’t a theoretical budget sector or planning zone being argued over, it’s America’s future as an economic superpower.

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