Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Diane Ravitch speaks on what makes a good education

In 1981 at Booker T.Washington High School,  the Dallas Institute of  humanities and culture sponsored its first education forum to facilitate a conversation about the "crisis" in public schools.  This evening, twenty-nine years later, in the same and newly renovated venue, the Dallas Institute forum posed the question, "What makes a good education?"

Everyone who cares about keeping the public in public education would have benefited from hearing the response of guest lecturer Dr. Diane Ravitch, historian educator and former Assistant Secretary of Education.  She emphasized that today, in 2010, we still face a serious crisis in public education - including the threat that the "public" will be taken out of public education.    This is a threat to the very existence of public education.

Among her many points were the following:

  • Teachers cannot do their best when they are afraid.
  • Merit pay diminishes collaboration and team work.
  • Closing schools rips away social capital and community anchors.
  • There is no proven model currently in existence for turning schools around.
  • Education is more than testing.
  • Accountability now blames only teachers for problems far broader than a classroom.
  • Poverty does matter and harms educational outcomes, but nobody wants to talk about poverty.
  • Charter schools occupy a very small  part of the educational system and will not solve the huge challenges.

I had previously attended her session on "Strengthening Public Education" at the National School Boards Association annual meeting in Chicago earlier this month.
After being a supporter of many so-called "reforms", Diane Ravitch now believes that many of the currently popular public education "reforms" will harm, not help public education.

Much of this is outlined in her current, best-seller book "The Death and Life of the Great American School System."