A Book and a Network

Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public SchoolsI was lead to The Network For Public Education by Diane Ravitch’s book Reign Of Error.  The Network was formed this year and exists to push the ideas described in the book.  The Network was formed

to protect, preserve, promote, and strengthen public schools and the education of current and future generations of students.

NPE’s specific goals:

  • We support schools that offer a full and rich curriculum for all children, including the arts, physical education, history, civics, foreign languages, literature, mathematics, and the sciences.
  • We support schools that are subject to democratic control by members of their community.
  • We support schools that have the resources that their students need, such as guidance counselors, social workers, librarians, and psychologists.
  • We support the equitable funding of schools, with extra resources for those students with the greatest needs.
  • We support schools that have reasonable class sizes, so that teachers have the time to help the children in their care.
  • We support early childhood education, because we know that the achievement gap begins before the first day of school.
  • We support high standards of professionalism for teachers, principals, and superintendents.
  • We support the principle that every classroom should be led by a teacher who is well educated, well prepared for the challenges of teaching, and certified.
  • We support wraparound services for children, such as health clinics and after-school programs.
  • We support assessments that are used to support children and teachers, not to punish or stigmatize them or to hand out monetary rewards.
  • We support assessments that measure what was taught, through projects and activities in which students can demonstrate what they have learned.
  • We support the evaluation of teachers by professionals, not by unreliable test scores.
  • We support helping schools that are struggling, not closing them.
  • We support parent involvement in decisions about their children.
  • We support the idea that students’ confidential information must remain confidential and not be handed over to entrepreneurs and marketing agents.
  • We support teacher professionalism in decisions about curriculum, teaching methods, and selection of teaching materials.
  • We support public education because it is a pillar of our democratic society.

Many of Reign Of Error‘s chapters begin with a claim and a statement of reality.  The claims are those put forth by what are, in the United States today, called reformers.  The realities are based on research and evidence.  The reformers push for reforms that are antithetical to the ideas supported by NPE and described in Ravitch’s book.  The reformers back

High-stakes testing; privatization of public education; mass school closures to save money or to facilitate privatization; demonization of teachers; lowering of standards for the education profession; for-profit management of schools. [from NPE’s web site]

Here are the claims and realities.  (Note that Ravitch uses Realities instead of Counter Claims.

  • Chapter 5
    • Claim:  Test scores are falling, and the educational system is broken and obsolete.
    • Reality:  Test scores are at their highest point ever recorded.
  • Chapter 6
    • Claim:  The achievement gaps are large and getting worse.
    • Reality:  We have made genuine progress in narrowing the achievement gaps, but they will remain large if we do nothing about the cause of the gaps.
  • Chapter 7
    • Claim:  We are falling behind other nations, putting our economy and out national security at risk.
    • Reality:  An old lament, not true then, not true now.
  • Chapter 8
    • Claim:  The nation has a dropout crisis, and high school graduation rates are falling.
    • Reality:  High school dropout rates are at an all-time low, and high school graduation rates are at an all-time high.
  • Chapter 9
    • Claim:  Our economy will suffer unless we have the highest college graduation rates in the world
    • Reality:  There is no evidence for this claim.
  • Chapter 10
    • Claim:  Poverty is an excuse for ineffective teaching and failing schools.
    • Reality:  Poverty is highly correlated with low academic achievement
  • Chapter 11
    • Claim:  Teachers determine student test scores, and test scores may be used to identify and reward effective teachers and to fire those who are not effective.
    • Reality:  Test scores are not the best way to identify the best teachers.
  • Chapter 12
    • Claim:  Merit pay will improve achievement.
    • Reality:  Merit pay has never improved achievement.
  • Chapter 13
    • Claim:  Schools will improve if tenure and seniority are abolished.
    • Reality:  There is no evidence for this claim.
  • Chapter 14
    • Claim:  Teach for America recruits teachers and leaders whose high expectations will one day ensure that every child has an excellent education.
    • Reality:  Teach for America sends bright young people into tough classrooms where they get about the same results as other bright young people in similar classrooms but leave the profession sooner.
  • Chapter 16
    • Claim:  Charter schools will revolutionize American education by their freedom to innovate and produce dramatically better results.
    • Reality:  Charter schools run the gamut from excellent to awful and are, on average, no more innovative or successful than public schools.
  • Chapter 17
    • Claim:  Virtual schools will bring the promise of personalized, customized learning to every student and usher in an age of educational excellence for all.
    • Reality:  Virtual schools are cash crops for their owners but poor substitutes for real teachers and real schools.

 

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