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Snippet of WWRL Morning Show with Errol Louis: Diane Ravitch on the Rise and Fall of Public Education

From Audio: Diane Ravitch on the Rise and Fall of Public Education

Duration: 09:07
This snippet showcases just some of Diane Ravitch's unashamedly poignant claims, which have, over her long career, vastly influenced the world of education reform.
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Diane Ravitch is one of the most polarizing figures in education reform and has been for decades. As former Assistant Secretary of Education under the Bush Administration, Ravitch has been a champion of tough accountability measures, national standards and testing, and school vouchers. But since her tenure in DC, she has changed stances on just about all the issues she's addressed over her long career, making her the go-to source for critical analysis of all things related to education policy. Why have her opinions changed? but education has changed, as have the needs of the uneducated public. She'll give it to you bluntly because there's already too much politics in the academic conversation.
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so lots of different stuff, including a link to of the new book by our next guest. Diane Ravitch is a research professor of education at New York University. She's the author or editor of more than 20 books. The latest is called The Death and Life of the Great American School System. How testing and choice are undermining education. Good morning, Miss Ravitch. Good morning. How are you? Please call me Diane. I'm one of your regular readers and fans in Brooklyn. Okay, well, likewise. I love you've been on the show before, and I always love hearing what you've got to say. Congratulations. The books of Blockbuster. I understand. It's also a New York Times bestseller. Well, that's true. And I'm getting emails from people across the country saying Thank you. Thank you. Okay. Very well. Now, you you are a researcher. You're very fair person. You're also a little bit of a polemicist. You're You're kind of You're kind of goading the system here and you've got a complaint about testing and choice. How would you summarize that? Concern or complaint? Well, my beef is actually, although the subtitles how testing and choice are undermining American education my beef is more with accountability than it is with testing. I think the testing is gonna be with us. It's always been with us. It will continue to be and we should be using testing to for information on for diagnostics toe help figure out how to improve kids learning. Instead, we're using testing to punish schools, closed schools to privatize schools. Uh, fire teachers. Uh, this is really a misuse of testing. The test weren't designed for that purpose. And I think if you were to talk to anybody who had studied the science of testing, which is called psychometric, they would tell you this is a misuse of the testing instrument. So that's part of the summary. The other part is about choice, and my the original vision of charter schools was that they were supposed to be a support to public education. They were supposed to collaborate, make the public schools better by helping to educate the kids who were the most, uh, let's say, turned off by schools. They were to be places. Charter schools were supposed to educate dropouts and kids who are about to drop out who are completely disaffected. Instead, it's turned into a profit driven sector. Uh, that really does want Thio. Take away public school space and ounce the public schools and replace them with privatized schools. I think that is a terrible direction, and it's going to make education worse for it's kind of American education, basically, especially in the inner cities where the smartest kids and the most motivated kids we'll go into charters and the public schools will be worse off than they were before. But aren't you? Aren't you reading a nefarious or or venal motives into? Ah ah, lot of people? I mean, we know that they're gonna be shallow and venal people everywhere, greed driven or profit driven. But there are also a lot of people in the charter school movement aren't there who are who, I mean, who really put in long hours and are very deeply committed for reasons other than money or power. Yes, I think that's true. There are a lot of and I said, there are some excellent charter schools, but there are just many terrible charter schools. There are excellent ones, and charter schools have been, uh, compared to regular public schools Now, since 03 every other year by the federal testing program. This is the only testing program that has no stakes attached to it. And so we get an honest picture from the federal programs federal program shows. When you compare charter schools in regular public schools, there is no difference in performance. No difference for black kids, Hispanic kids, low income kids or for urban areas. Eso If you create a whole sector that pulls off public money to create privately managed schools and doesn't get better results, all you're doing is in seedling, the public education system. And in the meanwhile, you've got all of these smart, well intentioned people focusing on 3% of the kids. Well, who's focusing on the 97%? And we have the chancellor in New York City acting as a cheerleader for the charter sector. But who's the cheerleader for the public school sector? The when, When you when we find something, whether it's in a charter school or anywhere else that works, whether it's a curriculum change or ah teaching technique, uh, you seem to suggest in the book that there's something wrong there. There's something broken in the conveyor belt that's supposed to spread those ideas and techniques throughout the rest of the public system. How do we fix that? We'll see. The part of the problem here is the charter sector learns lessons that can be translated into the public sector. For example, they've learned that you could bring in recent college graduates and have them work 60 or 70 or 80 hours a week. But that's not a sustainable model for public education, because there's not a big enough supply of young college graduates willing to work 70 or 60 to 80 hours a week. Thio man are woman, a profession of almost four million people s Oh, this is not. If that's the model, it's not a sustainable model. And as I said, charter schools on the whole don't get better results. I think what should be learned from a charter sector is that they have most of them, not all of them. But most of the ones that are successful have strong disciplinary policies. Of course, part of their strong disciplinary policy is that they kick out the kids who don't behave and who then go back in the public schools where they can't kick them out anywhere they have to keep them. So you have a situation where the lesson to be learned. It's hard to apply because the public schools air are governed by very strict court orders and laws and rules, and the public and the charter sector is free of those same rules and laws and regulations. So maybe the lesson is we should go back and look at how we deal with the kids. Charter sector is kicking out, but he isn't here is one of the dilemmas that I think comes up, though, is in a place like District five in Upper Manhattan up in Harlem, where you get huge numbers of parents applying to and trying to get into charter schools. Um, that's a democratic process, so to speak, right? I mean, if people want this, I mean choices, maybe a buzzword, and it has some market overtones. But let's just call it democracy, right? I mean, if if seven uh, kids or their parents are applying for everyone slot in a charter school network, it suggests that that charter school network has been democratically selected as desirable. And what's wrong with that? Well, Sierra lot of this is hype. Uh, for instance, There was recently a story in The New York Times that the public schools were having to market themselves now that they have all the competition. So the public school that they focus on was one that has been targeted by the charter school network. Uh, we want that school, so they've been able to piece together $500 to market themselves to the community. Meanwhile, that little charter school has SEC. That little chain has $325,000 to market itself. So it's really not a level playing field. Is that when one has $500 and the other has $325,000? Now we don't even know if the charter change or producing higher performance. All we know is that they have a lot of hype surrounding them. And if if everybody who was on a waiting list in New York City for a charter school got in, there would be 60,000 kids out of 1.1 million Onda charter school, I'm saying if every one of them got into a charter school, so you're still talking about a sector that if it was expanded, would have 6% of the Children, and the public sector, which has 94% are at this 940.97%. Nobody. No one speaks for it. No one is. Uh, no one's out there saying we can improve public education. They're saying toss aside public education. It's hopeless, were in charge of it. That's what, in effect, the chancellor saying My sector is no good. Go to somebody else's sector. Well, I think what he's saying and this is arguably a responsible stance. He's saying like, Look, I'm not gonna lie to you. We've got some problems here, right? I mean, yeah, but who's gonna fix them? Who is in charge of? Of repairing the system that needs improving? Well, that that's the That's the pathetic thing is charter schools have become the the kind of the charm sector of the moment, and they don't have the capacity to accommodate 1.1 million Children. We're not gonna have 10,000 schools in the city. They're all charter schools because I can promise you if we did, there would be 5% 1 in that were excellent 5% maybe 10% of the other end that were run by Gangsters and greeting people and the others would be about the same as the regular public schools. And we would have destroyed public education in the meanwhile. Well, you know, you talk about public education in a way that is, um uh, admirably optimistic, but it doesn't. It also doesn't quite match up with what I remember about the local community boards. If you wanna talk about Gangsters and all kinds of power plays and other stuff and parents being really had a terrible system and I've been a critic, uh, well for about 40 years of first of all of American education because I think it should be for better than it is and also of New York City education. I wrote the history of the New York City schools in 1974 going back a ways. But the point here is I think we need to fix our system, not throw it away on our system does need fixing. And the more we focus on that, 3% are and make it into 6%. The more we ignore the system that has 94 to 97% of the kids enrolled and no one to speak for it. No one, the champion and no one not to descend it, but someone to make it better on We're not making it better or we're doing is testing kids. We're reducing the quality of education by focusing on these reading and math, reading, math. And, you know, if you look at the national scores, New York City has made hardly any progress in the last eight years.
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