"The Strange Paradox of 'School Reform' Today" --Diane Ravitch in Bridging Differences

"The Strange Paradox of 'School Reform' Today" --Diane Ravitch in Bridging Differences

from the article:

"The Obama administration has benefited mightily by winning the approval of the national media. But the media have failed to ask what the race is about, what the "top" is, who will lose the race, and what
will be accomplished by the government's expenditure of nearly $5
billion for these purposes.

I think the Race to the Top is a massive waste of money that will produce perverse consequences. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of schools will be privatized, handed over in some cases to incompetent or
unscrupulous organizations. Teachers will be pushed to focus more of
their energy on unworthy tests. Many schools will discover there is
less time to teach the arts or sciences or foreign languages or history.

Based on my travels these past few months, I conclude that my views are by no means unusual. Our nation's educators are strongly opposed to the Race to the Top. They know these policies will harm and degrade
education. Our policymakers in Washington, D.C., should pay attention."

Diane tells it like it is, I'd say.  Have you read her book? 

The educators I've been hearing from say that this is the most bleak of all the educational eras.  What has happened?

What if we're trying to build strong learning communities with deeply engaged students who are joyful about coming to school and full of internal motivation, self-discipline, and creativity?  Should we just forget about that for a while?  How much damage will be done?  Will it be reparable? 

Tags: Duncan, Obama, Race+to+the+top, Ravitch, reform

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A belated well done, and well-deserved too Daniel!
Whew, wow, I find myself in the presence of someone ready for the work of an educational warrior.
I share your view that we have to look at the whole mess in education through a wider lens, look at it societally, and globally. My burning question has to do with inequity. Why can't we bring ALL children into the fold, with meaningful education? Why do we look at those who are failing and say, "Oh--they haven't done well with what we have given them, so let's dispense MORE of it..." Not the right road to go down.
You have the reference for the Naomi Klein book?
The editorial about billionaires giving to charity was in the Chicago Tribune today.

How do we united our voices so that part of this philanthropy goes into learning and enrichment in all high poverty neighborhoods, so the ideas expressed in groups like this can have the resources to implement them?

How do educators empower their students to be part of this advocacy, so they learn to use their arts, music, writing, performance, social media and other abilities to draw help from the rich to the neighborhoods of the poor?

Who might build a list of schools, with links, showing where this is happening, and pointing to what is happening?

I have been pondering similar thoughts since reading the commentary on several of the posts yesterday, specifically on alternatives to school funding that arose in the "Curriculum for Sale"

My own thinking that is that the terms "generous" and "charitable" are highly elastic. Even if somebody like Gates gives away 1/2 of his current fortune, he still would hold onto over $20 billion (in a bad year). In that context, the word charitable has diminished value. Does the expression "give until it hurts" really apply when there is $20 billion in one's pocket? I think I could do pretty well just living off the interest on $20 billion, so could a school district or two.

Regarding schools and communities (and rich folks), In 1992, I moved to Chicago came to realize what a real budget shortfall (millions of dollars) looked like for a school system. And I don't remember why, but there was some buzz (among readers of the Tribune) suggesting that Ryne Sandberg (the Cubs star 2nd baseman) should donate a portion of his salary to close the budget gap.

With all the big-money people in Chicago. I don't remember why the focus was on Sandberg, perhaps because he was near the end of career and less productive than in previous seasons (whereas Michael Jordan was still earning his keep, I guess). Sandberg was aked about the scenario, and he said that he appreciated the situation, but he didn't feel that funding the school system was the public's obligation and not his personally.

I agreed with him at the time and still do for the most part. However, in looking how schools/district's are becoming unhinged all around the country, it's maddening that big money gets spent on things that scream "I have big money."

A recent example is this.I'm not trying to pick on Derek Jeter, he has spent a lot of his own money in community-building efforts in New York and at his own former school district in Kalamazoo. But a 31,000-SF house? There is a tremendous opportunity cost there, I think that the just the monthly operating expenses of a house like that could be put be put to better use in community-buidling efforts around the country. I'm there's plenty of need within a few subway stopts from his Manhattan apartment.

Ironically that yesterday while my I was getting up my dander about this, I got news of Manute Bol's death. For those of you that aren't familiar with Bol, there is lots of recent coverage of his story, but this is the a story of a basketball star who made millions in the NBA and who died relatively impoverished after spending most of the last 20 years providing humanitarian relief (schools, hospitals, food) to his home country of Sudan.

I think one of the things that can be done to encourage increased involvement of the of the rich is we need to promote examples like Bol's. Perhaps the question for the rich is "What would Manute do?" So, while I agree with Sandberg's point in 1992 about certain things not being his obligation, it's still hard to fathom how the rich can just let things decay around them.

Again, not trying single out Bill Gates, Ryne Sandberg, or Derek Jeter. They each have worked hard to reach their status and income levels. They have each contributed time and money to charity that is in excess of what I ever could. They were some top-of-mind examples, I didn't mean them any offense to them.

I also hope that I didn't offend any of you teachers in 30,000 sf homes :)
If we could teach just one habit, I would put problem solving, and perseverance, on the top of the list. The problems we are talking about, closing the gap between education opportunities of rich and poor, or getting billionaires to provide a share of wealth to support these efforts, will take lots of imagination and creativity, and a great deal of persistence.

More than 10 years ago I launched an idea, which I call the Business School Connection. The goal was to recruit teams of graduate students at the top business schools in the world, who would show how well their prestigious school was teaching them, by how well they were able to raise visibility, dollars and volunteers to support non-school tutor/mentor programs in their community.

Each year, one school would win the award, based on what they accomplish, while the efforts of every participating school would be archived. Thus, in each successive year, as a new group of students took on the challenge, they would be able to learn from the best efforts of every group, and thus innovate new ways to "win" the competition.

This idea is described at http://www.tutormentorconnection.org/GetInvolved/DiscussionForums/t...

It still does not have a few owners, business schools, who are making it a reality. However, if it were adopted, by some high schools, and/or colleges, it would provide consistent manpower, and a flow of dollars and volunteers, to every city where such teams were in place.

If such competitions were on-going for a few decades, I think the habits of philanthropy and leadership might change from occasional splashes of kindness in a few places, to persistent efforts to solve problems in many places.
Thanks Daniel,
Thinking on it, I'd want the unfashionable perseverance at the top end of vital 21st century skills. Our world can't really afford a dilettante intelligentsia any more, and the world challenges are real, systemic, and large. Aha! solutions (which may be valid) require perspiring implementers!

And even the geniuses are perspirers. Even Einstein. He could 'see' some of his answers, but it took ferocious effort to 'show' them, to demonstrate them as robust, reliable, solid results which had meaning, which could be tested, and which withstood the tests and verifications.
Ruminating over my past cohorts of high schoolstudents, the feature which has been significantly diminishing is perseverance/application/focus/concentration. (And recall/general knowledge!)
This is particularly important in light of what is taking place in Chicago and other cities. There is more killing and shooting of US citizens in our big cities than in Iraq or Afghanistan. This is just one headline from today's SunTimes. http://www.suntimes.com/news/24-7/2412424,humboldt-park-shootings-0...

When I think of "volunteer involvement in a tutor/mentor program" or some of the "learning ideas" from Fireside and other places, I see these as solutions that will take a long time to implement, or to have an impact on the aspirations, habits and actions of those who now find it so easy to take a gun, put it to someone head, and pull the trigger.

In light of the immediacy of trying to find a way to stop this violence, which just breeds more violence, and affects the learning of those who live in the neighborhoods, not just those who were shot and killed, it's hard to stay focused on the believe that we can end this by the long term ideas we're talking about.


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