Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Education Reform: Let the Debates Begin

Education reformers have thus far controlled the narrative, with national media outlets by and large cooperating. Those interested in education are covering the developments in education-oriented news sites and in the blogosphere; however, wider coverage is missing and the general public underinformed. This state of affairs may be changing.

Diane Ravitch is the most visible voice questioning current educational reform initiatives. While she is not the only voice, she has emerged as a favorite for personal attack versus healthy debate on the facts of the matter. One outcome of journalist Jonathan Alter's recent Bloomberg article asking the public to "believe" in education reform, is an online debate:

Diane Ravitch will debate Jonathan Alter on David Sirota's Denver radio show, at 7 am Denver time, 9 am Eastern time, on the morning of Wednesday, June 8.

Live online here, select Listen Live!, and later by podcast here.

Ravitch has several debates scheduled this summer including one with Michelle Rhee, which will get C-SPAN coverage. Grumpy Educators will post reminders as these debates come up.

Many are questioning and uncomfortable with the role the Gates Foundation is playing in molding American education. Many see the Gates Foundation dominated the process and the public narrative. NPR reporter Wendy Kaufman asked Jeff Raikes, Gates Foundation CEO to respond to Ravitch's views that opposing voices are drowned-out:

I think Diane is really underestimating the number of voices that are out there, including her own," says Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Gates Foundation.

He dismisses Ravitch's contention that the foundation has commandeered the education debate. At the same time he makes no apologies for the organization's doggedness in trying to achieve its objectives.

NPR is partially funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Foundation recently announced a new initiative called Teach First. The plan includes the Foundations intention to ensure “frequent placement ... in local media coverage of issues related to teacher effectiveness and equitable distribution of effective teachers” in accordance with the Gates approach, "to build “strong ties to local journalists, opinion elites, and local/state policymakers and their staffs.” The plan includes "campaigns to reach out to parents, teachers, students, business and civic and religious leaders."

With Gates money and powerful connections, I wonder who exactly is underestimating what. Tune in tomorrow morning or listen to the podcast when convenient. Get informed.


  1. Thank you for this and yes she is not alone we are just at the beginning of the fight and she indeed is getting traction in her fight for equality and access and against privatization and exclusivity but foremost in her protection of the teaching profession against the pernicious attack upon public teachers and public education.
    keep it up grump!

  2. I listened to the debate. I think Sirota did an outstanding job. I think Alter did a poor job. He stuck with the personal attacks on Ravitch and sticking to the narrative. He accuses Ravitch of "over simplifying" while then suggesting that nationwide teachers who have failed cannot be fired included those teachers who send sexually oriented notes to students. We know here in Florida that statement is a flat out lie. We are also familiar with the narrative. Since he takes some responsibility for Newsweek's demise, his presentation this morning reflects his contribution.