Monday, June 6, 2011

Education Reformers: Running Scared?

Asking simple questions deserve straight-forward fact, evidence-based answers, particularly when the public is asking about public education. Instead, there is a clear pattern by education reformers to deflect meaningful answers by getting personal.

Diane Ravitch is one of many expert-level voices questioning current educational policies; however, she has emerged as a favorite for educational reformers to rebutt by getting personal. In a May 31, NY Times opinion, Waiting for a School Miracle, Ms. Ravitch points out the divide between facts and manipulating facts for artful public relations. She suggests caution when overnight success for failing schools is present and provides support to her position.

What is to be learned from these examples of inflated success? The news media and the public should respond with skepticism to any claims of miraculous transformation. The achievement gap between children from different income levels exists before children enter school

Ravitch is not the only one who has expressed this point of view, but certainly gets education reformer supporters hot under the collar. In response to this specific article, journalist Jonathan Alter provided a rebuttal titled "Don't Believe Critics, Education Reform Works." Here are some highlights:

"Arne Duncan, President Barack Obama’s normally mild- mannered education secretary, has finally had enough. “Diane Ravitch is in denial and she is insulting all of the hardworking teachers, principals and students all across the country who are proving her wrong every day,” he said when I asked about Ravitch this week."

"What’s most infuriating to me about Ravitch is the way she assembles straw men."

"Ravitch and her allies specialize in sliming reformers by creating powerful myths. The most pernicious is that reformers aren’t professional educators and therefore don’t have the standing to criticize the status quo. This isn’t true -- many reformers, including the heads of many charter schools, have education experience -- but what’s wrong with business executives or other interested outsiders devoting time and money to public schools? Would it be better if they ignored them as they did for so long? That went well for this country."

Alter concludes with we just need to "believe" that education reform works, because well...he says so. Alrighty then. What will he ask me to just believe next? We have a chance to hear first hand on Wednesday. I will be tuning in, will you????

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 and later by podcast here.

Read Anthony Cody's rebuttal to Alter's rebuttal here.

For more information on the schools Alter's children attend, read here.

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