Ohio

Eye on Education

Q & A: Former Assistant Education Secretary Diane Ravitch on Why She Changed Her Mind

Ida Lieszkovszky / StateImpact: Ohio

Diane Ravitch is an education historian and the former Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education.

Controversial education advocate Diane Ravitch is spending the day in Cleveland to talk about school reform.

The one-time supporter of school choice and standardized testing now backs teacher unions and says charter schools undermine public education.

We caught up with Ravitch to talk about education reform in Ohio.

Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing education in Ohio and America today?

A: Well the biggest problem facing Ohio is that in your big 8 districts you’ve got tremendous poverty and the single biggest cause of low academic performance is poverty, and if you do nothing about poverty you’re not going to change the performance levels. So the best thing you can do in the state, first of all is to initiate a program of early childhood education to make sure that children, when they arrive in school they have the vocabulary, they have the social skills so that they’re ready to learn. You should also make sure that every woman in the state that gets pregnant has decent medical care. You should make sure that children have access to medical care so that they’re not missing school because of unnecessary health problems so that they have vision screening and are testing for their hearing, all these things are necessary. This is what middle class and upper middle class parents are able to provide their children. So, this is one thing that’s important.

I think that economic development is crucial for school improvement. But I think in terms of the school, you’ve got to focus on school improvement, and that’s to make sure kids are not just getting test, test, test but that they have arts programs, that they have science programs, that they have time to play. I mean, all of these things are crucial for having good schools. It’s what parents in affluent suburbs expect as a matter or right, and wer’e increasingly denying this to children in the inner city who have so little to begin with.

Q: Early on in your career you were a pretty strong supporter of school choice, charter schools, school vouchers and you have since changed your mind. What made you change your mind?

A: Well it’s true, I supported testing, accountability, choice, charters, all of those things. But I realized in theory they all sounded great, in reality I discovered either that they didn’t work or that they didn’t make any difference. What we’re doing in this country is tearing apart public education and bringing in lots of entrepreneurial people to make money off education but we’re not providing a better education. In fact I’ve concluded and it’s reconfirmed every day, we’re making education worse.

Q: Now in Ohio we have a big voucher program, it’s been expanding recently, we have a lot of charter schools. If that’s not the solution to education reform, what is?

A: Well you can’t start doing the right thing until you realize that you’re doing the wrong thing and there’s no evidence that vouchers improve education, there’s no evidence that charters improve education and I think that what we do have strong evidence of is that the highest performing nations in the world have a strong public school system. That’s where resources should go.

Q: What are your thoughts on these efforts to keep good teachers in the classroom, push the bad ones out, tie student performance pay. Is that a good way to go about improving education?

A: What we have today is a line of talk about teaching that will cause us to lose good teachers, not just get rid of bad teachers because it’s not like there’s a line of people standing at the school house door saying ‘hire me, I’m a better teacher.’ We’re going to have trouble recruiting teachers. Right now there are more first year teachers in America than there are people with any experience. We have been driving away good teachers and experienced teachers with all of this negative trash talk about teachers and we should stop it now and begin to talk about how to have a positive approach. First of all giving respect to teachers, that’s the least we should do, and secondly just to recognize that they have a really, really hard job and to give them the support and resources that they need to do their job.

Comments

  • Bill Sims

    Diane Ravitch: “Well the biggest problem facing Ohio is that in your big 8 districts you’ve got tremendous poverty and the single biggest cause of low academic performance is poverty, and if you do nothing about poverty you’re not going to change the performance levels.
    Bill Sims: “Interesting, Diane, this is exactly where charter schools have been confined to, by law, in Ohio. And you say that “you’re not going to change the performance levels” because of the poverty levels in these areas. Bunk. Yes, charters in Ohio have this burden of locale but guess what, in terms of yearly student gains, charters within these big 8 district locales have outperformed their district counterparts for the past four years.”
    Diane Ravitch: “I discovered either that they (charters) didn’t work or that they didn’t make any difference.”
    Bill Sims: “Hooey. Ohio has proven that charters do make a difference, taking children who have failed in their district schools, grade levels behind, and realizing improved academic performance, often in smaller, safer, more personalized environments. And these alternative environments can be niche schools that are better fits for kids than generic classrooms. Sweeping generalizations, Diane, are not befitting educational gurus who theoretically base their conclusions on facts, not allowing their opinions to become facts. What you say about Ohio charters is simply not true.”
    –Bill Sims
    Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools

    • http://twitter.com/Caroline94127 Caroline Grannan

      I’m writing from outside Ohio, so I can’t speak to charter achievement in Ohio, but nationwide, the vast majority of charter schools perform less well than comparable public schools, despite the considerable advantages charters have. They are free to pick, choose and kick out the students they want (yeah yeah, they’re not supposed to, but nobody oversees at all); many of them get vast amounts of private funding; and all of them reap the benefits of the lobbying, PR and infrastructure supported by those vast amounts of private funding. And they notoriously serve far fewer of the most high-need children — children with disabilities and English-language learners — than public schools.

      Yet, again, the vast majority of charter schools perform less well than comparable public schools. (No, charter schools are not public schools. They’re privately run with public money.)

      And Ohio is rife with stories of charter looting, cheating, failure and collapse that we do hear of outside the state, even as far as here in California. For some examples, go to http://charterschoolscandals.blogspot.com/search/label/*Ohio

    • Mike
  • http://twitter.com/StuartBuck1 Stuart Buck

    “there’s no evidence that vouchers improve education, there’s no evidence that charters improve education”

    There are over two dozen studies that show that charter or vouchers either 1) improve outcomes for the students themselves, or 2) put pressure on public schools to improve.

    It would be one thing for her to say that she doesn’t agree with that evidence for some reason, but to say there’s no evidence is a flat-out lie.

    • Jim_mothersbaugh

      Well, MISTER stuart buck, cite the studies. Why should I believe you when you cite NO STUDIES. You can sit back and say there are plenty of studies, but until you cite one, and I read it, I’d have to agree with Ms. Ravitch. My ninth-grade English teacher would have rejected your drivel and asked for a re-write. Hmmm. Did you attend a Charter School or something?

      • http://twitter.com/StuartBuck1 Stuart Buck

        Easy: Here are 11 studies showing superiority for charter schools. http://stuartbuck.blogspot.com/2011/08/charter-school-research.html

        Here are links to 10 studies showing that public schools improve when vouchers are present: http://jaypgreene.com/2008/08/25/systemic-effects-of-vouchers/

        Here are another 10 studies showing the effects on voucher kids: http://jaypgreene.com/2008/08/25/systemic-effects-of-vouchers/

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/U6ARWOUKZL5SRBEI25TT2WVLXI DaMan

          From your own first link.
          “non-urban charter schools are uniformly ineffective”

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/U6ARWOUKZL5SRBEI25TT2WVLXI DaMan

          Sorry but there is no way I trust a link (jaypgreene) that posts ALEC information on it. If he trusts ALEC information then I can’t trust anything else he posts.

        • Student

          Why do we have to make a profit off of our student’s education? Business don’t care about our kids. They are in business to make a “buck”. They can go bankrupt tomorrow and take all the money and not care at all what happens to our kids. Public schools are the foundation of our society and our communities. All they needs is administrators who care, teachers who care, maintenance workers who care and most importantly, parents who care and are involved with the school … it’s not rocket science.

      • Connie
  • Rob

    “Ohio has proven that charters do make a difference,” Complete BS maybe for Brennen and his cohorts, but data shows a far different story.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/U6ARWOUKZL5SRBEI25TT2WVLXI DaMan

    Stuart Buck & Bill Sims are lying and here are the facts that they don’t show you.
    http://www.plunderbund.com/2012/02/04/president-of-ohio-charter-organization-calls-diane-ravitch-a-liar/

    • Constance

      See the other story from this same news source that shows charters are doing as well as traditional, at 2/3 the cost. Here is the first line: “Ohio charter schools in the state’s “Big 8″ urban districts perform about the same as other public schools in those districts — at about three-fourths of the cost”

      And the cite: http://stateimpact.npr.org/ohio/2011/10/19/sortable-table-ohio-charter-school-performance-and-costs/.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/U6ARWOUKZL5SRBEI25TT2WVLXI DaMan

        That the list you cite uses the flawed, % on or above grade level, instead of the better Performance Index Scores. Read my link again.

        “If we average these scores across all charters and districts results we obtain a higher average PI score for the Big 8 than for the collective charters.”

  • John

    According to State Impact Ohio, charter perform about as well as traditional public. And they do so for less money.
    http://stateimpact.npr.org/ohio/2011/10/18/five-common-misconceptions-about-ohio-charter-schools/

  • Anonymous

    “The one-time supporter of school choice and standardized testing now backs teacher unions and says charter schools undermine public education.” – enough said – she’s a union useful ant, and would be thrown under the bus if necessary.
    “Now in Ohio we have a big voucher program, it’s been expanding recently, we have a lot of charter schools. If that’s not the solution to education reform, what is?
    A: Well you can’t start doing the right thing until you realize that you’re doing the wrong thing and there’s no evidence that vouchers improve education, there’s no evidence that charters improve education and I think that what we do have strong evidence of is that the highest performing nations in the world have a strong public school system. That’s where resources should go.” – thanks for your unbiased determination.

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