America's education reform movement -- the most significant reform movement in the history of this planet -- is just concluding another amazing school year. Politicians of all stripes and parties have come together to say, "We will not accept inferior teachers destroying the lives of our children anymore".
With grim budget cuts necessitating layoffs, we are reminded once again that seniority based layoffs make as much sense as saying that U2 should have to keep Bono as their lead singer just because he's been with the band for 30 years and has tenure.
For the past 30 years, education reformers have had to fight the forces of the status quo, but in that time we have agreed that certain changes must be made to education:
- The business principles that have made our economy great should be applied to our schools as well.
- We need a common curriculum
- We need frequent standardized testing
- We need a longer day and school year to allow more time for increased test prep
- We need a rich curriculum focused like a laser on only math and reading
- We need an end to tenure and LIFO policies
- Younger perkier teachers are superior to the old saddle horses who too often dominate public education.
- The best teachers for poor inner city students are young, preferably Ivy League educated young people from well to do families.
- Charter schools are superior to public schools because they can council students into leaving and public schools must teach everybody.
- We should fire the bottom 1/3 of all teachers every year.
Diane Ravitch is the leader of this rear guard assault on education reform by teachers, parents, students, and other malcontents. Now don't get me wrong Ms. Ravitch, who is a New York University professor and an education historian is a powerful speaker. Unfortunately, for financial reasons obviously, she has chosen to be a mouth piece for the teachers unions and to attack Bill Gates, The Walton Foundation, Eli Broad, and many hedge fund managers who spend billions on education reform.
Diane has become the ultimate party pooper. When Arne Duncan trumpets a charter school with a 100% graduation rate, rather than being ecstatic for the 25 graduates, she will whine that they started high school with a class of 200. When we come up with a great idea like increasing standardized testing, she whines about how high achieving countries have less standardized testing. Nobody likes to be constantly second guessed. As reformers we know what works and eventually we will find a way of funding studies that show we are right. We don't need little Professor Sunshine torpedoing all our great ideas.
"She doesn’t believe teachers and schools can make a difference in high-poverty areas,” says Colorado State Senator Mike Johnston, pointing to the fact that every time we find a great school that has had a 30% increase in test scores in one year, she seems to find something wrong with it.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently called her out saying,“Diane Ravitch is in denial and she is insulting all of the hardworking teachers, principals and students all across the country?"
I find Duncan's criticism right on the money. Before becoming Secretary of Education he was was part of the miracle of remaking the Chicago Public Schools into a Renaissance and before that he averaged over 20 points of game playing basketball in Australia. Plus his mom was an educator.
We welcome Diane's input on education matters once she stops complaining about the turds floating around the punch bowl. You can't keep a punch bowl 100% clean. The important thing is that it's mostly delicious punch. When Miss Ravitch learns this lesson, we will love to hear from her. Until then, we must ask her, "Why do you hate children so much?"