Posts Tagged ‘Diane Ravitch’

PSAT for 9-24-13: Buy this book!

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013


Diane Ravich’s new book, Reign of Error, just came out and everyone’s talking about it!reign-of-error2Diane has been all over the airwaves and in print. Parents Across America President Dora Taylor and PAA co-founder Leonie Haimson have written excellent reviews.

Dora’s review (also posted on the PAA site) neatly summarizes the book:

This book is a perfect reference guide to all things ed reform. Don’t understand much about test scores? Check out the chapters “The Facts About Test Scores” and “The Facts About International Test Scores”. Don’t know the history of Michelle Rhee? Go to “The Mystery of Michele Rhee”. How about the Parent Trigger? Read the chapter “Parent Trigger or Parent Tricker”. (Love the title).The best part is that after Dr. Ravitch explains all things corporate reform, she provides real solutions to the challenges of public education. The answers aren’t easy, there is no silver bullet as she explains, but the solutions are based on a wide range and depth of knowledge, history, experience and good old-fashion common sense.”

Leonie’s review includes a call to action that we’ll use as our PSAT for today:

To defeat the likes of Murdoch, as well as the other pirates and privateers circling our schools like sharks,  we need to become better organized and enlarge our allies. You will never find a more succinct and compelling book than Reign of Error, with a crystal clear analysis of the way in which our schools are being driven into the ground by the Billionaire Boys club of Gates, Broad, Walton, Murdoch and Bloomberg, and other ideologues and opportunists eager to join in.

So go buy a copy for yourself, but more importantly, give extra copies to family members, your neighbors or even your school board. Send the book to your local legislator or Congressman, especially if he or she tends to support whatever nonsense the Obama administration is pushing in the name of education reform.
Give a copy to your brother, who works in finance and thinks that charters are the magic bullet that will help students in struggling urban districts. Send it to your cousin, a recent college grad who wrongly believes that Teach for America is the best thing since sliced bread. Order the book for your mother, who knows better but isn’t secure enough in her facts to be able to argue these issues with her friends. Buy a bunch and give them to all your relatives – and then discuss the book at Thanksgiving dinner.
We need to engage and woo potential allies, to show them how corporate greed and delusional deference to the free market is destroying public education, just as it crashed the economy –and that there is a better way to support, strengthen and improve our public schools. We must win this battle for the soul of our education system before it’s too late. I can think of no better way to achieve this necessary goal than making sure that as many people as possible read this book.

PSAT for 5-29-12: Calling all parents!

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

How can I resist sharing Diane Ravitch’s call to action (even when she spells my name wrong)?

Here’s what she wrote a couple of days ago:

In an earlier post, I described how a parent organization called out Scantron, the testing company, for inserting a blatantly propagandistic item into its standardized tests. The reading passage was about the alleged superiority of charters as education reform and named a fictitious “multi-millionaire” who sends his own children to a charter. Public school students in Chicago were shown this advertising for charters, with no critical views included.

The parent group is called PURE, or Parents United for Responsible Education. They are watchdogs for public education in Chicago, and they are fearless. Every city should have a group like PURE. This parent group is an affiliate of Parents Across America, and Julie Woesterhoff–its leader–was a co-founder of PAA.

One important lesson to be learned from this episode is that parents can be powerful. Parents have the freedom that teachers don’t have to call out bad test items like this one, which was blatantly untrue. If a teacher called a press conference or put out a statement blasting a test item, the teacher might be fired for revealing what was on the test. Parents are not bound to remain silent.

And parents should not remain silent.

The best parent organization in the United States today is Parents Across America. Unlike the national PTA, which has taken sizable contributions from the Gates Foundation, PAA fights for children and public education. Like PURE in Chicago, PAA is fearless. Google it, and if you like what you see, join them. (I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see that the National PTA–which should be staunch defenders of public schools–had a showing of “Waiting for ‘Superman’” at its 2011 national convention in Orlando.)

Or better yet, start a chapter of PAA in your town or city.

Here’s how to do that.

Diane Ravitch calls charter test passage “a new low”

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

Diane Ravitch’s blog today is about the Scantron charter school test passage PURE exposed on PURE Thoughts. She writes:

The fake charters-are-best question is an even bigger scandal than Pearson’s pineapple question. The pineapple story (which by the way was given to Illinois students in the past) was at worst idiotic, not insidious. It was in some way typical of the sanitized, vacuous reading passages that often appear on standardized tests, which explains how it got past the test review panels that approve test content.

The charter question is far worse than the pineapple question. The pineapple question wasn’t selling pineapples. It was not an advertisement for Dole or another corporation. The charter question was taking a one-sided stance on a matter of public policy. It was dishonest propaganda. It advanced a political cause and, in today’s reality, it advanced the commercial interests of for-profit charter operators.

Do these people have no shame?

Now there’s a good question.

Diane Ravitch on public school “national threat”

Monday, May 21st, 2012

If you take the time to read Diane Ravitch’s latest book review, “Do Our Public Schools Threaten National Security?” you will be rewarded with one of her best critical summaries of corporate reform propaganda.

She recaps several generations of alarm-raising about public education, concluding,

Somehow, despite the widely broadcast perception that educational achievement was declining, the United States continued to grow and thrive as an economic, military, and technological power….How is it possible that this nation became so successful if its public schools, which enroll 90 percent of its children, have been consistently failing for the past generation or more?

The current red-flag-waving book is a report by the Council on Foreign Relations headed by former NYC schools Chancellor Joel Klein and former Bush Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. According to Ravitch,

What marks this report as different from its predecessors, however, is its profound indifference to the role of public education in a democratic society, and its certainty that private organizations will succeed where the public schools have failed. Previous hand-wringing reports sought to improve public schooling; this one suggests that public schools themselves are the problem, and the sooner they are handed over to private operators, the sooner we will see widespread innovation and improved academic achievement. The report is a mishmash of misleading statistics and incoherent arguments, intended to exaggerate the failure of public education.

My favorite part is seeing PURE’s expose of the Noble Street Charter Network’s fine-based discipline policy nicely worked into Diane’s argument that charter schools have not lived up to the hype.

The task force asserts that charters will lead the way to innovative methods of education. But the charters with the highest test scores are typically known not for innovation, but for ‘no excuses’ discipline policies, where students may be fined or suspended or expelled if they fail to follow the rules of the school with unquestioning obedience, such as not making eye contact with the teacher or slouching or bringing candy to school or being too noisy in gym or the lunchroom.

The real threat to national security is squeezing the democracy out of our schools with such “reform school” approaches replacing efforts at real school reform, and with standardized testing narrowing the curriculum so that our schools are simply no longer able to produce informed citizens. And, I guess, that’s what the Joel Kleins of this country are really after.


The sun shone and the stars came out for the SOS march

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

SOS March in DC July 30, 2011

After two days of movement-building speeches, workshops, and networking, the SOS march ended with a sun- and passion-drenched rally and march in the middle of Washington DC.

It felt like a huge family reunion. Our brand new Parents Across America group was well-represented. It was so much fun to meet up with Chicago Teachers Union members and to see our PAA members meeting up with their friends from home.

You know who

We even had star power – Pedro Noguera, Deb Meier, Angela Valenzuela, Diane Ravitch and, yes, Matt Damon, whose mother, Nancy Carlson Page, a professor of early childhood education, introduced him.

Matt actually gave a fantastic, personal and heartfelt speech. He asserted that creativity, imagination, love of drama  and theater – the things that made him who he is – cannot be tested. He said that he came close to standardized tests once, until his mother went to the principal and told him that Matt would not be taking the test, which she described as stupid, a waste of time, and not useful.

Here’s a short clip of his wind-up.

There will be more stories and photos in the coming days, but for now we are heading home happy.

Parents Across America

PSAT for 6-21-11, Part 1: Listen to Diane! Push back as hard as we can!

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

For Public Schools Action Tuesday (PSAT) today, please read and follow the directions included in this article which was posted on over the weekend:


Many people have asked what they can do to try to change the conditions and misguided policies that I describe in my book. Wherever I go, the same question comes up: What can we do? How do we stop these bad policies and programs? Whether they are parents, teachers, administrators, school board members or citizens concerned about the future of our children and our society, they want ideas about how to persuade our elected officials to change course.

Education used to be a state and local function. Unfortunately, since the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2001–02, the levers of power now are in the hands of federal officials. With Republicans and Democrats both advocating policies that endanger the future of public education, the situation seems dire indeed. Unfortunately, many of our nation’s wealthiest philanthropies and individuals embrace the misuse of testing and accountability and the advance of privatization.

The odds against us seem overwhelming, but we cannot afford to do nothing. We must take action. At present, the Obama administration is embarked on a course of action that many find repugnant. The Race to the Top is built on the foundation of No Child Left Behind. It emphasizes high-stakes testing, judging teachers by their students’ test scores, closing low-performing schools instead of helping them improve, and promoting a huge increase in private management of public schools. These approaches will narrow the curriculum and promote teaching to the test, which will rob children of the opportunity for a good education. Furthermore, none of these strategies has a solid research base, none has been proven effective in practice, all have the potential to disrupt students’ education, demoralize teachers, and shatter communities. The burden of these policies will fall heavily on low-income, minority communities, but many other communities will be affected as well.

What we need to improve education in this country is a strong, highly respected education profession; a rich curriculum in the arts and sciences, available in every school for every child; assessments that gauge what students know and can do, instead of mindless test prepping for bubble tests. And a government that is prepared to change the economic and social conditions that interfere with children’s readiness to learn.

We cannot improve education by quick fixes. We will not fix education by turning public schools over to entrepreneurs. We will not improve it by driving out experienced professionals and replacing them with enthusiastic amateurs. We will not make our schools better by closing them and firing teachers and entire staffs. No high-performing nation in the world follows such strategies. We cannot be satisfied with the status quo, which is not good enough for our children, nor can we satisfied with the Bush-Obama-Duncan “reforms” that have never been proven to work anywhere.

This is what I suggest:

Join the Save Our Schools organization created by outstanding teachers. Their website is Whether you are a teacher or a parent, join the march on Washington, D.C., from July 28 – 30, 2011. I will be there, supporting the dignity of the teaching profession and our public schools.

Join Parents Across America. Their website is This is a group of parents who want to work together to strengthen public education and restore common sense reforms.

Write your elected officials. Find out whether any Congressmen or Senators from your state are on the education committee in their House of Congress. Write the members of the education committees even if you don’t live in their state. Ask your colleagues to write letters to them. Write letters to the editor. Comment on education blogs. Call in to talk shows. Speak up at school and community meetings. Speak up, speak out.

As the great Southern writer Flannery O’Connor wrote in a letter to a friend, “You have to push as hard as the age that pushes against you.”

This age is pushing mighty hard against children, against educators, and against the very concept of good education.

Let’s all push back as hard as we can.

Diane Ravitch

PSAT for 6-7-11: A smorgasbord of action!

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

First, the good news:

Our efforts are paying off! The forces of privatization and school segregation via charters and high-stakes testing are definitely on the defensive.


  • The research supporting our opposition to high-stakes testing just gets stronger. Here’s a review of recent reports on the failures of too much testing, merit pay, and other Obama/Duncan administration education policies and the success of strategies we support such as collaboration, strong unions, and peer evaluation.
  • House Democrats put out a press release detailing their concerns about problems with charter school accountability. Quote from House Ed Committee senior Dem George Miller: “The privatization of public schools under the guise of charter operators is very troubling to me and I intend to keep a close eye on this issue.”
  • Poll numbers are sliding for governors who have pushed for more school privatization and testing and weaker union contracts.
  • Duncan’s old basketball-related back injury is acting up, causing his doctors to prescribe a cut-back in his public appearances. Is it psychosomatic or just a PR reaction to the anti-Duncan rally he faced at Harvard last month or the sandblasting he got from teachers in response to a stupid statement he made this week about Diane Ravitch (see next)?
  • Duncan’s attack on Diane R. was quoted in a Bloomberg News blog by Jonathan Alter, better known to me as the dope who wrote this 1998 love letter to Paul Vallas, “Chicago’s Last Hope?” Alter’s prediction back then — “If Mayor Daley’s reforms fail, get ready for vouchers.” Oops.
  • Alter’s attack on Diane was a response to her weekend op-ed in the New York Times debunking so-called “miracle schools” like Chicago’s Urban Prep, whose major student attrition rate I was the first to point out in March of 2010.

So, let’s keep it up, folks! Here are a bunch of things you can do today for Public Schools Action Tuesday. They’re all quick – why not do them all?

1) Call or e-mail Governor Quinn asking him to sign SB 620, the fair facilities bill. Here’s what Facilities Task Force member Andrea Lee says: 

There is no reason to believe Governor Quinn will not sign the bill, but it is imperative you call or email him to remind him how important SB620 is to you, your children, your school and our State elected officials who voted in favor of the substance of the bill and that this needs to become law. You may call him at 217-782-0244 or email him through his website:  You can even ask for a date in which he’ll be signing the bill.

2) Sign this petition in support of the NAACP which has been taking an enormous amount of charter-generated flack after they joined in a lawsuit against NYC schools for closing schools or co-locating charter schools in existing public schools. (Here’s NAACP CEO Benjamin Jealous’s essay about why they decided to join the case.) As we’ve seen here in Chicago, charter schools tend to get costly improvements that were denied to students attending the traditional schools.

3) The Bush tax cuts turned 10 years old today. 10 years later, the fiscal conservatives are still trying to convince the nation that massive tax cuts for the wealthy will create jobs and humongous salaries and benefits for corporate CEOs are necessary to “retain talent” but the rest of us don’t really need raises, jobs, homes, well-equipped schools, health care or pensions. In fact, we should join their efforts to take those things away from teachers, who are among the few that still have what all of our legislators take for granted, even those who only serve a year or more. So, to celebrate what Sarah Pain likes to call One Nation, how about joining in the National Call-in Day sponsored by USAction: m ake three (3) calls to 888-907-1485, and ask to be connected with your senator and two representatives. Tell them: "It’s time to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and increase tax rates for millionaires. No more budget cuts until millionaires and corporate tax dodgers pay their fair share.” Here are some events marking the occasion around the US.

4) Register for the SOS March! The July 30th march is free, the July 28-29 conference is $80 for both days (will go up to $100 after June 15). If you can’t be there, you can sign in to get updates or volunteer locally, or buy cool SOS March stuff to help the cause!

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.