Last week I was so blessed to have the opportunity to see Diane Ravitch speak to Take Action Long Island (TALI) in Woodbury, NY. The audience was filled with over 1,100 educators, parents, activists ready to learn more about the state of public education in New York and the country.
Topics of her speech included: the widespread attacks on unions (which in her words are an attack on the middle class), Race to the Top (origins and effects), High Stakes Tests, Charter Schools, Vouchers, and Cyber Schools, Teacher Evaluations (APPR), Data Mining, and ALEC. Her comments were succinct and insightful, and she provided many sources to back up her analyses.
Her explanation of high stakes testing really struck a chord with me, especially since my school aged children are right at the heart of testing years. Her words resonated one at a time, as she discussed the goal of these assessments – they don’t close the achievement gap, they measure them. She spoke of the achievement gap, which is more accurately an economic gap because it is clear that economically challenged students suffer the most from high stakes tests. She explained that tests aren’t scientific instruments, but social constructions. As many parents know firsthand, she explained that high stakes tests destroy real teaching as instruction inevitably becomes “teaching to the test”.
The educators in the room all applauded when she said that the true purpose of public education is to nurture and promote character, integrity, and citizenship.
Diane shed some light on charter schools, exclaiming they are not public schools, but private schools using public money. They cherry pick students and either kick out or deny students with IEPs and English Language Learners. These students are then sent back to public schools where all students are guaranteed an education. The problem becomes that public schools are depleted of funds because monies are going to local charters, cyber schools, and vouchers, leaving the district without proper funding for these children. The most remarkable fact she shared was that even after these schools weed out “undesirable” or challenging students, they still score lower than public schools. Charters have been wrought with scandal. There isn’t a week that goes by that we don’t hear about embezzlement, impropriety, or other questionable acts. The sad truth about charters is that they have no local allegiance, only a desire to make a profit.
There were positive moments when Ravitch shared the reason why this moment in public education will pass – because it’s wrong. She said we all must take action to ensure this happens. Speak up, tell politicians that high stakes tests are wrong, that basing teacher evaluations on tests are wrong, and that we won’t stand for charter schools, vouchers, and cyber schools taking our public school monies.
After an emotional hour, she responded to a question by a member of the audience. The crowd roared as she ended her talk with this sentiment – I have a dream….that all Long Island will opt out of high stakes tests.
For more information on Diane Ravitch – http://dianeravitch.com/
ALEC exposed – http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed
Making the Grades, Todd Farley – http://www.amazon.com/Making-Grades-Misadventures-Standardized-Industry/dp/098170915X
Network for Public Education website – http://www.networkforpubliceducation.org/
United Opt Out National website – http://unitedoptout.com/