From Crooks and Liars
by Susie Madrak
Diane Ravitch, who was the assistant secretary of education under George H.W. Bush, has completely recanted her previous support for charter schools and privatization, and has been working to rally educators and families against Obama’s “Race to the Top” progam — which duplicates the failed George W. Bush policies. Here she is on Democracy Now!:
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s begin with you, Diane Ravitch. Your response to President Obama’s major address yesterday on education?
DIANE RAVITCH: Well, I think that what happened in New York City is—shows that the direction he’s taking is wrong, because everything he is proposing in Race to the Top and also in his blueprint will rely on exactly the kinds of methods that led to a massive fraud in New York state—that is, that Race to the Top is requiring states to judge teachers by the student test scores, and we now know, based on this immense fraud in the city and in the state of New York, that the test scores are not reliable. So teachers will be judged by unreliable data, and we’re going to dismantle the teaching profession in pursuit of this mechanical fix that won’t work.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Diane Ravitch, one of the reasons President Obama gave that particular speech was that he’s coming under increasing fire even from civil rights organizations who are questioning not only the emphasis on testing, but the push for more and more charter schools regardless of the quality of those schools. And your sense of how the ground is shifting around the country, among parent groups, among civil rights groups, around the whole issue of school reform?
DIANE RAVITCH: Well, you know, I think this week, in the last week of July of 2010, turns out to be a pretty momentous week. First of all, six civil rights groups came together and issued a joint statement that blasted Race to the Top and also the blueprint, the Obama blueprint, because he is building—although he doesn’t admit it, he’s building his education agenda right on top of the Bush education agenda, which is to test and punish, to close schools, to evaluate teachers in ways that are unfair and unsound from a research point of view, to increase the number of privately managed charter schools. All this is going to be immensely destabilizing, and it’s going to hit hardest on minority communities, because most of the schools that will be identified as the lowest-performing schools will be in poor Hispanic and black communities. And there will be massive—excuse me, massive destabilization. This is not good. And the civil rights groups recognize this.
There was a second report out that came out this week from a group of community—from an organization of community groups from across the country, echoing the same complaints: we don’t want more community schools, we don’t want more charter schools, we want better public schools—help our public schools get better, not by more testing, not by more charters, but by sensible approaches like more pre-kindergarten, smaller class size, more support for the people who are teaching in those schools—commonsense approaches, which this administration seems to be avoiding and looking for the quick fix that George Bush pursued and that Mayor Bloomberg pursued, and it didn’t work. So I think there are immense implications here.
And we also saw in the Congress where Congressman Obey tried to strip money away from Race to the Top, away from merit pay and away from charter schools. And the administration’s response was, “Don’t take money from Race to the Top. Take it away from food stamps.” And Joel Klein said to take it away from Title I. These are all programs that benefit the neediest families in our society, and there were prepared to harm people who are in need of help in order to preserve the President’s favorite program.
So I think that the implications of this week, with the test score explosion, the blowup of the fraud in New York City, and these two grassroots groups saying, “This is not working, and take a more commonsense approach, and stop this destructive test and measurement and punishment approach,” this is big, because up ’til now everybody seems to have gone along with the rhetoric of President Obama. But you have to separate his rhetoric, which is always very elegant, from what his administration is.