In my last blogpost, "A New Metric System", I took issue with a couple of key points that Diane Ravitch regularly makes in her book and while on tour. This was after I gave Dr. Ravitch major kudos for igniting the most active national conversation about education that I have seen in my twenty years in the field. It only seemed fair to send her a copy of my post, and I am thrilled to report that she took the time to write back.
In the spirit of healthy and rigorous civil discourse, I am pleased to bring you Dr. Ravitch's response:
As for the critique, I hope you will understand that I supported charters vigorously from the late 1980s–when I first heard the idea from Albert Shanker–until a few years ago, when I realized that the charter entrepreneurs and hedge funders saw them as a money making opportunity and as a way to undermine public education. They made many claims, and foremost was that charters would get much higher test scores, would close achievement gaps, and would save money, just because they weren't run by government. The charter movement attracted progressives initially because it sounded like the "free" schools of the 1960s, but it has been taken up in a big way by the right. It is the perfect vehicle for diminishing the public sector.
The reason I use test scores is to respond to the boasts of the charter industry. The NAEP is a reliable independent measure and has consistently shown "no difference." Charters today demand parity in funding: they no longer say they can do more with less. That's reasonable. They can't.
My bottom line is that the current attacks on teachers and public education is destructive. No other nation–certainly no successful one—is trying to demolish its public system and turn its public funding over to private entrepreneurs.
Maybe the private sector knows best. But I doubt it. If we can't make a success of our public schools, if we can't give them the funding they require and the leadership they need, then we are in for bad times indeed.
Thanks Dr. Ravitch! I look forward to more dialogue.