Wednesday, August 19, 2015


By diane ravitch, from her blog |

August 18, 2015  ::  Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, you read a story like this.

It is a letter from the publisher of the Los Angeles Times informing readers that a group of wealthy foundations are underwriting expanded coverage of education. Not surprising to see the Eli Broad Foundation in the mix. Former Mayor Richard Riordan is not listed but you can be sure he is involved.

These control freaks–er, philanthropists–worry that the LAT has not provided enough space to cover this vital topic.

Publisher Austin Beutner writes:

“We are calling our initiative Education Matters, and I encourage you to join us as we explore the issues that matter most to you and your child. If you want to understand the latest debate on curriculum or testing, find out about the role of student health in learning, study how charter schools are changing public education or experience a classroom from the perspective of a teacher, then Education Matters will be an essential destination.

“With an expanded team of reporters, we will take a fresh approach to our news and analysis starting with today’s stories about the unique challenges facing LAUSD and the last year-round school in Los Angeles. Our editorial pages feature a guest column by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on the need for more investment in math and science education. You will find our reports at in English and Spanish.

“In the coming months, we will convene public forums to address topics such as educational education policy, saving for college and talking to your child’s teacher. We intend these conversations to be both thoughtful and practical.”

A guest column by Arne Duncan! Now there’s a fresh perspective!

I wonder if I will ever be invited to write for the LA Times again?


  • What Diane says about Diane: I am a historian of education and Research Professor of Education at New York University.
    I was born in Houston, Texas, attended the Houston public schools from kindergarten through high school, and graduated from Wellesley College in 1960. I received my Ph.D. in the history of American education in 1975.
    I am the mother of two sons. They went to private schools in New York City. I have four grandsons: two went to religious schools, the third goes to public school in New York City, and the fourth will go to the same wonderful public school in Brooklyn.
    I live in Brooklyn, New York.
  • More from Wikipedia: She was appointed to public office by Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. She served as Assistant Secretary of Education under Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander from 1991 to 1993 and his successor Richard Riley appointed her to serve as a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which supervises the National Assessment of Educational Progress; she was a member of NAGB from 1997 to 2004. From 1995 to 2005 she held the Brown Chair in Education Studies at the Brookings Institution[
  • Writings and statements on education

    Ravitch renounced her earlier support for testing and choice in 2010, in a best-selling book. She critiqued the punitive uses of accountability to fire teachers and close schools, as well as replacing public schools with charter schools and relying on superstar teachers, in The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Undermine Education (2010). In the book Ravitch sharply broke with policies she had formerly espoused[7] and the book became a surprise best seller a month after its release. One reviewer wrote "Ravitch exhibits an interesting mix of support for public education and the rights of teachers to bargain collectively with a tough-mindedness that some on the pedagogical left lack."[12]

    While she originally supported No Child Left Behind and charter schools, Ravitch later became "disillusioned," and wrote, "I no longer believe that either approach will produce the quantum improvement in American education that we all hope for." On her blog, she often cited low-performing charters, frauds, corruption, incompetent charter operators, exclusionary policies practiced by charters, and other poor results that diverted funding from public schools into private hands. High-stakes testing, "utopian" goals, "draconian" penalties, school closings, privatization, and charter schools didn't work, she concluded. "The best predictor of low academic performance is poverty—not bad teachers."[13]

    Ravitch said that the charter school and testing reform movement was started by billionaires and "right wing think tanks like the Heritage Foundation," for the purpose of destroying public education and teachers' unions.[14] She reviewed the documentary Waiting for Superman, directed by Davis Guggenheim, as "propagandistic" (pro-charter schools and anti-public schools), studded with "myths" and at least one "flatly wrong" claim.[15] Of Education Secretary Arne Duncan's Race to the Top program, Ravitch said in a 2011 interview it "is an extension of No Child Left Behind ...[,] all bad ideas." She concluded "We are destroying our education system, blowing it up by these stupid policies. And handing the schools in low-income neighborhoods over to private entrepreneurs does not, in itself, improve them. There's plenty of evidence by now that the kids in those schools do no better, and it's simply a way of avoiding their - the public responsibility to provide good education."[16]

    Her book The Language Police (2003) was a criticism of both left-wing and right-wing attempts to stifle the study and expression of views deemed unworthy by those groups. The review summarizes Ravitch's thesis as "pressure groups from the political right and left have wrested control of the language and content of textbooks and standardized exams, often at the expense of the truth (in the case of history), of literary quality (in the case of literature), and of education in general."[17] Publishers Weekly wrote: "Ravitch contends that these sanitized materials sacrifice literary quality and historical accuracy in order to escape controversy."[18]

    Ravitch's writings on racial and cultural diversity were summarized by sociologist Vincent N. Parrillo:

    [Ravitch] emphasized a common culture but one that incorporated the contributions of all racial and ethnic groups so that they can believe in their full membership in America’s past, present, and future. She envisioned elimination of allegiance to any specific racial and/or ethnic group, with emphasis instead on our common humanity, our shared national identity, and our individual accomplishments.[19]

    Ravitch's first book The Great School Wars (1974) is a history of New York City public schools. It described alternating eras of centralization and decentralization. It also tied periodic controversies over public education to periodic waves of immigration.[7]

    Published works


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