Celebrated scholar and blogger Diane Ravitch on April 8 mapped out the powerful, well-financed forces gunning to destroy public education across the nation — eliciting a rousing response from the full house of educators.
“There is definitely a coordinated plan to privatize public education and turn it into a profit center,” she said at the reception at UFT headquarters to promote her latest book, “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.”
“She is a very special friend to teachers in the United States,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew in his introduction. Mulgrew cited the recent state budget battle — in which Wall Street billionaires spent $5 million to champion charter schools — as a clear example of the book’s thesis. “We’re in an all-out war to save public education,” he said.
Ravitch, who attended the event despite falling and tearing a ligament in her left knee the day before, hobbled to the stage in a brace to a standing ovation. “I love to be where teachers are,” she said. “I understand the hard work you do.”
She blasted efforts across the country to eliminate due-process rights, evaluate teachers based on test scores and replace public schools with charters funded by private corporations and right-wing foundations.
Ravitch called charters “the leading edge of the privatization movement.”
She warned that even as the nation approaches the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision that abolished segregation, “we are heading right back to a dual school system” with well-financed charter schools able to choose who they admit and financially squeezed district schools that accept all students.
Ravitch also slammed the testing mania. “The explosion of standardized testing is out of control, and the main beneficiary is Pearson,” she said.
New York’s state tests, she said, serve no diagnostic purpose. “We learn nothing from them,” she said. “We just label kids.”
She recommended that teachers should review and revise the Common Core Learning Standards and that the standards should be decoupled from the tests.
When vast numbers of English language learners, students with disabilities and black and Latino students failed the first round of Common Core tests a year ago, she said, it was not the kids or teachers who failed, but the state education commissioner and the state Board of Regents since they set a pass mark that they knew was too high.
“These are the people in charge,” she said. “They should be held accountable.”
Shkigale Baker and Faith Williams, teachers at PS 200 in Harlem, said Ravitch’s remarks were like water in a desert. “We don’t get enough of that,” said Baker, the school’s chapter leader
Williams, a UFT delegate, agreed. “Teacher morale is low, and you have to know someone is watching and cares and is giving you tools to fight,” she said.