News from the NEA-RA
(The 2010 NEA Representative Assembly took place in New Orleans from June 26 through July 6.)
Diane Ravitch, author and professor, received NEA's highest award, the Friend of Education Award.
Ravitch was Assistant Secretary of Education during the first President Bush’s administration. At that time she supported vouchers and high stakes testing. Later, however, her views changed and how she is an outspoken critic of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Her new book which summarizes her change focus is The Death and Life of the Great American School System.
She spoke to the delegates at the 2010 NEA-RA. Click HERE to read the entire speech online. Below are some highlights.
Wherever I went, I met teachers who understood that there is a rising tide of hostility to teachers, to the teaching profession, and to teachers’ unions. You see it almost daily in the national media, in Newsweek magazine with its dreadful cover story about firing teachers, and Time magazine with awful columns, and in the New York Times and the Washington Post and all of the major media.
[High stakes testing] undermines education. High-stakes testing promotes cheating, gaming the system, teaching to bad tests, narrowing the curriculum. High-stakes testing means less time for the arts, less time for history or geography or civics or foreign languages or science.
Why expand the number of charters when research shows that on average they don’t get better results than regular public schools? Last year, a major evaluation showed that one out of every six charters will get better results, five out of six charters will get no different results or worse results than the regular public schools. A report released just a couple of weeks ago by Mathematica Policy Research once again shows charter middle schools do not get better results than regular public middle schools.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress, on whose board I served for seven years, has tested charter schools since 2003. In 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009, charter schools were compared to regular public schools and have never shown an advantage over regular public schools. Charter schools, contrary to Bill Gates, are not more innovative than regular public schools. The business model and methods of charter schools is this — longer school days, longer hours, longer weeks, and about 95 percent of charter schools are non-union.
Teachers are hired and fired at will. Teachers work 50, 60, 70 hours a week. They are expected to burn out after two or three years when they can be replaced. No pension worries, no high salaries. This is not a template for American education.
The Race to the Top plan to use test scores to evaluate teachers is a very bad idea, badly implemented. Legislatures should not decide how to evaluate teachers.
The current so-called reform movement is pushing bad ideas. No high-performing nation in the world is privatizing its schools, closing its schools, and inflicting high-stakes testing on every subject on its children. The current reform movement wants to end tenure and seniority, to weaken the teaching profession, to silence teachers’ unions, to privatize large sectors of public education. Don’t let it happen!