Outspoken education historian Diane Ravitch has won a $100,000 prize for her 2010 bestseller, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education,” which chronicled her sharp shift from school-reform champion to critic.
The prize, the University of Louisville’s 2014 Grawemeyer Award in Education, honors individuals who have proposed ideas “that have [the] potential to bring about significant improvement in educational practice and advances in educational attainment.”
Ravitch, a New York University research professor who served as assistant education secretary under the first President Bush, offered a high-profile repudiation in her 2010 book of reform policies she once favored, notably standardized testing, school vouchers and charter schools. She also detailed how New York City became a “testing ground” for some of those “market-based reforms” under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former-Chancellor Joel Klein.
In her latest book, “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools,” published this fall, she attacks what she considers a business-minded fixation on testing and accountability, which she argues ignores the impact of racial segregation and poverty on student learning.
Melissa Andris, the Grawemeyer Award administrator, said Ravitch’s 2010 book provides an “important historical perspective” on education-reform policies that gained widespread support even as they produced mixed results.
"Ravitch marshals an impressive body of evidence to show how, on the whole, these reforms are not working as promised and are leaving many schools in the same or even worse shape than before," Andris said in a statement.
The University of Louisville grants four Grawemeyer Awards each year for work in music, composition, world order, psychology and education, and another, with the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, for a religious work. Each prize is worth $100,000.
Recent winners include Pasi Sahlberg, a Finnish education official who wrote about that country’s much-admired school system, and Linda Darling-Hammond, an influential education professor who, like Ravitch, has at times attracted the scorn of those in the education-reform movement.
Last month, Ravitch shared on her blog that she had been hospitalized for blood clots and walking pneumonia, but yesterday she posted that she is “on the mend” and scheduled to speak in cities across the country next year. On Dec. 11, she will talk about her new book at P.S. 15 in Red Hook, Brooklyn, at 5 p.m.
Mayor Bloomberg continued a string of legacy-bolstering events this week with a speech Thursday morning to the well-connected crowd at the Association for a Better New York, where he occasionally choked up during his remarks.
Here’s what he said about education:
"Investing in our future also means including our public school system, something the city had also stopped doing. When our administration began, high school graduation rates had been stuck at 50 percent for 20 years. Think about that. Twenty years and no improvement. It was inexcusably wrong. When city government can’t see beyond special interests or beyond the next election children suffer. But when city government looks ahead and invests in policies and programs that put students first, children succeed. And we’ve certainly seen that over the past 12 years. Today, not only are high school graduation rates more than 40 percent higher, but so are college readiness rates. And now, 22 of the state’s top 25 elementary and middle schools are in our five boroughs. Back in 2001, we did not have a single school inside the top 25 statewide. We’ve also invested $25 million in building and modernizing school facilities, which has helped us add 126,000 more classroom seats to get parents and students more top-quality school options."
Merry Tisch, pictured above with librarian Paul McIntosh on a visit in October to Wadlegh Secondary School.
Commissioner John King and Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch are finally brining their Common Core tour to New York City.
Over the last six weeks, King, Tisch and other state education officials have made at least 14 stops to quell concerns about the new learning standards, which were aligned for the first time last year and resulted in significant test score drops. They are trying to make a case for why it’s important to move forward, despite widespread calls to revise those plans.
Today they posted details for three New York City meetings, which will take place over two days next week. Two other forums, in Staten Island and Queens, are “TBD.”
Medgar Evers College
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Spruce Street School
Diane Ravitch, an outspoken critic of the Bloomberg administration’s school policies, is helping Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio plan his inauguration, according to de Blasio’s transition team.
Ravitch is among dozens of people named to de Blasio’s “inaugural committee” of local leaders and donors. Together, the team will ensure that the inaugural festivities next month mark “an inauguration for all New Yorkers,” in keeping with de Blasio’s populist campaign.
The committee also includes Yvette Aguirre, the retired principal of P.S. 24 in Brooklyn, and Mili Bonilla, a longtime parent activist with the Coalition for Educational Justice.
A separate committee, the “honorary inaugural committee,” includes a number of union leaders. But Michael Mulgrew and the United Federation of Teachers, which did not endorse de Blasio in the primary, are not on the list.
Read about de Blasio’s transition team, a group of policy advisors that also includes critics of Bloomberg-era school policies.
Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who visits schools more frequently than his predecessors did, is not staying away from schools even during the Thanksgiving vacation.
On Wednesday, Walcott — a self-proclaimed fitness freak — participated in a “turkey trot” at P.S. 36 in the Bronx, then joined students at Baychester Middle School for their annual pre-Thanksgiving flag football game.
Today, before heading home for a meal of his own, he’s going to M.S. 53 in Queens for that school’s holiday feast. The Far Rockaway middle school had many families affected by last year’s Superstorm Sandy.
— State Education Commissioner John King, in a decision about a request by the city Department of Education and United Federation of Teachers to free early childhood schools from an apparent requirement that they administer “bubble tests” to young children as part of their teacher evaluation systems.
The request represented an unusual alliance for the city and UFT on evaluations as they worked to address a side effect of the state’s new regulations on 36 city schools that serve students in kindergarten through second grade only. Here’s what we reported last month:
Teachers in more than 800 of the city’s elementary school teachers will be evaluated based on test scores earned by older students on existing state exams.
But older students don’t exist in 36 “early education” schools in New York City, which serve kindergarten through second grades only. Those schools, [Deputy Chancellor Shael] Polakow-Suransky said, were sacrificed “in order to protect the rest of the elementary schools” from a stipulation in King’s evaluation plan earlier this year.
Polakow-Suransky said the city hoped to make the DOE’s newly-developed math assessments available as an option to all elementary schools. But he pulled back on those plans over the summer after seeing King’s plan, which mandated that schools use performance assessments if the city made them available at all.
“It created a situation where we had, at the K-2 level, to make a choice between essentially putting out a test that would be mandated for every elementary school in the city, or not putting anything out at all,” Polakow-Suransky said.
King indicated early on that he was eager to approve an alternate proposal from the city because he opposes bubble tests for young students. State education officials said the city could have assessed teachers by their former students’ performance in third grade, but the city is opting to use its own performance assessments instead.
[A poster for a planned “National Day of Action,” courtesy of the NEA.]
Dozens of desks bunched together in a public square to symbolize overcrowded classrooms. Protestors wearing suits covered with fake money to represent for-profit education companies. A “zombie march” to illustrate the effect of replacing teachers with computers.
The proposed rallies and marches are meant to push back against “corporate interests” who have tried “to dismantle public education and create a new, market-based system of schooling,” according to the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and other national unions and advocate groups that are coordinating the actions.
Instead, the groups hope to highlight community-oriented (and labor-backed) reforms such as schools that also provide social services, expanded early-childhood programs and fewer decisions based on test results.
So far, no events appear scheduled in the city. But, the organizers say, the Dec. 9 actions are envisioned as just the start of a longer campaign around these issues.
Citizens of the World, a charter school that opened this fall in Williamsburg, ran into trouble earlier this fall after enrolling less than half as many kindergarteners and first graders as its operators told the state they would serve. Facing sanctions including funding loss and even closure, the school launched an aggressive drive to add more students.
The effort appears to be paying off. On Thursday, a publicist said in an email press release that the school now enrolls 92 students, just eight students shy of the 100 threshold needed to avoid being penalized. What’s more, 90 percent of the families that have toured the school, have chosen to enroll, according to the publicist, Heather Vega.
The school has a goal of reflecting the racial and socio-ethnic diversity of its neighborhood, which has gentrified significantly in recent years. That goal is highlighted in a promotional video also released this week by the school’s network, which also runs a charter school in Los Angeles. (The picture above is taken from the video.)
Calling it a “classic Bloomberg budget game,” teachers union boss Michael Mulgrew panned new revenue estimates for the city’s 2015 spending plan as lower than they should be.
Mayor Bloomberg today released modifications to the city’s 2015 budget, touting the fact that he’ll deliver a balanced budget to an incoming administration for the “first time in documented city history.” The budget update reflected new income earned from the sale of taxi medallions and $210 million in savings over five years from public bidding of busing contracts.
The latest numbers eliminated a $2 billion budget deficit that the city had warned about earlier this year, an achievement that Mulgrew attributed more to budget trickery than anything else.
"This is a classic Bloomberg budget game," Mulgrew said in a statement. "He lowballs revenue projections, overestimates expenses, and then claims poverty."
Mulgrew, who penned an op-ed about the Bloomberg’s budgets earlier this week, takes the issue personally. As United Federation of Teachers president, Mulgrew oversees a union of city workers that has gone without a raise in four years, the longest of any other municipal labor force.
Mulgew said that more accurate projections would show that there is enough money to award teachers the four percent retroactive pay increase that they’re asking for.
"When the real numbers come in, with more revenue and fewer expenses than he claimed he was expecting, he takes credit for the magical appearance of a surplus," Mulgrew added.
The raises would cost $3.8 billion in the first year of being awarded, according to city estimates. Bloomberg has said that he would only offer 1.25 percent raises for two years after a new contract is settled.
De Blasio will inherit the budget, as well as the responsibility to negotiate new contracts with the UFT and dozens of other public sector unions. He will be required by law to submit a preliminary plan sometime in January, though he could re-submit one without major changes until he has more time in office to negotiate the contracts.