What hit the audience the most weren’t the statistics quoted by Ravitch that proved the movie Waiting for Superman’s data were fundamentally flawed, but rather the common-sense revelations that are practically argument-proof.
For example, if the spirit of the U.S. Department of Education’s recent conference on Labor-Management Collaboration is to be taken seriously, and experts within national education organizations like AASA that promote teamwork are to be believed, the only way to reach success for students and public education is to support one another and be team collaborators.
However, what kind of leader fires staff rather than helps them, and what kind of team player places blame on others?
“The current corporate reform agenda isn’t helping; it’s only demoralizing teachers and giving them a sense of powerlessness. It’s not leadership when, instead of problem solving as a group, you point fingers, lay blame, and dismiss your staff,” explained Ravitch.
Ravitch drove her point home with the infamous Central Falls, R.I., example, in which a school board voted to fire all teachers from a low-performing school.
“True, they reached an agreement after this, and the staff did agree to work longer hours and attend more professional development, et cetera. However, instead of improving performance, the school is worse than ever today: Teachers aren’t showing up for work, students can’t attend their classes, and the school is in disarray,” said Ravitch. “Is it because they’re bad teachers? No. It’s because these get-tough tactics destroy trust and wipe away morale.”
She continued: “Public schools are not chain stores. Closing schools does nothing, absolutely nothing, to help children … but it sure makes for a great story.”