Ravitch argued that current school reform tactics aren’t being led by teachers and administrators, but rather by corporations that care more about dollars than community.

“Reform measures, with their emphasis on charters and vouchers, are trying to privatize education. I know parents want the best for their children, but we must work together as a community to give every child in that community a good education, not just the ones who can afford it. By allowing this to continue, we are unraveling the very social fabric of communities and undermining a cornerstone of democracy: public education,” she said.

Ravitch continued her presentation with what she called some other surprising truths:

  • Though President Obama calls the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s PISA results, and the country’s astonishment at its mediocre placing, a “Sputnik” moment, students today are actually performing better on tests than they were in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, said Ravitch.
  • Finland, the top scoring country on PISA, doesn’t have standardized tests until students reach college.
  • Parents time after time tell Ravitch that they’d rather have an “inspiring” teacher than an “effective” one.

“There’s no silver bullet, no quick fixes like these corporate reformers would have you believe,” said Ravitch. “It’s going to take a while to get true reform, and it’s not going to happen with get-tough tactics and initiatives like Race to the Top.”

According to Ravitch, there are, however, some steps that can be taken to help students reach success: access to decent medical care; exposure to the arts and physical education, along with math and science; programs to help strengthen families and help parents; access to nurturing programs for children up to age five; and leaders with real education backgrounds, not those from the corporate sector with a year-long course in education.