Loud voice fighting tide of new trend in education

Diane Ravitch made her name in the 1970s as a historian chronicling the role of public schools in American social mobility, The New York Times reports. In the 1990s, she went to work in the Bush administration’s Education Department, where she pushed for a rejection of 1960s relativism and a return to basics and standards. After leaving government, she called for the removal of incompetent teachers, for tying school performance to student scores, and for closing failing schools. Now Ms. Ravitch, 75, is in the full flower of yet another stage in her career: folk hero to the left and passionate scourge of pro-business reformers. She has come to doubt the whole project of school reform, saying it will solve little without addressing poverty and segregation…

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Nearly 900 districts to apply for Race to the Top funding

The Race to the Top District competition requires applicants to design personalized learning environments using digital tools—but critics say education funding shouldn’t be turned into a competition.

Nearly 900 school districts across the nation intend to apply for a slice of close to $400 million in grants that the U.S. Education Department will distribute in support of local initiatives that help close achievement gaps and prepare students for college and a career.

The department announced Aug. 31 that 893 applicants are slated to participate in the Race to the Top-District competition.

“I believe the best ideas come from leaders at the local level,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said.…Read More

Ravitch: Pennsylvania’s cyber-school expansion ‘unbelievable’

Pennsylvania just approved four new cyber-charter schools, bringing the number of online charter schools in the state to 17, writes noted education historian Diane Ravitch on her blog—and given what the research says about the efficacy of cyber schools in that state, she calls this news “unbelievable.”

“We constantly hear lectures from ‘reformers’ about data-driven decision-making and focusing only on results,” she writes. “They like to say ‘it’s for the children.’ … [But] the existing cyber-charters in Pennsylvania have been evaluated and found to have disastrous results. The data say they are failures.”

A Stanford study reviewed the academic performance in Pennsylvania’s charter schools and found virtual-school students started out with higher test scores than their counterparts in regular charters—but ended up with learning gains that were “significantly worse” than kids in traditional charters and public schools, on average.…Read More

Why the Gates Foundation is so puzzling

When one foundation has amassed over $30 billion, it has the financial power to shape the policies of government to its liking, says Diane Ravitch, a research professor at New York University, for the Washington Post. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has more than $30 billion, and when Warren Buffet’s gift of another $30 billion is added to the Gates
fund, the Gates Foundation will have the power to direct global policy on almost any issue of its choosing. Educator Anthony Cody published a guest column on his Education Week Teacher blog that describes how the Gates Foundation intervenes in agricultural and environmental issues around the world, often in ways that support corporate profits rather than the public interest (Education Week is in part funded by the Gates Foundation). I have never believed that the Gates Foundation or the Gates family puts profits above the public interest. I work on the assumption that anyone who has more riches than they can ever spend in their lifetime or in 100 lifetimes is not motivated by greed. It makes no sense. I believe that Bill and Melinda Gates want to establish a legacy as people who left the world a better place. But I think their efforts to “reform” education are woefully mistaken…

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University research will evaluate physical data to gauge teacher effectiveness

GSR technology could give an advantage to 'tyrannical' teachers, Ravitch says.

A student’s physical reaction to a classroom lesson soon could be used to judge how successful—or unsuccessful—an educator is in keeping students engaged.

Researchers and Clemson University received a nearly $500,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in November to study Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) bracelets, which house sensors that measure a student’s physical reaction to learning—such as increased sweating—and uses the data as a way to grade an educator’s performance.

Wireless sensors produce readouts showing whether students are alert, anxious, bored, or excited in the classroom, and as Clemson researchers determine the reliability of this experimental technological gauge, many in education are skeptical of the GSR bracelets as a mainstream classroom tool.…Read More

School privatization on trial in Philadelphia

Public education advocates say the district is privatizing a basic civil right.

The school system’s chief recovery officer was trying to explain how broke the district is, but no one could hear him.

“Save our schools! Save our schools!”

More than 200 protesters had packed the Philadelphia school board meeting and were drowning out the official presentation; they also waved signs expressing “No confidence” in next year’s austere budget. It was the second major demonstration at district headquarters in just over a week.…Read More

Top educational technology news: May 2012

Here are some of the key ed-tech stories from our May 2012 edition.

In the May 2012 issue of eSchool News, we report on several significant ed-tech developments, including a speech by education historian Diane Ravitch about the promises—and perils—of school technology; what parents and educators want most from assessment; and the result of a web filtering lawsuit with important implications for schools.

To read these stories in our digital edition, click on the headlines below—or browse through the entire publication by clicking here.

Diane Ravitch warns of ed tech’s ‘perils’…Read More

Diane Ravitch outlines ed tech’s promise, perils

NYU professor Diane Ravitch said technology should be used to expand and challenge students’ views of the world—but should not stifle student and teacher creativity.

Technology offers incredible potential for education, but it also presents certain perils that all education stakeholders must take care to avoid, said noted education historian and NYU professor Diane Ravitch on March 16 at the Computer-Using Educators (CUE) conference in Palm Springs, Calif.

“I’m actually here to get some more followers on Twitter,” Ravitch jokingly told the audience, before diving into an illuminating discussion about the promise that technology holds for education and the pitfalls that accompany it.

“I’m genuinely excited by what teachers are able to bring to history, the sciences, economics, the arts. … For a century, educators have dreamed about student-centered learning, and now technology has the potential to make it real,” Ravitch said.…Read More

A test for politicians on education (with cheat sheet)

Here are questions that education historian Diane Ravitch posed to politicans who make education policy, the Washington Post reports. Ravitch, a research professor at New York University, is the author of numerous books including the bestselling “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” a critique of the flaws in the modern school reform movement. These questions first appeared on the Neiman Watchdog blog

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Ravitch: Does Obama understand Race to the Top?

I don’t know about you, but I am growing convinced that President Barack Obama doesn’t know what Race to the Top is, says education historian Diane Ravitch for her Bridging Differences blog, which she co-authors with Deborah Meier. I don’t think he really understands what his own administration is doing to education. In his State of the Union address last week, he said that he wanted teachers to “stop teaching to the test.” He also said that teachers should teach with “creativity and passion.” And he said that schools should reward the best teachers and replace those who weren’t doing a good job. To “reward the best” and “fire the worst,” states and districts are relying on test scores. The Race to the Top says they must. Deconstruct this. Teachers would love to “stop teaching to the test,” but Race to the Top makes test scores the measure of every teacher. If teachers take the President’s advice (and they would love to!), their students might not get higher test scores every year, and teachers might be fired, and their schools might be closed…

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