30 Issues: Diane Ravitch on School Reform

Monday, September 23, 2013

Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Dennis Walcott visit the TAG School for Young Scholars. (Edward Reed via

It's Education Week on the Brian Lehrer Show's election series "30 Issues in 30 Days." See the full 30 Issues schedule and archive here.

Today: New York University professor Diane Ravitch, discusses school reform in New York City and the challenges expected for the next mayor around charters, "Common Core" testing, and more. Ravitch's new book is Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools.

Comments [46]

victoria from brooklyn

People oppose charter school but how about G&T program house within the elementary schools? In my opinion that is more degrading a regular public school student than honest lottery allocated spot in charter school....
Also how about affluent families in specific neighborhoods essentially taking over the public school, PTA raising fairly large amount of money because they can i.e. better program and driving away diversity all together..... take for example PS 8 in Brooklyn heights. Even though most of the vinegar hill is zoned for PS 8 nobody goes there anymore as they don't feel welcome in `that' community....

Sep. 24 2013 12:29 PM
Anrhony from nyc

The tests are there to justify privatization.

Stealing money from education is like stealing milk from a baby.

Hedge funds and all sorts of investors and religious "leaders" have their eye on that pot of gold and they will get it.

The truth is you don't need an educated America, you need an America of consumers. Charter/Private schools can create the next generation of ignorant consumer, who will not be able to boil an egg.

Sep. 24 2013 01:51 AM
Helen from bourogh park

I know that religious Jews in NYC are dying to get their hands on that voucher money.

This is a serious money making business for rabbis.

And they can teach kids the Torah, mozeltov. Everyone gets an A, no more failing schools.

there is a fortune to be stolen out there.

Sep. 24 2013 01:25 AM
cindy from Brooklyn

Even the "good" charter, Community Roots, is one of the wealthiest schools in District 13 and is crowding out a school for some of the poorest kids in the city. "Choice" segregates.

Sep. 23 2013 09:10 PM

After finding out that only 25% of our NYC students are proficient in English and approx. 30% proficient in Math, I can't believe there are still people defending twelve years of Bloomberg's failed charter school program.
Ravitch's findings that charter schools did even worse than the public schools is particularly alarming.
Leonard Lopate's focus on the failure of Bloomberg's mayoral control of the city's schools in regards to arts education also form part of the picture.
Let's see, English, Math, the Arts- what else is left to destroy?

Sep. 23 2013 08:42 PM
A. S. E. from Manhattan

My cousin who is a well-regarded,veteran kindergarten teacher in California had an experience with a charter school colocating in her public school building. After the charter school skimmed the high performing students, my cousin was left with an increasingly large amount of high needs children which made it impossible for her to effectively teach. She then moved to teach for the charter school and was tormented by the principal who was trying to retire older, more expensive teachers. The combination of these two stressful situations caused my cousin to develop health problems.

A similar charter school invasion happened in Florida to my nephew's young wife, who had a large, high needs classroom, developed stress-related health issues, and ended up (happily and successfully) teaching in a private parochial school. Charter school colocations are not healthy for our teachers or our students.

Ms. Ravich is right to criticize charter school colocations. Charter schools should find their own buildings, not squeeze into currently occupied schools.

Sep. 23 2013 02:03 PM
Michael from Manhattan

Its important to note that many regular public schools in NYC are selective in which students they admit -- Stuyvesant and Bronx Science are only the most visible, but there are many, many others. These schools, run by the city, only admit the most prepared students.

As far as the innovative approach that charter schools take, I would suggest that people check out the following interesting charter schools, each one taking an unconventional approach to educating students:

NY Center for Autism charter school in East Harlem; they are doing great work for severely Autistic children.

The Equity Project charter school in Washington Heights, which is paying its teachers $125,000 per year as a way to recognize their hard work as professionals.

The Broome Street Academy in SoHo a high school which reaches out to runaways and other teens who have otherwise dropped out of school.

Mott Haven Academy in the South Bronx which was created in partnership with the Foundling Hospital to enroll and serve children in foster care.

Sep. 23 2013 01:24 PM
G from NJ

I think Ravitch made a good distinction at the end of her interview between the ethical charter schools that actually work, and the charters that are in it for the cash. I recently left a charter that I believed was/is grossly performing a disservice to students. It was completely test-driven and hung up on CC. My Chair actually told me not to spend time on creative writing as "no one here is going to on to be a great writer". I was sick and saddened. As graduate of TC, I was not encouraged to use any of my strategies, but to instead help kids to write a "sexi" paragraph. I do not remember what this is an acronym for, I have erased it from my brain. The words "charter school" are not mutually exclusive to the idea of money sucking-inequity based bastions of the right wing, but let's face it, for many it is a business. When a board member asks "How are the scores?" upon introducing himself and not "how are the kids?" something is wrong. Kudos to the schools that are working to support student learning, while taking into consideration the inequality that lurks behind the $. See "Cloaking Inequity" a conversation on NCTE. Now what about discussing the disparaging inequities between public schools?

Sep. 23 2013 12:57 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

blacksocialist from BKbaby opined...

> jagrbuz - your ignorance never ceases to amaze.... i mean, it truly is amazing. every topic, no matter the issue you pontificate and show your foolishness... you have to be getting paid to post such dreck, day after day

Sounds like the pot calling the kettle blackheartedsocialist.

Sep. 23 2013 12:12 PM
Penelope Katsaras from Astoria

In district 30, the charter schools that are successful, are the progressive, community, not for profit schools. The only rigid elementary charter school I know of here can't keep students and has no waiting list. Meanwhile, a beautiful loving school that: doesn't teach to the test(but takes it and follows the common core), practices hands on learning, and has a great special education department (like "Growing Up Green Charter School") has almost 2000 kids on the waiting list! This is what New York needs. We need more charter schools who are innovative out of the box thinkers like Growing Up Green! I am thankful that my three children go there. And, by the way, my son is in an ICT class, receives OT, and SETTS. The school has made him feel smart and successful. I believe GUG is doing a better job with special Ed. children than PS whatever around the corner. And.....Let me add.....Growing Up Green does not have billionaires funding it! They started slow, steady, and lacking financially (because the school receives less per pupil than similar PS schools in the neighborhood). My children love school and are LEARNING!!

Sep. 23 2013 11:51 AM
anna from new york

Behind this "critical thinking" nonsense there is related nonsense "They can find information in the encyclopedia or now on the web."
I recently, attempted to have a conversation in an area where I have one of my masters (history). The guy read one popular book. Imagine how smooth it went, particularly that I am not known for patience.
At a certain moment he pooled our his I-phone or something similar and declared: "Everything is here." I said good buy. Now I regret. I am wondering how it would work - I would say something knowledgeable, he would search the web (?). Clearly, not his empty, empty, empty, stupid head.

Sep. 23 2013 11:48 AM
Susan from North Salem, NY

Common Core DOES NOT TEACH CRITICAL THINKING! It teaches, encourages and promotes robotic regurgitation of memorized, formulaic answers to a single test, answers that are specifically designed to the pass by the eyes of TEMPORARY EMPLOYEES who are hired to grade tests at $11/hour. Common Core has nothing to do with education. Furthermore, none of the candidates who so avidly embrace Common Core and State Testing actually have a child in the public education system.

Sep. 23 2013 11:41 AM

I am tired of hearing the emphasis on CHOICE, the expansion of which is not in and of itself a positive thing - somehow I suspect that the chef's energy and resources may be diluted when there are 10 pages on my diner menu. Every neighborhood should have a strong community school that represents a great option for its families. The boon in 'gen ed' charter schools is pulling resources away from regular public schools, and this administrations lack of support for its own regular public schools undermines those desired neighborhood 'choices.'

Sep. 23 2013 11:34 AM
Josh Karan from Washington Heights

Suggestion for another guest in this series;

Michael Rebell -- lead litigator for the Campaign For Fiscal Equity; now Director of Campaign For Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Expanding on the principles of CFE he espouses the need for Comprehensive Educational Opportunity that focuses on the many component public services which impact on school performance, and which need to be provided to the neediest students to the same degree that more affluent students are able to obtain them.

These include -- preschool from age three, after school arts, cultural, and physical education programs; small classes;, master teachers as mentors; health services; and parental involvement that makes them partners in understanding the curriculum, helping with homework, participating in school planning.

And all these cost money, which our society spends on affluent districts at a much higher level than for less affluent districts (including the so called high spending New York City, which spends 1/3 less than many of the Long Island & Westchester districts, let alone what private schools spend.)

We must stop this insane search for a magic bullet, be it testing, teacher evaluation, or school governance, and understand that people are complex, institutions are complex, and must be directed to address these matters comprehensively.

Sep. 23 2013 11:28 AM
Joyce from Manhattan

I think parents are losing trust in teachers and professional educators. When I hear an interview like this is makes me incredibly angry. We have poor results, and there is a distinct lack of willingness to try new approaches and instead a desire to hunker down and fight change. When teachers send home propaganda papers or fill kids heads with slogans trying to get parents worried about testing or reforms it makes me even angrier. For the most part, we need a new generation of teachers - I give up on most of the old guard.

Sep. 23 2013 11:26 AM
shashinyc from UES

Hooray for brave, fearless Diane Ravich for opening the window on the un-American, undemocratic, totally unscientific phenomenon that is the charter school movement. Let the groundswell against this horrific Wall Street beast begin! And, wait, did I correctly hear Diane categorize Obama as right wing? LOL!

Sep. 23 2013 11:26 AM

My son had the good fortune to have a normal regular non G&T public school that had all the elements the Charter School in Brooklyn, only it wasn't a charter school. It was a regular neighborhood school. And my son did great in that school, great in middle school and is now going Bronx Science -- all without any private school. If all the schools were like his regular normal non G&T school which had lots of older experienced teachers as well as some young and enthusiastic teachers who were taken under the wing of those teachers - you wouldn't need the "charters".

Ironically, because the composition of the neighborhood changed and the school stopped drawing from other areas, his school became LESS economically and ethnically diverse a couple of years after my son started school there because more of the upper middle class parents were aware of the lottery.

Sep. 23 2013 11:23 AM
Kat from Astoria

Your last caller mentioned her son's charter school has a waiting list is proof that parents are tired of the entrenched failures of NYC schools and eager for choice. What does Diane Ravitch say to parents who are fed up with the rubber room, teachers who were never punished for hitting or sexually assaulting students, senselessly routed bus service, and over the hill teachers who are just waiting to retire and collect their pensions? Charter schools are free of these entrenched problems. Michael Mulgrew and the teachers union propose no solutions and are deaf to parents' ears. Parents need choices and charter schools are a positive one.

Sep. 23 2013 11:21 AM
Sandra from Brooklyn

Community-created charter schools like Community Roots and El Puente are not like the new corporate charter schools (ie, Success Academy and Citizens of the World) that are invading NYC. These new charter schools are essentially edu-franchises, not developed by the community but imposed on the community.

Sep. 23 2013 11:21 AM
Edith from Manhattan

Why does your guest have no problem with teacher's lobby groups giving to political campaign funds? She seems disingenuous at best.

Sep. 23 2013 11:19 AM
Penelope Katsaras from Astoria

Charter Schools receive less $$ per pupil than the regular public schools. Start-ups do not have billionaires supporting them!!!

Sep. 23 2013 11:17 AM

You can't draw legitimate conclusions by comparing testing data from charter & public schools for the single reason that charter schools can have selective admissions. Public schools do not turn away any students, no matter their achievement, ability (or disability), or behavior. Further, it's anecdotal, but there is significant evidence of charter schools purging their roles of low-performing students prior to testing.

Cut all this money going to testing and put it into professional development for teachers.

Sep. 23 2013 11:16 AM
Dee from Bloomfield, NJ

In NJ, I discovered there were four different schools operating in one school. After years of straight A's, my son failed on section of an IQ test he didn't understand. He was dropped down two levels and we were horrified at the difference. We had to fight to get him back into the honors program. Despite being told it was the same curriculum, everything was different. Kids need to be challenged, you can't just mix them in one pot and hope they get a good education. Is Dr. Ravitch advocating the dumbing down of all students to make it fairer? My son started out in a gifted program in NYC and is now in a fine university, but all kids are not created equal.

Sep. 23 2013 11:16 AM
PJ from NJ

These technologically innovative creators she is talking about are coming from schools and colleges overseas where the academic rigor is much more stringent than in the US.

Sep. 23 2013 11:15 AM
rose from brooklyn

It's the same problem with repubs vs dems. No one wants to see that there are good ideas from both sides. The absolution drives me crazy.

Sep. 23 2013 11:15 AM
blacksocialist from BKbaby

jagrbuz - your ignorance never ceases to amaze.... i mean, it truly is amazing. every topic, no matter the issue you pontificate and show your foolishness... you have to be getting paid to post such dreck, day after day

Sep. 23 2013 11:14 AM

Brian, most experiments require human ethics review before kids are used as guinea pigs --- except by politicians. I would not want my kid to be part of a "failed" experiment.

Sep. 23 2013 11:13 AM
BK from Hoboken

LOL! I knew exactly where this guest was going re: charters admissions. She stated a complete lie regarding charter admissions, was called out by Brian, and went to the typical refrain about self selection. Guess what, if a family won't even take the time to apply to a charter school, then those parents are the problem, not the charter school itself. As for we assertion that our education system is a success, how can she explain out ever-worsening achievements vs the rest of the world?

Sep. 23 2013 11:13 AM
Beth from Upper West Side

Please ask Dr. Ravitch to talk about New Market Tax Credits and the behind the scenes ways that investors are making money off of charter schools. It is a profit impulse that is driving the proliferation of charter schools and other education reform.

Sep. 23 2013 11:12 AM
Shoshana from Manhattan

I am glad we test yearly, Ms. Ravich. That way we have some way of intervening with poor educators or schools.

Sep. 23 2013 11:11 AM
Lee from Flushing

Is it true that charter schools are exempt from the Common Core standards?

Sep. 23 2013 11:10 AM
Jake from Manhattan

Wow, you'd think with what we are being spoon fed here by your guest, that our schools are the best in the universe. I must have lost a grasp of reality.

Sep. 23 2013 11:09 AM
Beth from NYC

Charter schools long ago stopped being incubators of new approaches.

Sep. 23 2013 11:09 AM
anni from UWS

Brian - The charter lottery is so opaque a system - done behind closed doors, using an algorithm they won't disclose. They do whatever they want and accept the group they want (ie. as few kids with needs as possible).

Sep. 23 2013 11:07 AM
Tyrone from Brooklyn

Again we see educators worried about protecting their turf rather than education the children (WHICH IS THEIR JOB), It makes me sick to listen to this.

Sep. 23 2013 11:06 AM
Catherine from Ha

I'm absolutely horrified to learn that the city doesn't charge rent to charter schools? On what justification? Surely this isn't true for for-profit charters?

Sep. 23 2013 11:06 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

From wikipedia -Socrates

"It is often argued that Socrates believed "ideals belong in a world only the wise man can understand",[citation needed] making the philosopher the only type of person suitable to govern others. In Plato's dialogue the Republic, Socrates openly objected to the democracy that ran Athens during his adult life. It was not only Athenian democracy: Socrates found short of ideal any government that did not conform to his presentation of a perfect regime led by philosophers, and Athenian government was far from that. It is, however, possible that the Socrates of Plato's Republic is colored by Plato's own views. During the last years of Socrates' life, Athens was in continual flux due to political upheaval. Democracy was at last overthrown by a junta known as the Thirty Tyrants, led by Plato's relative, Critias, who had been a friend of Socrates. The Tyrants ruled for about a year before the Athenian democracy was reinstated, at which point it declared an amnesty for all recent events.

Socrates' opposition to democracy is often denied, and the question is one of the biggest philosophical debates when trying to determine exactly what Socrates believed...."

Sep. 23 2013 11:05 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Alvey's School Days and Ours .. from his movie "Annie Hall"

Sep. 23 2013 11:05 AM
anna from new york

This bozo who was babbling about "critical thinking" should be ... chose your verb. I can't believe they still do this.
Can someone explain to this barbarian (slowly, in simple words) that "empty thinking" heads don't exist.
GIVE THEM KNOWLEDGE. Stop this "critical thinking" manipulation.
dr anna

Sep. 23 2013 11:01 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

"Critical thinking" has come to mean criticizing everything and every status quo in sight. "Critical thinking" is a liberal concept. Socrates engaged in "critical thinking." For centuries rote learning and memorization was the norm. The philosophers were the "critical thinkers" but not all of their philosophies led to good things.Karl Marx was a "critical thinker." We got communism and the Soviet Union.
By emphasizing "critical thinking" we are mostly producing malcontents and petty academics who produce nothing but criticisms but not much that is productive. WE are just condemning the majority to condemn all authority and traditions, and to embrace anarchy instead.

Sep. 23 2013 11:01 AM
Tony from Canarsie

Your listeners might be interested in reading Andrew Delbanco's review of Diane Ravitch and Michelle Rhee's recent books in the latest New York Review of Books.

Sep. 23 2013 11:00 AM
Bob from Huntington


Please address with Ms. Ravitch how the results of this year's tests are already being used in many New York State school districts to punish school teachers. In some cases, their jobs are now at risk.

Thank you.

Sep. 23 2013 10:59 AM
Edith from Manhattan

We NEED to evaluate teachers! Period. Kids have one chance at education, we do not need to coddle professionals.

Sep. 23 2013 10:58 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

How else can we determine whether a student understands the course material without tests?

Sep. 23 2013 10:57 AM
Sam from NYC

They're FINALLY teaching critical thinking. I can't see being against that.

My daughter went to a public school in NYC that was based on collaborative, project-based learning and it was wonderful.

Sep. 23 2013 10:56 AM
anni from UWS

Charter schools, as encouraged by Bloomberg & federal DOE, are undermining public education in NYC. Every neighborhood should have a quality neighborhood school. Kids shouldn't have to go through a lottery to have access to a strong school.

Sep. 23 2013 10:54 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.