Diane Ravitch’s March 9th Speech in Long Island
On March 9, 2015, education historian Diane Ravitch offered a 35-minute keynote address at the “Stand Together to Save Public Education: A Call to Action” rally in Long Island, New York.
Ravitch’s speech was followed by a panel of notable New York education activists: Rockville Centre Principal Carol Burris, Comsewogue science teacher and Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association President Beth Dimino, Comsewogue Superintendent Dr. Joe Rella, New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) cofounder and Long Island Opt-Out Facebook administrator Jeanette Deutermann.
Also present was Cuomo’s former gubernatorial primary challenger Zephyr Teachout, who also had a few minutes at the microphone (1:28:00).
The event was moderated by elementary teacher snd “Lace to the Top” cofounder, Kevin Glynn, who introduces Ravitch at around minute 5:00. Ravitch’s speech, which lasts until minute 40:00, can be viewed here:
Allow me to present some highlights from Ravitch’s speech, even as I encourage viewers to watch the entire speech (and, if time allows, the entire event) for themselves:
Ravitch opens by chastising New York governor Andrew Cuomo for decrying as too lenient a state teacher evaluation plan that he himself instituted. Cuomo has ordered an investigation of Long Island teacher evaluations since so many teachers received high ratings. Ravitch points out that the four-year graduation rate on Long Island is 89 percent– hardly cause to investigate LI teacher ratings.
Ravitch also takes to task Cuomo’s idea of using “independent evaluators” to rate New York teachers whose work is unfamiliar to them. She considers such “drive by visits” to be “a massive waste of time and money.”
And then, there are the ever-looming standardized test scores.
Ravitch points out problems with trying to evaluate teachers using student scores, not the least of which is that doing so is logistically impossible since most teachers to do teach tested subjects. Ravitch further illustrates the comedy in the same teacher as possibly being rated highly for teaching one course and poorly for teaching another, meaning that the same teacher could be “eligible both for a bonus and for getting fired, all at the same time.”
Tests, Ravitch observes, “have become the focus of schooling,” part of some senseless yet expensive goal of rating children “as 1, 2, 3, or 4.”
She then takes issue with the Common Core State Standards, particularly as such are meant to be a vehicle for unprecedented punitive testing. She offers detailed reasons and concludes that the CCSS tests “have no diagnostic value.”
Though there is much to Ravitch’s speech worthy of mention, allow me to close my brief discussion with one of my favorite Ravitch remarks for a level of insight that here-and-now, “no excuses” corporate reformers fail to consider:
Do you think students will be encouraged to try harder if they fail the state test year after year? I don’t. If those tests are used for promotion and graduation, most students will never graduate. What will we do with them?
What will we do, indeed.
Let’s not find out. Instead, let us act now to kill this overfed testing beast.
This is Ravitch’s message and the message of the dedicated activists with whom she shared the Long Island stage.
Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.