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Diane Ravitch Evaluates Holistic Efforts to Fight Poverty and Grow Stronger Students

06/17/11

New York University Professor Diane Ravitch, a veteran of the education system and an outspoken critic of both NCLB and the Race to the Top Initiative, recently shared her thoughts on education reform in a New York Times op-ed. She responded to the current spate of media coverage on so-called "miracle schools." These schools have increased test scores and graduation rates in very poor neighborhoods, "proving" that poverty is irrelevant to educating youth. Ravitch not only believes that this kind of thinking is detrimental to our children and our schools, but also that the supporting data is falsified.

Ravitch and others dubious of these miraculous results did further research into the data of schools which have shown such impressive results. Among those researched were the Bruce Randolph School in Denver, which was recently lauded by President Obama for its 97% graduation rate. Also, Miami Central High School in Florida, a centerpiece of success for Ed Secretary Arne Duncan’s reconstitution strategy, praised for its large gains in math test scores and graduation rates following the mass-firing reconstitution process. Inquiry into these numbers found that for every groundbreaking achievement, these schools were crippled in a variety of other areas, including overall state test scores, school ranking in state standards, and performance standards. Ravitch contends that. "The news media and the public should respond with skepticism to any claims of miraculous transformation. The achievement gap between children from different income levels exists before children enter school."

Instead Ravitch, and a growing number of education experts, are making the case for education reform that addresses the persistent poverty problem. She advocates for more attention to family engagement, as well as investment in prenatal and early childhood, to narrow the achievement gap before at-risk children lag too far behind. "If every child arrived in school well-nourished, healthy and ready to learn, from a family with a stable home and a steady income," Ravitch concludes, "many of our educational problems would be solved. And that would be a miracle."

Click here to read her full op-ed.

Click here to watch Diane Ravitch being interviewed by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show.


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