Here is the footage of our Oct. 5 forum on ed reform: “Race to Where?” featuring Dr. Diane Ravitch (Skyped in from her home in New York), Wayne Au of Rethinking Schools, Jesse Hagopian, teacher and founder of Social Equality Educators (SEE), and Seattle Ed’s own Dora Taylor. Seattle University’s Dr. Jodi Kelly introduces the event, while I moderate. The panel discussion is followed by a Q&A with the audience.
The footage of the 90-minute forum, held at Seattle University’s Pigott Auditorium, is divided into 7 parts of roughly 14 minutes each.
It was a terrific event that attracted over 350 parents, teachers and administrators for an engaging, if sometimes troubling, discussion about the current efforts by the forces of privatization to take over our public schools.
A big thank you to all who helped us sponsor the event: Dr. Kelly and the Matteo Ricci College and the College of Education at Seattle University, Social Equality Educators (SEE), and Parents Across America- Seattle. And, of course, a tremendous thank you to Dr. Ravitch and the rest of our panelists for sharing their wisdom and insights with us all.
Some background info about the forum:
WHY SEATTLE? Is Seattle the next battleground in the debate over ed reform? Seattle Public Schools, under its current Broad Foundation-trained superintendent, has fast-tracked a series of reforms in the school district these past three years, without much parent or community input. Seattle is also the headquarters to one of the biggest players in ed reform, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which supports “Race to the Top” — merit pay, publicly funded but privately operated charter schools and high-stakes testing. Yet Washington has failed to qualify for RTTT funding and state voters have repeatedly opposed charter schools. An increasing number of Seattle parents and teachers are asking: Why should we adopt reforms that research shows are detrimental to our schools and kids? Ravitch, who once supported these reforms as a member of the Bush I administration, agrees and now opposes them and warns against them.
OUR PANELISTS: Diane Ravitch is Research Professor of Education at New York University and an education historian. She is the author of 10 books, including “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education” (2010). She shares a blog, Bridging Differences, with Deborah Meier, hosted by Education Week and also blogs for Politico.com/arena and the Huffington Post. Her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. From 1991-93, she was Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander in the administration of President George H. W. Bush. From 1997- 2004, she was a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federal testing program. (adapted from: http://www.dianeravitch.com/vita.html)
Wayne Au – is a former public high school teacher, and Assistant Professor of Secondary Social Studies Education at the University of Washington, Bothell, and an editor of Rethinking Schools, a journal devoted to social justice education. He is also the author of Unequal by Design: High-Stakes Testing and the Standardization of Inequality (Routledge, 2009).
Jesse Hagopian – is a Seattle teacher, a graduate of Seattle Public Schools, and a founding member of the progressive union caucus Social Equality Educators within the Seattle Education Association. Hagopian’s writings in defense of public education have appeared in The Progressive, Common Dreams, SocialistWorker.org, Real Change News, Truthout.org, the Seattle PI, and the Seattle Times.
Dora Taylor and Sue Peters – are the co-editors of the Seattle Education 2010 blog, and founding members of the new grassroots public education advocacy organization, Parents Across America (PAA).
Seattle Education 2010 – is a blog of news and commentary created in 2009 by two Seattle parents in response to the reforms imposed on their children’s schools and district.
Parents Across America (PAA) – is a national grassroots organization of public school parents who oppose the current direction of education reform (“No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top”) and believe parents’ voices are missing from the national conversation about public education.
Social Equality Educators (SEE) – is a new progressive union caucus within the Seattle Education Association (SEA).
Diane Ravitch on “Race to the Top”
(excerpted from: “The Conversation” with Ross Reynolds, KUOW 94.9 FM, Aug. 2, 2010)
“I think ‘Race to the Top’ is a terrible program and I congratulate Washington for not advancing. I hope that you don’t win the money because winning the money means you agree to do things that are very harmful to public education.
“First off all, it means that you are expected to have charter schools and for states that have a limit on charter schools you are expected to have more charters schools. These are privatized schools that research has shown repeatedly do not perform better than public schools. So there is no reason to privatize low-performing public schools, we should help those schools get better, do whatever it takes to improve them, but not turn them over to private entrepreneurs.
“The second thing, ‘Race to the Top’ expects states to do is to evaluate teachers by test scores. And there are so many reasons why this is a bad idea. It leads to teaching to the test, narrowing the curriculum, dropping the arts and science and history and all those things, and it’s just a terrible thing to do to teachers because there many reasons kids get high or low scores and it’s not all about teachers.
“And the third thing that ‘Race to the Top’ does is that it commits states to they call “transform” low-performing schools. What they really mean by that is to close them down, fire the principal, fire the staff, fire half the staff, fire all the staff — these are very punitive measures and they are built right squarely on the foundation on George W. Bush’s ‘No Child Left Behind’ program. So I think it’s sad that President Obama and Secretary Duncan have tied themselves to a law that has proven to be very unsuccessful.
“I commend the states that didn’t apply and I commend the states that didn’t get the money because you’re better off.”
“I was seven years on the national testing board – President Clinton put me there. When you get close to the testing process, you realize this is a social construction, this is not a scientific instrument. There are many flaws in the test, they’re frequently not valid, not reliable, loaded with measurement error, random error and we’re now going to hang teachers’ evaluation on these test scores. It just isn’t right.”