Diane Ravitch to lead new organization into political trenches

Author Diane Ravitch, a hero of unionized teachers, is leading a new politically active national organization whose purpose is to “give voice to the millions of parents, educators, and other citizens who are fed up with corporate-style reform.”

The Network for Public Education, announced Thursday, hasn’t decided whether it will contribute to candidates, but it will promote them, in the hope that its endorsements will mobilize educators and parents to defeat candidates backed by big-dollar groups like former Washington, D.C., chancellor Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst and wealthy donors like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Ravitch and her supporters staunchly oppose what those donors generally back – an expanded use of standardized test scores, including using them to evaluate teachers and principals, an expansion of charter schools and closure of poor-performing neighborhood schools ­– and have accused them of  trying “to elect candidates intent on undermining and privatizing our public schools.”

The Network will “grade candidates based on our shared commitment to the well-being of our children, our society, and our public schools. We will help candidates who work for evidence-based reforms and who oppose high-stakes testing, mass school closures, the privatization of our public schools and the outsourcing of core academic functions to for-profit corporations,” its announcement states.

Anthony Cody, a retired teacher from Oakland and writer of a column in Education Week, will be the new organization’s treasurer. He said in an interview that the Network organizers were heartened by the victory this week of two California school board candidates despite big-money campaigns against them. Steve Zimmer, with the help of United Teachers Los Angeles, retained his seat on the Los Angeles Unified school board. Sarah Kirby-Gonzales, a national board certified teacher, trounced a candidate back by StudentsFirst and charter school advocates for a seat on the Washington Unfied board in West Sacramento. These are examples of candidates that the Network would back, Cody said.

Along with Ravitch as president and Cody as treasurer, other board members are Robin Hiller, the executive director of Voices for Education; Phyllis Bush, a retired English teacher who formed Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, which organized to oust that state’s superintendent of education; Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters, a nonprofit advocacy group working for smaller class sizes; Renee Moore, an English instructor at Mississippi Delta Community College and 2001 Mississippi Teacher of the Year; Julian Vasquez Heilig,  an associate professor of Educational Policy and Planning at the University of Texas at Austin; and Larry Lee, retired director of the Center for Rural Alabama.

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6 Responses to “Diane Ravitch to lead new organization into political trenches”

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  1. Manuel on Mar 11, 2013 at 12:20 pm03/11/2013 12:20 pm

    • 000

    Some time ago, I argued that California’s tests were “standardized tests” as opposed to “criterion-referenced tests” as claimed by the CDE. I also argued that under these process, the test scores were setting at least 50% of our schools to be labeled as “failures” because the proficient cutoff point is set at the average. Now it seems that Mr. Fensterwald agrees that, indeed, the CSTs are standardized since that is what the Rheeformers want.

    The “Rheeformers” trumpet these same “low scores” as proof of our schools’ failure as if the deck was not stacked to precisely produce this outcome. Why isn’t Mr. Fensterwald looking into what it really means for our children’s education to have “an expanded use of standardized tests”? What was the political reason for the State Board of Education to accept the vendor’s recommendation of setting the proficient cutoff point at the average? Why didn’t the vendor inform the SBoE that as long as the CST was scored this way California would never meet the NCLB mandate of “100% proficient by 2014?” Why was this not part of the discussions that led to the enactment of the “parent trigger” law?

    We might not like it, but statistics is destiny when used this way. Why aren’t we fighting the idea that our children should be “graded on the curve?” Instead, we fight over who is for the status quo as if we had a say in defining it.

  2. Bea on Mar 11, 2013 at 8:06 am03/11/2013 8:06 am

    • 000

    I too am taken aback by the editorializing in this post about this new organization. When Ravitch spoke at CSUMB a year or so ago, she was welcomed enthusiastically by an audience consisting of local and regional public school administrators, college professors, elected officials, many (many!) parents, college students and teachers from public and private schools.

    She talked about the purpose of public education, our need to collectively recommit to all children (not just those that fit into the lifeboat served by charters and vouchers, the importance of an enriched curriculum that includes the arts and civic life, the value of small classes and the profound importance of the neighborhood school. She addressed the deleterious effects of high stakes testing and talked about how we can have accountability for educating our students without the narrowing of NCLB.

    Just recently I attended a talk by Yong Zhao who reiterated most of these same points. Funny, no one who reported on that event or his work refers to him as a hero of “unionized teachers”.

    Many of your readers support Ravitch, Cody and are anxious to see a more balanced dialog about public education that isn’t dominated by the talking points of failure put out there by Rhee and her backers. You pretty well dismissed the lot of us in this story, John.

  3. Ben on Mar 10, 2013 at 5:58 pm03/10/2013 5:58 pm

    • 000

    Diane Ravitch is a hero of educators — real professional teachers — and of parents and persons who really care about the quality of public education. “Unionized teachers” is the rhetoric of the anti-public education movement. Surely some greater degree of fairness would be helpful in your language, if you indeed desire fairness in reporting (this is the first time I have read EdSource). The other phrase that is a bit puzzling is the description of Michelle Rhee’s strategy as “closing low-performing neighborhood schools.” That is not a public education strategy, unless there is a fully-articulated strategy for fully educating at a “higher-performing level” ALL of the children from the neighborhood where there was a “low-performing school.” It is time for education writers not to skip over the convenient omissions in the “low-performing school” diagnosis and the facile suggestions that “higher standards” and campaigns against teachers unions will fulfill the commitment to provide a quality education for every child.

  4. Suz on Mar 9, 2013 at 9:28 am03/9/2013 9:28 am

    • 000

    “A hero of unionized teachers”?

    You miss the point here John. Teachers who belong to unions already have a voice and affiliation. This is for the rest of us — especially parents — who have grave concerns about the reform movement and who lack the kind of organizational strength to counter the clout of top-down, heavily bankrolled groups like StudentsFirst, Stand for Children, DFER, Parent Revolution, EdVoice, NSVF, etc., etc.

    There are many — not just “unionized teachers” — who deplore the increased privatization of public education and the shock-doctrine tactics that targeted our neighborhood schools. Without an organized movement, we are routinely dismissed as “defenders of the status quo” when what we want is to improve our schools — but not with the policies of the reformers. The Network for Public Education will help give the rest of us a voice and a seat at the table.

  5. Manuel Romero on Mar 8, 2013 at 6:02 pm03/8/2013 6:02 pm

    • 000

    Should the organization be called “Students Last”?


    • navigio on Mar 8, 2013 at 7:57 pm03/8/2013 7:57 pm

      • 000

      You mean Rhee’s? Yeah, probably..

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