Education Advocate Ravitch Warns of ‘False Reforms’

Thursday, March 21, 2013

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- March 21, 2013 -- Scholar, policy maker and author Diane Ravitch spoke about the precarious future of public education in North Carolina at UNC Charlotte Center City Wednesday night. Her speech at the TIAA-CREF Lecture was titled “The Death and Life of the Great American School System.”

Earlier Wednesday, she led a community conversation on the same topic on the main campus.

At both events, Ravitch warned that North Carolina is heading down a destructive path for its public schools by such moves as increasing the number of charter schools, giving public schools letter grades, abolishing teacher tenure and piling on new standardized tests. She labeled them as “false reforms” that hurt kids and enrich corporations.

“It’s an effort to turn public education into a profit-making venture,” she said, “and it won’t be to the profit of the children.”

Ravitch, a research professor of education at New York University and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., has been called on by the White House to develop educational policy. A prolific writer, her most recent book, “The Death and life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education,” makes the case that public education is in peril.

MecklenburgACTS, run by local parents and activists, and UnTEST, a new group created by UNC Charlotte students, joined Ravitch in urging audience members to resist overreliance on testing to rate teachers and schools.

“What it comes down to is a handful of people with a huge amount of money versus the American people,” Ravitch said. “Parents are the sleeping giant, but when the students awaken, everything changes.”

Drawing on her more than 40 years of research experience, Ravitch critiques today’s most popular ideas for restructuring schools, including privatization, standardized testing, punitive accountability, and the multiplication of charter schools, and offers a clear prescription for improving American public schools.

“The TIAA-CREF Lecture at UNC Charlotte is designed to connect the community and university around important ideas” said Mary Lynne Calhoun, dean of the College of Education, sponsoring college for the talks.  “This is a community that cares deeply about the success of our schools, and Dr. Ravitch’s provocative ideas will provide a great opportunity for us to think together about the future of our schools and our children.”

Ravitch served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander from 1991 to 1993. She led the federal effort to promote the creation of voluntary state and national academic standards. Appointed a member of the National Assessment Governing Board in 1997 and reappointed in 2001, she oversaw the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federal testing program.

In 2010, the National Education Association selected her as its “Friend of Education” for the year.