Archives for category: Ravitch, Diane

The bloggers at have proposed what they call “the fight of the century” to replace “the fight of the century that wasn’t.”

They refer to the debate that never happened between Michelle Rhee and me.

They refer to efforts by Lehigh University to set up a debate between us on February 6, which did not happen because Rhee kept raising new demands and eventually backed out when she said she could not find a third debate partner.

They offer a few conditions that might make this debate actually happen.

See if you think they suggest a workable format.

Yesterday, the blog recorded 69,817 page views.

This was a record for the blog.

The single most-read blog was the breaking news from Indiana, alerting readers that Governor Pence was trying again to strip the powers of Glenda Ritz. Over 30,000 people read that entry.

Information is power. Stay informed.

John Merrow, who doggedly pursued the cheating scandal in D.C. here takes issue with someone named John Buntin who wrote of a fictional match-up between Michelle Rhee and me.

Merrow chides Buntin for ignorance of the facts that Merrow covered. He sent this letter, but got no reply:

“I have a couple of observations about your Rhee/Ravitch piece that I hope you don’t mind my sharing. The first is a minor quibble about the firing scene. We filmed that as part of my NewsHour coverage–we followed the young Chancellor for her entire three years in DC (12 NewsHour reports). Only later did we include it in our film for Frontline. I allowed Oprah to use the footage, and Davis Guggenheim appropriated it without our permission for “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” although he did eventually pay us for using it.
My second objection is substantial and has to do with Rhee’s record as Chancellor. Not long after she departed, USA Today broke the story of widespread erasures on the DC-CAS, the city’s standardized test, during Rhee’s first and second years. We covered that in our Frontline film.

“However, AFTER the film I obtained a copy of a confidential memo that made it clear just how much she knew of the erasures and how she failed to act. That is summarized here:

“While “Rhee vs. Ravitch” is a compelling headline and a sexy feature, it’s a roadblock to understanding American education. Ravitch is a passionate advocate who argues from facts. In contrast, Rhee’s policies were tried, and they failed. By almost every conceivable measure, the DC schools are no better than before her tenure. In key areas of student attendance, graduation rates, and principal and teacher turnover, they are worse. Central offices in abutting districts have shrunk, but DCPS’ has grown considerably. Even DC’s most recent gains on NAEP, which began 12-15 years BEFORE Rhee’s tenure, seem to have been fueled by an influx of better-educated families (gentrification) and quality pre-school. Here’s a summary:

“I urge you to revisit this story. There is a titanic struggle going on in public education, one that is complex and deserving of coverage. Using Michelle Rhee as symbolic of ‘one side’ is misleading, unfortunately. Wendy Kopp and Teach for America might better represent one side and Ravitch another, although the issue has more than two sides.”

A good response from John Merrow. Read the whole thing as it is quite interesting.

Mr. Buntin, not known to me, should have covered–or pretended to cover–the debate I was supposed to have with Michelle Rhee on February 6 at Lehigh University. She agreed to the debate, agreed to the date but then began making demands about the format. First, she demanded that we needed seconds. She chose Rod Paige, who had been Secretary of Education in the George W. Bush administration. After a long silence and no signed contract, she required that we have two partners. My choices: Pasi Sahlberg of Finland and Helen Gym, parent leader from Philadelphia. Again a long silence. Rhee then cancelled, saying she could not find a second partner. All very puzzling.

I do my best to explain the assault on public education. It is unprecedented in American history. Public schools have always had critics, but never has there been a calculated effort to replace public schools with privately managed schools. And let’s be frank: that movement has succeeded because of bipartisan support and the availability of hundreds of millions–or billions, if you include Race to the Top–in government and private funding to undermine public education.

Here is a new interview, this one with “District Administration.”

Make no mistake. We can stop this movement if we recognize what is happening and unite.

Join your local or state group to support public education.

Contact the Network for Public Education, and we will help you find a state or local pro-public school group.

I earlier announced that I would be speaking on the evening of January 16 at Fox Lane School in Bedford, New York, but registration closed at 650 people.

FYI, in my experience, there are always no-shows. I have been to several events that were theoretically “sold out,” yet there were empty seats.

So, I would encourage you to come to the event and take your chances.

The event begins at 7:30 pm and is sponsored by the Westchester-Putnam School Boards Association. Admission is free.

If you want more information, write here:

This is a wide-ranging interview with Christine Romans on CNN.

Romans has two school-age children, and I think she gets it.

It only takes about 3 minutes, and we cover a lot of ground.

I say things that are obvious and common sense but seldom heard on mainstream television.

I earlier posted that Michelle Rhee and I would debate at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania on February 6.

As you may recall, Rhee first demanded that we have two people on each team, then three people on each team.

I readily assented and selected a wonderful second and third for the debate.

Early on, Rhee said her second would be Rod Paige.

My choices were the Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg (a visiting scholar at Harvard this year) and Philadelphia parent activist Helen Gym.

Rhee and I–through our agents– mutually agreed on the date.

However, the debate is off because Rhee says she cannot find a third partner.

This is the information I received from Lehigh.

I don’t know anything more, except that this debate will not happen.

I am very disappointed.

I was looking forward to it.

I think it would have been informative for all involved.

Thanks to all who sent expressions of support and concern. I read every one and appreciated them. You gave me the strength to get through the first days, which are the hardest. I even heard from people with whom I have had disagreements. I was humbled by the goodness that people expressed. We–including me–should all work harder to find the good and praise it rather than submit to the fault-finding, attacks, and meanness that now infests so much of our culture.

On the health stuff, the good news is that the diagnosis of walking pneumonia was a false positive, meaning the first x-ray was wrong. My lungs are clear. My job now is to take my blood-thinning medicine to dissolve the clots in my right leg, which are always dangerous. Luckily, I got medical treatment before the clots could go traveling to my lungs, heart, or brain.

What causes blood clots (in my case, deep vein thrombosis)? Too much air travel, too much inactivity. If you must fly (and I will), get up and walk around every half hour. Don’t let the blood pool in your legs. Drink a lot of water. But above all, walk up and down the aisles frequently.

I am home now, and I have an appointment to see a vascular specialist on Monday.

I won’t travel as often as I did in the past. I will blog and tweet as often as ever.

I plan to speak to school leaders on Long Island on November 19. I plan to speak to the Virginia Education Association on November 22 in Richmond. I will be in Las Vegas on December 6 to address the Association for Career and Technical Education and will stay a couple of extra days, not to gamble, but to adjust to the air travel.

On December 11, I will speak to parents and teachers at PS 15 in Red Hook, Brooklyn. That’s the Patrick Daley School, named for its beloved principal who was killed in 1992 when he stepped into gang crossfire in a housing project while going to a student’s home to see if he was okay. All are welcome.

Be of good cheer. Thank you for the good you do in the world and never stop seeking the justice and freedom from want that we all need.


Dear Friends,

I wanted to share some not very good news about my health.

This week, my hyperactivity and age caught up with me. It turns out I am not Wonder Woman but mortal me.

I have been in a hospital for two days in Brooklyn, where they determined I have blood clots in one leg and walking pneumonia. Doctors’ orders: rest.

That means I cannot fly to Chicago or Madison this week. I will resume my schedule afterwards but try to pace myself. I will Skype when I can.

Lately, I have been worrying about who will carry the fight when I no longer can do it. It was as though I had a premonition of my health issues.

I suddenly realized that you will do it. You–teachers, principals, parents, concerned citizens, students, administrators–will carry forward the struggle to gain respect, autonomy, and public confidence in our schools. You will fight for our children. You will stand up in every city, town, village, snd hamlet. The blinders are off, and there is a genuine movement determined to speak out for our children, for the future of our society. You know what’s right, and you won’t slow down until every child gets an education we can all be proud of.

This week I realized that Socrates was right: All men are mortal. So are all women.

I am going to take some time off and rest: Doctor’s order. And I will take better care of my health. I’m regretful about the reminder of my age and mortality, but I will be back. And we won’t give up.

Diane Ravitch

In an earlier post today, Anthony Cody questioned just how independent our news media are. A reader from Srattle has a vivid demonstration of the way the Seattle Times plays the education issue.

Puget Sound Parent writes:

I’m still waiting for the Seattle Times to explain why they gave multiple pages of coverage to Michelle Rhee when she was here last February. (However, not one mention of the cheating scandal she was deeply embroiled in nor anything else that hinted at any controversy.)

In fact, the coverage of Rhee was bizarrely over the top; you would have thought that Jesus AND Elvis had both returned that night. The Seattle Times covered her visit extensively, including a straight news story, a long interview with the editorial board, and a feature piece.

But, unfortunately, it was exceedingly poor journalism. It resembled the “puff pieces” I normally associate with some mass market magazines, replete with full page, full color ads, targeted to a demographic obsessed with frivolous distractions such as celebrity, fashion and “lifestyle”.

In case there were any doubts about the poor quality of the Rhee coverage, this view was reinforced, right down to a jarring, pseudo-Saskia de Brauw “wannabe” photo image of Rhee attempting to appear “glamorous” while peering out over the city.

In contrast, when you came to town in September, the Seattle Times didn’t print one word about your visit. Not one word. Nothing. Nada. Two weeks earlier, on an “educational events” calendar, in very small print, they mentioned your upcoming appearance at the University of Washington. But when I went back to check it, just before your visit, it had vanished.

I’ve written to the Seattle Times since you were here, asking them why they never covered your visit, or reviewed your book, or anything else. I’m still waiting to hear from them.

Something tells me I’ll be waiting for a while.


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