Dear Campbell,


I read in the Wall Street Journal that you have formed a new organization called “The Seventy Four,” meaning the 74 million children who attend school in America. I noted that you want to advocate on behalf of the children so they get a better education. You and I have that in common. We both advocate on behalf of our nation’s children.


As you begin your new advocacy, there are a few things you need to know. Some of them you can find in my book “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.”


For example:


*Test scores are not declining or flat. In fact, they are the highest they have ever been since the federal government started measuring scores in the early 1970s. They are the highest ever for white, black, Hispanic, and Asian students.

*Graduation rates are at their highest point in history, for all of these groups.

*Dropout rates are at their lowest point in history, for all those groups.


The schools and students that really need help are those who live in very poor communities. Kids who live in poverty often don’t have adequate health care, nutrition, decent housing, and economic security. Why don’t we work together to advocate for better living conditions for these children, their families, and their communities. Standardized test scores are a mirror of family income. Some poor kids beat the odds, but there is a tight correlation between test scores and family income.


Now, I realize that you are very concerned about the fact that 50% of our students are “below grade level.” I want to make sure you understand that “grade level” means “the median.” It is the midpoint, and it doesn’t have a set meaning. There will always be 50% above grade level, and 50% below grade level. That is the definition of “grade level.”


I don’t think you should be so fast to dismiss the intellectual calibre of American students. I strongly recommend that you obtain a copy of a sample eighth grade math test from the New York State Education Department. Make sure it is Common Core-aligned. Take the test. Please let me know how it goes and how many questions you got right.


Good luck with that! I am available to talk if you have any questions. Feel free to call or drop a line.


Diane Ravitch