UNO chief calls Ravtich comments on charter schools 'stupid'... During brief visit, Diane Ravitch reminds Chicago of things Chicago ignores

"Equal is not enough," historian and critic Diane Ravitch told a small press briefing at the Chicago Teachers Union on October 15, 2012, as she spoke to reporters seated beside CTU president Karen Lewis. "Equal is not enough when the public schools have to overcome the problems that come from the poverty of the students."

Diane Ravitch (left) and Karen Lewis (right) at the Chicago Teachers Union on October 15, 2012 during the briefing for reporters. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The well-known author of several books on education, most recently "The Death and Life of the Great American School System," Ravitch since the publication of her book two years ago has come to the forefront as the foremost critic of corporate "school reform" in the USA. She was in Chicago for one day. Earlier she had spoken to a breakfast at the City Club of Chicago. Answering questions from Sun-Times reporter Rosalind Rossi and Catalyst reporter Rebecca Harris (along with this reporter and Matt Farmer, who writes for Huffington Post), Ravitch took on questions for more than an hour. Other news organizations, including the city's TV stations and the Chicago Tribune, ignored invitations to hear from Ravitch.

She covered many topics, and refused to answer some questions saying she didn't know enough to speak on those topics.

As soon as she began, she took on the organizations that have been demanding a form of test-based "accountability" and who have ignored the broader social problems in order to push an agenda that makes "firing bad teachers" the objective of social policy. "The first job of a profession is not to fire people," Ravitch said, while keeping a straight face while mocking most of the leading Illinois corporate reform organizations.

Sin-Times reporter Rosalind Rossi tried to ask critical questions of Diane Ravitch during the hour-long discussion. Nothing from Ravitch's critical comments about Chicago Public Schools and Mayor Rahm Emanuel appeared in the Sun-Times. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.One of the main questions asked of Ravitch was about charter schools. She shot down every claim that charters are competing on an equal basis with local schools. She pointed out that by utilizing a lottery to select students, the charters are already pre-selecting their students. The reason is that the most at risk students served by the public schools do not have parents or others to put them into the lotteries.

Ravitch repeated the criticisms she had made earlier.

-- The U.S. has always been at the bottom of international test rankings, Ravitch said, because of its high child poverty rate compared to other industrialized countries.

-- She cited research showing that African-American students who attend integrated schools earn more money, have better educational outcomes and even live longer.

Ravitch said Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn asked the City Club, often a platform for more conservative speakers, to invite her. “Facts are stubborn things,” he said as he was leaving, thanking her for her talk. She also said she has worked with new schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and is hopeful she will set a better tone for the school system. “It’s a question of — does she have the nerve to stand up to the mayor? The mayor seems hell-bent on closing schools,” Ravitch said.

Ravitch said she was opposed to the Chicago plan to close schools when Chicago is opening charter schools. She also told the group, in answer to questions about the astroturf groups abounding in Chicago, that Barack Obama had delivered the opening address to Democrats for Educaton Reform at their founding conference.


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