Diane Ravitch published her new book last week, “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.” There’s a plethora of reviews out there, some positive and some negative. An especially illuminating one is courtesy of Jessica Levin, a former instructor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and an officer at The New Teacher Project.
The book, says Levin, “signals the completion of Ravitch’s shift from historian to polemicist” and “indicts education reform and those who support it with sweeping simplicity.” The most interesting part of the review, focuses on education reformers’ political errors in framing their agenda. She writes,
In trying to create a more results-focused culture, their leaders talked too much about firing teachers and placed excessive emphasis on “objective measurement” as the solution to all problems.
Moreover, they woefully underestimated the union trap. They knew that reforming union contracts was essential to enabling more schools to succeed, but when they tried to change even the most problematic union rules, labor’s full-throttled counter-fight succeeded in casting reformers as obsessed with stripping teachers and their unions of power.
Reformers also created political alliances that narrowed rather than broadened their coalition. They relied on anyone who could help them, including politicians and funders with whom they had only a partial overlap of belief and values. Concurrently, by relentlessly talking about what schools could do rather than the enormous effects of poverty and the importance of non-school supports, they failed to build bridges to traditional advocates for poor and minority children and opened themselves up to charges that they didn’t think poverty matters.
Finally, in the face of being increasingly misrepresented, they never engaged in the kind of coordinated communication and mid-course correction that would have clarified where they truly stood.