Education

Advocacy groups are rallying Thursday in support of Jefferson County Public schools. One of the speakers at the event will be Diane Ravitch, the former assistant secretary of education in the George H.W. Bush Administration, and author of numerous books on the state of public education. Ravitch’s book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education” won her the 2014 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Education.

I spoke with her about public education and about the state of Kentucky’s attempt earlier this year to take over JCPS. You can listen to our conversation in the player above.

Ravitch on the attempted takeover of Jefferson County Public Schools:

“I think it’s very sad for Kentucky that the state decided to takeover Jefferson County because again, there’s no evidence that state takeovers are a way to improve schools. There’s no magic in a state takeover, there’s nobody smarter in the state Capital and in the state education department than the district. And the ways to improve schools is to improve them by getting the people in the school the resources they need. They’ve got the teachers, what they often need is they need smaller class sizes and they may need additional programming to help the kids who are the poorest.”

On why she’s not a proponent of charter schools:

“When charter schools are funded, the money is taken away from public schools and it weakens public schools. They have less money, they have to lay off staff and they have to cut programs so that charter schools can be funded. And we now have a mountain of evidence that says charter schools don’t do any better than regular public schools and in many cases are much worse.”

On her criticism of standardized tests:

“The problem with the standardized tests is that they don’t tell us anything, teachers don’t learn anything from them. The most important thing you learn from standardized tests is which children come from affluent families and which children come from poor families. If you just want to find a reflection of family income, that’s what you use standardized tests for because they don’t improve student performance.

‘The only time that standardized tests have any value is if you can get feedback immediately and say, ‘Oh, now I know what Johnny needs, now I know what Jane needs.’ But we never — the results come back months later, the kids already have a different teacher, and the tests are riddled with error. I mean, I was seven years on the national testing board and it amazed me how many times I saw test questions that I would say to myself, ‘Wait a minute. The [questions] they’re offering don’t really have a right answer.’ Or, ‘Wait a minute, there are two right answers.'”

The “Rally to Save Our Schools” featuring Diane Ravitch begins at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18. More information is available here

Bill Burton is the Morning Edition host for WFPL News.