Reimagining Education

Too Poor to Learn?

I recently decided to unfollow Diane Ravitch (see more info on Ravitch here) on Twitter because I found myself getting bored with her constant promotion of her belief that poor kids wont learn until they aren’t poor anymore. Before I unfollowed her, I tried, in vain, to respond to her tweets a few times. I had hoped that if I said just the right thing, maybe the old Ravitch—the one who knew reform was possible and who in 2002 helped then-President George W. Bush and the late Senator Ted Kennedy shine a light on the fact that the achievement gap was widening at an alarming rate and that our schools weren’t being held accountable for it, would re-emerge.

I was hoping to see what she thought about the legions of poor children who KIPP, YES Prep, St. Louis Language Immersion School, City Academy, Loyola Academy, Achievement First, SEED, and the many other schools in Missouri and around the country that are managing to educate at rates equal to or greater than their more affluent counterparts. I thought perhaps sharing stories about the many children who I taught during my years in the classroom who were as low income as children in America generally get, but who were still achieving at exceptionally high levels, might take her back to 2002 when she knew it was possible. But alas, the Old Ravitch was no where to be found. Instead all I got were responses about teachers not being able to do their job because poor kids had too many other problems.

The “poor kids excuse” isn’t the only one that Ravitch and the other anti-school reformers use, just the one that irritates me the most. As Jonathon Alter points out in his June 3 article on Bloomberg News, the anti-reformers, currently led by Ravitch, offer excuse after excuse as to why poor children are failing. You can read his excellent list of the anti-reformers excuses here for yourself as well has his points debunking them. However, if you are looking for a list of solutions from Ravitch and those who still have the stomach to “follow” her, you wont find them.

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