Inspiration for Leaders

Enjoy this news and reflection blog brought to you from the LHRIC Technology Leadership Institute!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tech Expo’s Provocative Keynote Speaker Delivers Much-Anticipated Talk

The annual Tech Expo 2014, held April 11, drew close to 400 educators from a myriad of local school districts, many of them eager to hear education historian Diane Ravitch deliver a keynote on the importance of technology in education as well as recent developments in education policy.

Diane Ravitch delivers the keynote at Tech Expo 2014
She was among several other speakers and presenters to participate in the Tech Expo, sponsored by the LHRIC's Technology Leadership Institute and held at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor.

Ms. Ravitch, a research professor at New York University, an influential blogger and a contributing writer at the Huffington Post, said she is a fan of what teachers can do with technology in the classroom. “Technology can really inspire what we all want, which is the joy of learning.”

For centuries, educators have dreamed of such a learner-centered environment, which has become a reality for many of today’s students, said Ms. Ravitch, as they learn by using a variety of emerging tools in the classroom.

The emergence of technology shows the true “realities of life,” allowing students to take ownership of what they learn, in addition to fostering a new level of creation, invention and imagination, she added.

“What I envisioned is a world of open source learning led not only by teachers but also by students,” said Ms. Ravitch. “If you think students are dumb these days because of it (technology), please take the eight grade math test.”

A Hijacked Technology Revolution
This revolution has, however, been hijacked by entrepreneurs and policy makers seeking to standardize the curriculum through corporate-influenced school reform and the desire to create a “lucrative marketplace for profitable enterprise.”

The federal government’s control of the states’ educational policy matters has created a situation that Ms. Ravitch said would have been “unthinkable 10 years ago,” a situation that is unprecedented in the nation’s history, with pressure coming from Washington that urges states and, consequently, school districts to do more with less.

While New York State, she contends, is in “pretty good shape,” other states across the country, such as Florida, Indiana and Pennsylvania, to name a few, are experiencing turmoil and the kind of disruption that is not good for children or for learning, she noted.

As a result, the destruction of the public school system and its ultimate privatization is becoming a reality. “I presume your communities here in Westchester are strong enough to handle this, but watch out,” she told the crowd, many of them members of the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents, who later attended a private meeting with Ms. Ravitch.

Referring to the “wild, unrealistic goal of 100 percent proficiency” that has permeated the public education system since the creation of the No Child Left Behind policy in 2001 and the “more onerous” Race to the Top initiative, Ms. Ravitch added that such an aspiration is unrealistic and one that no nation in the world could ever achieve.

Such proficiency measures have since been turned over to private management, she said, with little research to support them. While testing is good for the testing companies, it does little for children and the quality of education, Ms. Ravitch added. “When it takes the place of instruction and the arts and play, it’s wrong.”

The Danger of the Growing Charter School Industry
Ms. Ravitch, the author of several books, including the newly-released “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools,” took particular aim at the growing charter school movement, in particular the Success Academy charter chain run by CEO Eva Moskowitz.

Such charter schools, she said, have been able to take up free space in several public schools in New York City, pushing out students with disabilities and other disadvantaged public school students.

And if the owners of the charter school industry claim their existence is based on raising the test scores of American students, Ms. Ravitch countered that national test scores, together with graduate rates, have actually risen over the past four years across all races, and dropout rates are at their lowest. Such statistics, she said, can be found on the federal Department of Education’s website.

Millions of dollars will continue to be spent by school districts on professional development efforts and on iPads and tablets that are a requirement of the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) online tests, an initiative that is closely aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Many of those machines, she added, will come preloaded with content that is copyrighted by companies such as Pearson Education and others.

“We’re at a turning point,” said Ms. Ravitch. “Will there be more charters to drive funding from public schools, will teachers be free to teach with creativity and passion, will they be able to teach without following a scripted curriculum?”

“We are trapped by a love of data. This is the thinking of a world that is far too flat for me. Don’t let them flatten you.”

To follow Ms. Ravitch on her daily blog, visit