"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, January 22, 2016

Lamar's Office Answers Diane's Questions about ESSA

Diane Ravitch's close relationship with Lamar Alexander goes back at least to the early 1990s, when Diane was a leading testocrat at ED for George Herbert Walker Bush.  This was the period when Diane used her office as Assistant Secretary to suppress the Sandia Report, which presented a picture contrary to the educational doomsday message that began with Reagan's opposition to public schools ten years before. It was that high time when Lamar as Secretary of ED led his unsuccessful campaign to get federal sponsorship for his former business partner's Edison Schools.  As the NY Times reported in 1992 (my bolds),
At the heart of the Edison Project is an idea that also guides the strategy developed under Education Secretary Lamar Alexander, a former business associate of Mr. Whittle. It is hopeless to expect change from within this school system, this reasoning runs, so parents must be given the weapon of choice to force changes in public schools.

Indeed, the prime architect of the Bush strategy, Chester E. Finn Jr., is a longtime critic of public schools who is now a member of the Edison Project's design team.

Although Mr. Whittle's schools would be private, his Edison Project is remarkably similar to Mr. Alexander's New American Schools proposal to create 535 radically different public schools, one in each Congressional district and two in each state, which would then spur other schools to change. Later this summer the New American Schools Development Corporation will give out privately financed grants to design teams, many of whom have suggested proposals similar to Mr. Whittle's.
Thanks to the Times reporting, Congress pulled the plug on this corrupt scheme, which could have been the first example of federal money going to fund privately-run schools. 

Almost 25 years later, Alexander is now in the catbird's seat in terms of his long-standing desire to privatize public schools, and he is not about to miss this opportunity.  And even though Diane Ravitch has ostensibly undergone a conversion from her earlier preaching of the corporate dogma, she and Lamar remain very close.

So close, in fact, that Diane and her lieutenants at NPE were crucial in keeping resistance to the new ESSA calmed until it was too late to do anything.  In April 2015, in fact, Ravitch had already given her thumbs up on a federal plan that will set back education policy by a half century:
One may quibble with details, but the bottom line is that this bill defangs the U.S. Department of Education; it no longer will exert control over every school with mandates. This bill strips the status quo of federal power to ruin schools and the lives of children and educators. This is a far better bill than I had hoped or feared.
Ravitch lieutenant and NPE Board member, Dr. Heilig, rashly boasted recently on Facebook that he had known the details of ESSA before it was rushed through, but that he was sworn to secrecy.  When a Facebook reader suggested that his silence signaled complicity with this awful legislation, he responded by saying that, as a mere academic, he had no power to alter the course of history.  (The children who become prisoners of chain gang charters in the years to come may surely question such a rationalization.)  I guess you could say he was only following orders.

Who will question Diane Ravitch on her continued silence on the massive charter expansion guaranteed by ESSA?  Recently, Alexander told Ed Week,
“What I believe is that when we take the handcuffs off, we’ll unleash a whole flood of innovation and ingenuity classroom by classroom, state by state, that will benefit children,” Alexander said in an interview. “We’ve got a law that will govern the federal role in K-12 education for 10 or 20 years.”
For Diane's part, she has just posted Part IV of a series where she asked, in writing, softball questions to Alexander's office about ESSA, which were were answered by Alexander's Chief of Staff.  How long can she pretend to not know what is coming from ESSA in the months and years ahead?  How long can she blame others for policies that she supports?

But the more serious question is, how long will those who still believe in public schools believe in the misleadership of Diane Ravitch and the neoliberal agenda she represents? 


  1. I'd expect this from Education Post. But here it is. Anyways, comments about my ability to influence ESSA are off base and wrong.

    1. I am glad you did not deny your bragging about insider access to the horrors of ESSA that the public is only now coming to know about. Everyone who cares about public schools now knows about NPE's silent complicity before the fact and its total disregard after the fact.

  2. Diane is not in some secret conspiracy with Lamar Alexander -- that is nonsense. ESSA is far from perfect but it is better than NCLB. And when things get even a little bit better, that is better for kids.
    It is going to take a long time to unwind the horrible devastation done to our public schools by the corporate reform movement. Diane and many of us are in it for as long as it takes. And I can tell you this--if it wasn't for Diane Ravitch there would be no real pushback at all. I believe in public schools and I make no apologies for believing in the leadership of Diane.

    1. A conspiracy is by definitiion secret, and you are right--her embeddedness with Alexander's conservative values is no secret. It is a long-standing fact.

      As for ESSA being better, better for whom is one question that has to be asked. The kids in poverty who suffered under the NCLB genocide will continue to be labeled and turned over to corporate know-nothings for behavioral conversion therapy. How much "better" could ESSA have been if Ravitch had not capitulated last spring and settled for this piece of dreck. What if she had led a vocal uprising against this segregative states rights privatization version of ESSA? But she did not, because what we have to live with re ESSA suits Ravitch just fine.

    2. Anonymous7:50 PM

      Standardized testing is not healthy for children and other living things. Standardized testing is most punishing to children living in poverty. I have a fantasy that people with more money than they know what to do with provide all children in this country with three square meals and a safe residence.

      Abigail Shure

    3. Rebel - your remarks show that you in no way understand what the ESSA has done to our children and it is in no way better than NCLB. The ESSA sealed the fate of our children's futures in the rotten Common Core and the assessments which will continue to drag our children into the pits of "work force" for the elite. Diane Ravitz has been playing both sides of the wheel for years - only beginning to speak out against Common Core and the new direction of education after she was loosing a solid base. She never expressed anything against NCLB, School-To-Work or any of the other impossible legislation that has been passed since the 1980's.

      She is a long time friend of Lamar Alexander and Chester Finn having written several books with Chester Finn and placing herself on the Hoover Institute and then deneying she was any part of them "ever" where her picture and bio were clearly in view.

      She knew what was beginning to happen with our education and the purpose of the "outcome-based education in the 80's under Reagan and she has never blown the whistle and is still not. Why? Because she likes her bread buttered on both sides. She is a traitor to our children and their very futures. Shame on you who continue to support her.