In Which I Debate Diane Ravitch in 140 Characters or Less

By 12/09/2010

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Perhaps you’ve noticed, but I haven’t been blogging as much as usual lately. That’s because I’ve started tweeting, by which I mean I’ve started wasting untold hours following thousands of mini-messages on Twitter every day, along with sending dozens of my own. Michelle Rhee’s new initiative is great, but if we really want to hamper the teachers unions, we should introduce their leaders to Twitter.

But it did produce this nifty little debate between my friend Diane Ravitch and me, on the topic of school budget cuts. I thought I’d share.

DianeRavitch NYC class sizes going up and up as budgets cut. Many kids poor, special needs, ELL.

MichaelPetrilli That’s because Joel and Randi agreed to unaffordable raises and pension deals for teachers. How would you cut costs?

DianeRavitch Then cut massive bureaucracy

MichaelPetrilli Yes, let’s cut bureaucracy. But with 85% of the money in teacher salaries and benefits, we have to let class sizes rise, too.

DianeRavitch Easy to let class sizes rise for other people’s children.

MichaelPetrilli That’s a great line, Diane, but it doesn’t solve the problem. The money is gone. We have to help schools cut smart.

DianeRavitch Folks on the right are a tad too gleeful about cutting school budgets

MichaelPetrilli No, gleeful to get rid of policies like last hired first fired which are bad for kids. The $ crisis is an opportunity to do so

DianeRavitch When you go to hospital, do you want to be treated by an intern or a doctor? Newbies need help of seasoned vets. Kids too.

MichaelPetrilli I sure don’t want to be treated by an ineffective or burned out doctor, regardless of how many years he’s been on the job.

DianeRavitch Why do you assume that experienced teachers are burned out or ineffective? Why the contempt?

MichaelPetrilli I’m sure most veteran teachers are great. But let’s assume that 5 or 10% are not. Those are the ones who should be let go.

DianeRavitch I just don’t understand idea that we need to fire x% of teachers: No evaluations, no effort to improve, just fire people. Tabloid think.

MichaelPetrilli Of course we should do evaluations, etc. But right now districts must lay off teachers. If not the bad ones, then who?

Who says Web 2.0 is superficial?

-Mike Petrilli

Comment on this article
  • Stephanie says:

    Petrilli 1. Ravitch 0.

  • Cameron Orr says:

    Since Mr. Petrilli and many others want to point to an oversimplification in Ms. Ravich’s notion that experience has a correlation to effectiveness, I’d like to point to an oversimplification in the notion of firing “ineffective” teachers, since no one to date has come up with a fair, accurate, or political-proof method of evaluating teachers in the first place.

  • Cameron Orr says:

    Also, a debate in 140 characters? Shouldn’t that be suspect to begin with? It’s also awfully nice that he got to choose where to end this comprehensive conversation.

  • Anne Clark says:

    We need to figure out what defines great teaching so we can teach it to teachers. We need better information on what we expect teachers to do to be great, so they can change. How do we teach someone, with great intention to do well, how to be a great 3rd grade math teacher? How many ed schools know this, and teach this? If we just fire those who are failing without providing new teachers who know these best practices, WE ARE FAILING along with the teachers – and then of course, the kids fail.

    To me, this was the greatest conclusion I came to from the Nashville experiment with merit pay. Even with a $15,000 incentive, teachers were not able to figure it out. As a society, we better figure it out.

    Geoffrey Canada said he knows great teaching when he sees it. This will not get us very far in improving math education in the US. Teach for America makes a small dent. We need proven models we can bring to scale.

  • […] So, Rotherham has given us the argument that our “golden age” of school spending is coming to an end. And Mike Petrilli, in a twitter-battle with Diane Ravitch has laid down the Petrillian Truth (roll with that one Mike…it’s got a nice ring) that “The Money is Gone!” MichaelPetrilli: That’s a great line, Diane, but it doesn’t solve the problem. The money is gone. We have to help schools cut smart. […]

  • Rita Solnet says:

    Ravitch 3, Petrilli 0

    As a parent, a businesswoman, and Chamber of Commerce member, please explain to me how firing x% of teachers improves the quality of education for children? Is that the strategy for improving education?

    So, identifying so-called “ineffective teachers” each year based upon a high stakes standardized bubble test which have repeatedly proven to be flawed, invalid and have a margin of error upwards of 30% (see Pearson Company stories).

    That’s the plan? Fire these teachers–close schools because the children (despite their English language learning ability, learning disabilities, poverty stricken home lives, etc.) did not pass one bubble test? This improves the quality of our nation’s education system again–how?

    Re: Blatant firing of teachers minus their evaluations and due process–I don’t want my tax dollars spent in courtrooms all over the state (and nation) defending teacher terminations that are outside of contract terms. It takes two parties to draft terms & conditions of contracts just as it takes two parties to agree, sign contracts and two parties to comply with the contracts.

    Both sides must abide by the contract terms as they exist today. Contract law is actually very simple. You have a contract, you abide by it. You don’t select which clause to innovatively re-engineer mid stream.

    Let’s not place the popularly termed and misused concept of “accountability” on just one side, shall we? A Judge will not.

    Revise the contracts first–give individuals (teachers and employers) the opportunity to perform their jobs as stated within their employment contracts.

    Last In, First Out wouldn’t be my choice of a contract term in the business world; however, if it exists in a signed, valid, contract today, it must be adhered to until such time as that clause changes.

    LIFO may make sense in the teaching profession in that most studies state that it takes teachers a minimum of 2 yrs to gain confidence, knowledge, classroom mgmt skills to successfully teach. The most brilliant Ivy league graduate in the world does not mean they are the most conscientious teacher or the most successful classroom manager.

    Teacher evaluations must be a combination of factors, peer assessment, Dept Head review, Principal review, comments/remarks/issues about that teacher from parents or students, etc. As in all professions I’m aware of, there is an element of “human judgment” to employee evaluations. Why in the world would corporate reformists plan to eliminate the value of human judgment?

    Again, as F500 businesswoman, Chamber member and parent, there is a vast disconnect for me with these highly tauted education reform initiatives coming from the DOE.

    The amount of evidence opposing expansion of charters, opposing teacher effectiveness ratings, opposing high stakes standardized tests and the associated institutionalized fraud, opposing merit pan initiatives etc is overwhelming yet ideology trumps evidence. Why is that? There are no business leaders that I know of who consistently thumb their noses at concrete evidence.

    The only person making sense to me these days is Dr. Ravitch. Thank God someone is out there speaking common sense. I’m in the school system as a volunteer and have been for 15 yrs. Dr. Ravitch won your tweet debate. I bet she’d win a one on one debate as well.

  • Lori says:

    Tell me where you can find a teacher or principal 360 evaluation system that provides any way for input?

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