Do You Believe in Miracles?

Dec 7, 2011 by

No, I am not quoting Al Michaels at the end of the Lake Placid Gold Medal Hockey game. Rather, I am quoting my friend Diane Ravitch, for the title of this important blog post

Kenneth J. Bernstein

Often we are in education presented with supposed examples of “miracles” – high poverty schools that have a remarkable performance, or so we are told. As Diane begins her post,

One of the central claims of the corporate-reform movement is that poverty is not destiny and that a school staffed with great teachers can eliminate poverty. This is a very appealing sort of rhetoric because we all harbor the hope that every single person can overcome the obstacles of poverty to achieve success in school and in life.

If this remind you in some ways of the earlier mythology of Horatio Alger stories, perhaps it is appropriate.

Diane had previously written about 3 such miracle schools – Urban Prep Academy in Chicago, Bruce Randolph in Denver, and Miami Central High School in Florida.

Gary Rubinstein, as Diane notes,

has just updated the statistics on these schools, and he shows that they continue to struggle despite the accolades of officials in search of a miracle.

(side note – Gary is a former TFAer who has now become an important voice critical of TFA).

Please keep reading. . .

Diane goes through the data Gary provides of three schools that have receive praise – Urban Prep in Chicago, Bruce Randolph in Denver, and Miami Central High School. The praise has come from Secretary Duncan, President Obama and (unfortunately, along with the President), Jeb Bush.

The reality is somewhat different.

Urban Prep – yes, 100% of the kids went to college, but

Only 15 percent met Illinois’ Prairie State assessment standards


zero percent were rated by the state as “college-ready.


Bruce Randolph –

continues to be one of the lowest-performing schools in Colorado.

Miami Central – here I think I need Diane’s entire paragraph:

Last March, President Obama and Secretary Duncan joined with Jeb Bush to hail the alleged transformation of Miami Central High, evidence that firing staff could work wonders. Except that it didn’t. Miami Central remains one of the state’s lowest-performing schools and was slated for closure, but has been saved because of pleas by local officials.

Ravitch will give you an example of a school that really is closing the achievement gap – South Side High School in Rockville Centre, New York. She provides a hyperlink to a PDF that will support that statement, then writes bluntly:

Reformers, take note. Go visit. It’s closer than Finland.

This evening I am reading Finnish Lessons: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland, because tomorrow I am going to a book event at the Finnish Embassy with its author, Pasi Sahlberg. As a teacher and an advocate for public education, I do want to learn from the Finns, but it is also nice to realize that there are good things going on here in the United States.

I am going to push fair use. I am going to quote all of Diane Ravitch’s final paragraph, because I believe it is that important:

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again: There are no silver bullets in education. There are no magic feathers that enable elephants like Dumbo to fly. It’s hard work to improve schools. It takes dedication, resources, and time. And the work is never done, the magic number of 100 percent is always out of reach. Just when you think that you’ve achieved success with this year’s students, another new group arrives, each student with his or her issues. Or students leave and arrive mid-year. Or the state changes the testing program or releases new regulations requiring more paperwork. Claims of overnight or one-year transformations should be suspect on their face. It can happen, perhaps, but I’m skeptical and need far better evidence than has yet appeared.

Real educational reform is needed. It will involve hard work. It will need the commitment of teachers, parents, the community, legislators, and more.

What we call “reform” now will not get it done. Diane Ravitch is right to deflate the idea of “miracle” schools.

I decided I should bring her thoughts to your attention.


Originally posted to teacherken on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 01:41 PM PST.

Also republished by Education Alternatives, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, and Teachers Lounge.

via Daily Kos: Do You Believe in Miracles?.

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