With a sharp tongue and unapologetic gaze, Diane Ravitch has spent the past two years touring the country with a message of support for teachers and criticism for the high-stakes testing culture she helped create.
Ravitch, a research professor of education atNew York University in New York City, wrote the best-seller "The Death and Life of the Great American School System," in which she describes why federal mandates like No Child Left Behind are hurting schools.
A former assistant U.S. secretary of education in the George H.W. Bush administration, Ravitch was appointed to the National Assessment Governing Board by President Bill Clinton.
On Friday, Ravitch was in Sacramento, where she spoke to hundreds of teachers at the Sacramento Convention Center and met with Gov. Jerry Brown and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.
First, the 73-year-old stopped by The Bee to share her views.
On why she opposes using student test scores to evaluate teachers:
"I'm very dubious about these tests. First of all, because I know them. I spent seven years on the National Assessment Governing Board. I know the testing industry really well. I know how often the tests are flawed. And, I know what it does to kids when they are told they are a failure. Of what value is that?"
On her role as a vocal opponent of reform measures that she called "punitive" toward teachers:
"I think there has to be a far more thoughtful long-term plan to change the teaching profession and make it better than it is. It's not by demonizing teachers or firing teachers, but by first of all having much more rigorous recruitment and higher standards for entry into teaching. Secondly, by helping new teachers become better teachers and third, I think teacher evaluation is important, but not by test scores."
On how to strengthen teacher training programs:
"I think every teacher should have a strong liberal arts education and should have very solid academic preparation for whatever they are going to teach or might teach. So, if they are going to be a math teacher, they should have a bachelor's degree in mathematics."
On the role education schools can play in improving teacher quality:
"They should probably be more selective in terms of who gets in. That's not in their interest, because education schools have traditionally been the cash cow of the university. They take in everyone and spew out everybody."
On why she is opposed to alternative paths to becoming a teacher:
"These alternative pathways produce people who either contribute to the revolving door (in the teaching profession) or are unprepared. Should there be alternative pathways into medicine? How about alternative pathways into becoming a pilot? When you really care about something, you don't want alternative pathways. You want pathways that are proven."
Published: Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3B