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Sunday, May 6, 2018

Diane Ravitch and the education debate | My View |

Diane Ravitch and the education debate | My View |

Diane Ravitch and the education debate

Thank you to the Lannan Foundation for bringing Diane Ravitch to address our community on the challenges that she sees to strengthen our public education system to best serve children (“Author assails state of education in N.M.,” April 16). Obviously our community values public education, as the Lensic Performing Arts Center was packed for the presentation.
We appreciate Ravitch’s clear message that poverty compromises learning and that federal and state mandates that require excessive testing can be punitive. We welcome her strong advocacy for supporting and recognizing teachers, and her emphasis on child-centered learning. We agree that we need to be aware of some corporations’ agendas to privatize our public education system; and that the present agenda of the U.S. Department of Education is to fund the expansion of public charter schools, thereby diminishing funding of traditional public schools. We lament, along with Ravitch, that the testing industry drives and profits from excessive testing, to the detriment of quality education. Best practice requires only occasional testing, and only to diagnose how a child needs to be supported. Best practice then provides additional support for that child.
However, we do not agree with Ravitch that a solution is to do away with national standards. The standards provide a common point of reference for children, families, teachers, principals and school administrators as a student moves from state to state, system to system, and from school to school.
In addressing the Santa Fe audience, Dr. Ravitch may have been unaware that our community strives to address the issues of poverty daily through the work of the Santa Fe Public Schools Student Wellness Division; the Adelante Program, serving 1,700 homeless children and their families yearly; and through partnership with the nonprofit organization Communities in Schools, linking children to wrap-around services related to their health and well-being. While inadequately funded, our school system has struggled to budget for school counselors, nurses and school security. Each week The Food Depot provides backpacks full of food to school children and their families.
We as a community need to support and collaborate with SFPS to expand and implement effective strategies to address poverty and lift student achievement. The Interfaith Coalition for Public Education joins others in recruiting and placing tutors in classrooms, coaching teachers, providing teacher workshops, advocating for increased funding and accountability, and orchestrating education forums to inform the public. We, along with other entities in Santa Fe work collectively in the Birth to Career (now Opportunities Santa Fe) collaborative to maximize support for our children.
Ravitch and many others point to best practices in Finland and other nations as models for New Mexico. We agree that the prenatal years are critical for developing the initial capacity for learning. But our national and state policies have never adequately addressed or funded universal prenatal health care, paid family leave, home visitation for expecting and new mothers, and universal public school pre-K. In our society, teachers do not yet have the status in pay and respect of corporate CEOs, doctors, lawyers, entertainers and athletes. Until we dedicate public funds to rigorous teacher education, high-quality classroom and teacher support and abundant teacher salaries, teachers will continue to be demoralized as they fight for bare necessities. This is inexcusable; we as voters and taxpayers need to demand legislation that will put teacher-honoring policies into effect.
Thank you, Dr. Ravitch, for stirring our thinking and helping us to recognize the important work in progress in our city. There is work enough for all of us to put power into effective strategies that benefit our children and community.
K. Elise Packard, Ph.D., is a learning consultant and co-founder of the Interfaith Coalition for Public Education. She lives in Santa Fe.Diane Ravitch and the education debate | My View |

Don’t let charter schools cloud the race for Brown’s successor. Vote Newsom or Chian | The Sacramento Bee

California primary: Newsom or Chiang are top two for governor | The Sacramento Bee:

Don’t let charter schools cloud the race for Brown’s successor. Vote Newsom or Chiang

Gov. Jerry Brown is a hard act to follow. No California governor has served longer, or more consequentially.
In the past eight years alone – his second stint in the office – the state has gone from a $27 billion budget deficit to a $6 billion surplus. Unemployment has fallen from 12.2 percent to 4.3 percent, a record. Along the way, Brown has realigned the state’s criminal justice system, overhauled public school finance, licensed more than a million undocumented drivers, put the state at the forefront of addressing climate change and taught Californians a little Latin.
Whoever succeeds him will not only have to pick up where he left off on those issues, but also maintain his defense of California against Trump administration assaults on our environment, trade, diversity and tolerant values. Not to mention our many in-state challenges – affordable housing, health care, underfunded public employee pensions, higher education, water policy and so on. Oh, and the near-term likelihood of a downturn in the state economy.
So voters have their work cut out on June 5 in culling two candidates from a field of more than two dozen contenders. A few prospects are prepared, but let us stipulate: None are Jerry Brown.
The best-equipped candidate for the economy to come – state Treasurer John Chiang – is running an anemic campaign and is probably terminally underfunded. The best-financed and most experienced candidates – former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom – have, in their personal lives, made unnerving and public errors in judgment.
More immediately, there are the great gobs of money from billionaire charter school advocates going to independent expenditure campaigns backing Villaraigosa. Though Newsom, too, has his billionaires – hello, Silicon Valley – the charter movement has direct Continue Reading: California primary: Newsom or Chiang are top two for governor | The Sacramento Bee: