Thursday, April 15, 2010

According to Diane Ravitch.... Mayoral Intrusion into District Leadership is Counterproductive

Dr. Diane Ravitch, former Assistant Secretary of Education for the US Department of Education writes in her new award winning book "The Death and Life of the Great American School System" that:

“Our schools ...

... will not improve if elected officials intrude into pedagogical territory and make decisions that properly should be made by professional educators."

Apparently elected official and Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer and the political group known as Kids First know better than the Former Assistant Secretary of Education. As you watch the video, you may nod and even approve of what it being said--- but this type of intrusion (whether benevolent or not) has been uniformly criticized by professionals in the field. And in fact, was earlier criticized by the Kids First political group
previous to Mayor Zimmer's election. Now that Kids First has a supporter in the mayor's office--- intrusion by elected officials (as defined by Dr. Ravitch)-- is celebrated, encouraged and used for political advantage.

"It's one of the reasons that I ran for mayor. I'm extremely committed to working to make our public school system as good as it can be...working with the school board and I think that it's important that the mayor take a leadership role in that and I'm looking forward to reaching out and really working with Stevens Institute of Technology. for me it's an ongoing process. I got an 8 and a 10 year old in third and fifth grade and I- want to send them to Hoboken High School and I want everyone in Hoboken to feel really comfortable and...good about sending their children to the high school. "

Is this a criticism of supporting a political slate for the Board of Education? Certainly not. But, when such endorsements are done by high profile elected officials and speak of pedagogical changes and taking a leadership role (!) we should be aware that many scholars and high ranking government officials feel this is counter productive for the improvement of our public schools. Is this leadership role more powerful than the Board of Education President? Is it more powerful than the Superintendent? Many of you, like former Assist. Secretary of Education and NYU Professor Diane Ravitch can see the reason for concern. The Kids First political group once saw the concern too....

Diane Ravitch is Research Professor of Education at New York University. Ravitch has written or edited more than twenty books, including The Language Police,The Great School Wars, The Troubled Crusade, The American Reader,The English Reader, and Left Back. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.