Community groups to host communitywide public education book discussion
Several Heights-based organizations will host a communitywide discussion about the future of public education and educational reform this winter. The focus of the discussion is the book Reign of Error, written by Diane Ravitch, an education historian who served as assistant secretary of education under President George H. W. Bush, and whose views have changed significantly as she has observed the impact of widespread high-stakes standardized testing on public schools, neighborhoods, cities, teachers and children.
Three evening conversations are scheduled for Wednesdays, Jan. 22, Jan. 29 and Feb. 5, 7–8:30 p.m., in the Social Room at Cleveland Heights High School. Each session will focus on particular chapters in the book, but organizers say that it isn’t necessary to have read the book in order to participate.
Participating organizations include Reaching Heights, FutureHeights, Heights Community Congress, the CH-UH Public Library, the Cleveland Heights Teachers Union, the CH-UH City School District, the CH-UH PTA Council and Link Educational Consulting.
“We choose the book because it creates a context for understanding education in our community,” said Susie Kaeser, a public education advocate and one of the organizers of the discussion. “The chapters are short and topical and don’t have to be read in order.”
In the book, Ravitch argues that the privatization approach that educational reformers advocate threatens the future existence of public schools in the United States. Reformers, “mask their agenda with rhetoric that is soothing and deceptive," writes Ravitch. "Though they speak of ‘reform,’ what they really mean is deregulation and privatization. When they speak of ‘accountability,’ what they really mean is rigid reliance on standardized testing. . . . When they speak of ‘effective teachers,’ what they mean is teachers whose students produce higher scores on standardized tests every year, not teachers who inspire their students to love learning.”
Chapters of the book deal with such topics as standardized testing, the achievement gap, the meaning of international test comparisons, high school graduation rates and value-added ratings for teachers. Ravitch also explains charter schools and their financial drain on school districts.
“We hope people will join us to share their reactions to the book with neighbors, CH-UH teachers and community leaders. We hope to learn a common vocabulary to be able to understand current education issues in order to make informed decisions,” said Ari Klein, president of the CH-UH Teachers Union and discussion organizer.
Community members can purchase the book at a discounted price at Mac’s Backs in Coventry Village and Appletree Books in Cedar Fairmount, thanks to the generosity of those merchants. Heights Libraries will make additional copies of the book available for residents who wish to borrow it.
The organizers plan to host a wrap-up meeting at a date and time to be determined. Free child care is available by reservation by calling 216-321-0020. For more information, visit http://chtu.oh.aft.org/news.
Deanna Bremer Fisher
Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer.