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Ravitch Takes on Slacker Culture

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In an opinion piece in the New York Sun this week, Diane Ravitch charges that people too frequently blame teachers but neglect to consider the role of popular culture and a lack of student drive as culprits in American students' failure to compete globally. "It's time to stop beating up on teachers and ask why so many of our children arrive in school with poor attitudes toward learning," she writes. "If the students aren't willing to work hard, if they aren't hungry to succeed, then even the best teachers in the world—laden with merit pay, bonuses, and other perks—are not going to make them learn."

The slacker attitude has been much on Ravitch's mind of late. She has written about in her Education Week blog, Bridging Differences, and on The Huffington Post. What's your feeling about student attitudes? Do American students have a hunger for learning?

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We should stop blaming students and teachers and start looking at workable solutions to repairing our failing schools. First we need to establish a national test to measure student progress more accurately. Leaving testing up to the individual states has led to a dumbing-down of student achievement standards in order to allow more students to pass. Next, we should raise compensation levels for high-quality teachers, especially in the areas of math, science and Special Education. School districts should also provide better information on school performance to parents and eliminate district boundaries allowing parents to choose the right school for their child, regardless of where they live. We should provide for greater local autonomy so that principals have more flexibility in hiring and firing teachers. Finally, by attaching education dollars to each student we will make school funding more transparent ensuring that most of our dollars are spent in the classroom.

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