Diane\'s Blog

Priscilla Lightbourne

Ms. Ravitch,

I read your op-ed piece in the Times with genuine excitement. With rare exceptions (Bob Herbert and Joe Nocera come immediately to mind) you don’t hear the education conversation focusing on families.

I lived in Portland, Oregon and have taught in Title One schools my entire career. Three years ago I moved to Baltimore to teach for Baltimore City schools. I wanted to see what life is like for an inner city school teacher. Portland has poverty and there is definitely an income gap, but to see the problems in the extreme, one needs to go to a city like Baltimore.

The conversation about teacher accountability is not a bad one to be having, we all know teachers who should not be in the classroom, but the way we’re going to “get rid” of those teachers is also going to rob us of wonderfully passionate, talented teachers who are currently willing to work in high poverty schools, but can’t – not won’t – can’t, if their paycheck is in jeopardy. Maryland is proposing that 50% of teacher evaluations come from test scores. Early in the year my fifth grade students didn’t know what the word “cattle” meant and a standardized test they recently took asked them to define “purloined”. How do you close that gap in one year? Truly, where do you begin? Focusing on families and their education is exactly the right answer. I could go on for far too long (perhaps beginning with why we’re asking ANY fifth grade student to know what purloined means) and have done so many times in my mind.

I was just asking friends how someone like myself can get into this conversation. I worry that the Bill Gates of the world, while I’m certain well intentioned, will win the day because of the ability to fund. And that things will only get worse for these incredibly wonderful children I work with everyday.

Many thanks,

Priscilla Lightbourne
Baltimore, MD