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David Gregory in talk with Diane Ravitch and Geoffrey Canada (photo by Nick Pandolfo)

The third day of Education Nation kicked off with a lively debate between charter school manager and educator Geoffrey Canada and education historian Diane Ravitch. Canada applauded the success of the charter schools in Harlem and elsewhere, with Ravitch countering that his schools and other charters had far more resources at their disposal than the average public school. Talk then branched into many of the public-private partnerships that some charters use. Canada, in his usual animated fashion, said he didn’t mind the private funding. He argued that private companies provide funds for new and potentially transformative ideas. “Education has no pressure to innovate whatsoever,” said Canada. Ravich answered with a rejoinder that one in three charter schools, which have been given more freedom to experiment with curriculum and governance structure, perform worse than the local public school, and that most “have to clean up their act.”

In a later panel, Andrew Rotherham, a columnist at, referenced the part of the talk between Ravitch and Canada relating to private funding in charters by clarifying that only 12-13 percent of charters are privately managed, calling that debate “silly.” Elizabeth Green of GothamSchools, added that more important than the private management is that all charters have the option to do things differently, defining them “as a system of schools, not a school system.”

A running theme through panels covering various topics has been the debunking of the idea that the problem in education in America is a financial one, with many saying that the $650 billion education budget is one of the greatest in the world. “It’s outrageous that we can’t give our children a good education,” said Steven Brill, author of the new book “Class Warfare”. “And it’s not about money.”

Another popular talking point in multiple panels has been the lack of creativity in American schools since focus on math, reading, and tests has increased in recent years. The president of Harvard, Dr. Drew Faust, shared how struck she was that on a recent trip to China, educators asked her time and time again not about her programs that are seen as more vocational like math and science, but rather about the humanities and liberal arts, which they seen as driving creativity and innovation.

Teacher quality and assessment was again a big focus today. Here are some quotes from the day around this topic:

Diane Ravitch:

Comparing the American system to Finland, where she said education schools are highly competitive, she said of America: “People can get a teaching degree without ever seeing a student.”

“You don’t assess [teachers] with tests.” “You have excellent principals and peer reviewers look at their work.”

“We have a teaching profession that’s not really even a profession.”

Geoffrey Canada:

“If there are lousy teachers it’s because some lousy administrator hired them.”

“Some people can not teach.”

Steven Brill:

“The one workplace in America were performance has never mattered is K-12 education.”

Marc Tucker, CEO and President of the National Center on Education and the Economy:

“Our teachers are treated like interchangeable parts.”

“We don’t expect them to bring high skills to the job.”

“[Other countries] would laugh at the idea that you can teach a teacher to teach in six weeks.”

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