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Friday, October 11, 2013

Critic of charter schools, Deborah Gist featured speaker

National critic of privatization of public schools to speak at Oct. 15 URI honors colloquium
KINGSTON, R.I. – Diane Ravitch, research professor of education at New York University and author of the newly released book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, will lecture at the University of Rhode Island, Tuesday, Oct. 15 at 6:30 p.m.

Her talk, also titled The Reign of Error, is part of URI’s 51st annual honors colloquium, Great Public Schools, Everyone’s Right? Everyone’s Responsibility? 

All programs are free and open to the public and held in Edwards Hall. All of the lectures are streamed live at, where the complete schedule of events is also listed.

Ravtich’s talk is billed as an interactive conversation with the former assistant secretary of education under former President George H.W. Bush and a proponent of high-stakes testing, charter schools and school choice. 

She now sees those movements as dangerous to public education. She is also the author of the bestseller The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. Special guests for the evening are members of the Providence Student Union. 

According to the group’s website, its mission is to build the collective power of high school students across Providence to ensure youth have a real voice in decisions affecting their education. The group has captured headlines across the state for protesting what it says is an over-reliance on standardized tests to determine students’ eligibility to graduate from high school. Caldierre McKay, a student member of the Providence Student Union who will introduce Diane Ravitch, recently spoke at NBC’s Education Nation 2013 Student Town Hall. 

Reign of Error, released September 17, debuted at #10 on the New York Times’ bestseller list and is written by what the Wall Street Journal calls a “whistle-blower extraordinaire.” In Reign of Error, Ravitch argues that the crisis in American education is not one of achievement but a concerted effort to destroy public schools in this country. She makes clear that, contrary to the claims being made, public school test scores and graduation rates are the highest they've ever been, and dropout rates are at their lowest point.

Ravitch says federal programs such as George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Barack Obama’s Race to the Top set unreasonable targets for American students, punish schools, and result in teachers being fired if their students underperform, unfairly branding those educators as failures. She warns that major foundations, individual billionaires, and Wall Street hedge fund managers are encouraging the privatization of public education, some for idealistic reasons, others for profit. 

According to Ravitch’s official website, from 1991 to 1993, she was assistant secretary of education and counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander in the administration of President George H.W. Bush. She was responsible for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement in the U.S. Department of Education. As assistant secretary, she led the federal effort to promote the creation of voluntary state and national academic standards. 

From 1997 to 2004, she was a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federal testing program. In 1997, she was appointed by the Clinton administration’s Secretary of Education, Richard Riley, and reappointed by him in 2001. From 1995 until 2005, she held the Brown Chair in Education Studies at the Brookings Institution and edited Brookings Papers on Education Policy. Before entering government service, she was adjunct professor of history and education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Those unable to attend the lecture can watch it live online URI Live!

The program is coordinated by David Byrd and Diane Kern of the URI School of Education and is supported by:

Major Sponsor: URI Honors Program

Sponsors: URI Office of the President; URI Office of the Provost; The Mark and Donna Ross Honors Colloquium Humanities Endowment; The Thomas Silvia and Shannon Chandley Honors Colloquium Endowment, as well as the following URI colleges, departments and offices, College of Human Science and Services, Talent Development, Multicultural Center, University College, WRIU’s The Beauty Salon, College of Arts and Sciences, The Harrington School of Communications and Media, John Hazen White, Sr. Center for Ethics and Public Service, Department of Gender and Women Studies, College of Pharmacy, College of Engineering, College of the Environment and Life Sciences, College of Business Administration, College of Nursing, Division of Student Affairs, Department of Marketing and Communications, Department of Publications and Creative Services, and Instructional Technology and Media Services. Rhode Island Public Radio is also a sponsor.

For more information on colloquium events contact Deborah Gardiner at 401.874.2381 or

For information about ways to support the Honors Colloquium, contact URI Professor Lynne Derbyshire, Honors Program director, at 401.874. 4732. If you have a disability and need an accommodation, please call 401.874.2303 at least three business days in advance. For TTY assistance, please call the R.I. Relay Service at 800.745.5555.