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After a DOE official tries to rebut her, Diane Ravitch responds

The Department of Education and Diane Ravitch, a former supporter who has emerged as one of the department’s most vocal critics, have for years sparred over how to interpret DOE data.

In their latest skirmish, the department and the historian have each issued memos refuting the other’s claims about how well the city schools are performing. The DOE’s memo went out by e-mail to all principals; Ravitch’s appears for the first time in this post.

The newest dustup stems from an op/ed Ravitch wrote for the New York Times earlier this month, in which she argued that data show the DOE is incorrect to say schools have improved significantly since Mayor Bloomberg took control of them.

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein immediately fired back against Ravitch in a letter to the editor. But apparently some principals needed more convincing, because Klein wrote in a recent Principals Weekly newsletter that he had heard from “a number” of them with questions about whether Ravitch’s op/ed was accurate. To answer the principals’ questions, Klein said he asked Jennifer Bell-Ellwanger, a senior DOE official who oversees testing, to fact-check Ravitch’s claims. Bell-Ellwanger produced an 8-page memo, dated April 28, rebutting Ravitch point by point. Klein linked to the memo in his most recent e-mail newsletter to principals; I’ve also posted it in full below the jump.

After I shared Bell-Ellwanger’s memo with her, Ravitch composed a long response of her own, noting that her Times op/ed was thoroughly vetted before publication. “The editor at the Times required documentation for every single fact in the article, and I supplied it,” she writes in her response, which I’ve posted just after Bell-Ellwanger’s memo below.

In 2007, Elizabeth reported that the DOE was maintaining a dossier about Ravitch, which it supplied to Kathryn Wylde, the leader of a major city nonprofit organization. Wylde used the information contained in the dossier to write a withering takedown of Ravitch in the New York Post. Ravitch responded then, too, with a Post column of her own. People from across the political spectrum decried the DOE-supported attack against Ravitch, according to a roundup of blog entries posted at the time on the NYC Public School Parents blog.

Jennifer Bell-Elwanger on Diane Ravitch op/ed

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