"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Ravitch, the Radical Revisionist?

I have been catching up on my reading since the holiday break, and I find that the Party's historian of education has been spewing the Fordham Foundation line on national testing in an op-ed at Ed Week. Perhaps it is to give revisionism a bad name to suggest that that is what Ravitch has done with the facts in her piece, since revisionists usually are just selective about the facts they use, rather than changing the ones they don' t like.

When the most recent NAEP test results were released, the Washington Post and other papers reported the flat scores as evidence of no evidence on the benefit of the testing madness. This from October 20, 2005:
Reading scores among fourth- and eighth-graders showed little improvement over the past two years, and math gains were slower than in previous years, according to a study released yesterday. The disappointing results came despite a new educational testing law championed by the Bush administration as a way to improve the nation's schools.
Now compare those facts, which no one disputed, to this distortion from Ravitch's op-ed on January 5, 2006:
It is unreasonable to expect to see dramatic changes in a short period of time, yet already there is some evidence of solid improvement in 4th grade scores in reading and math, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress’ long-term-trend data.
Then, in the next sentence, comes this head spinner:
On the other hand, not much has changed for students in the 8th and 12th grades, perhaps because they escaped the incentives of the new regime.
Even if reality offers nothing to justify such speculation, you have to love the language, "incentives of the new regime." Maybe a title for a rosy Ravitch gloss on the history of the most corrupt federal education policy since forever?

Ravitch's case for a national test is based upon the claim that states cannot be trusted to set and measure their own standards. Why? Here is Ravitch's reasoning:
With each state setting its own standards and measuring performance with its own tests, there are perverse incentives for the states to claim progress where it has not happened and to actually lower existing standards so as to demonstrate “proficiency.”
Now where do these perverse incentives come from? Are they not the result of impossible performance goals imposed by a federal mandate (NCLB) designed to demonstrate the universal failure of public schools by 2014? Are the states to blame for trying to keep their schools open in spite of federal efforts to manufacture their failure and turn them over to Whittle and his bottom feeding buddies?

What has Ravitch and the other hangers on of the Bush/Whittle solution really upset is that the states are delaying the designed failure as long as they can, and the growing realization of the NCLB privatization plan will, perhaps, undercut their efforts, which are dependent upon a steady increase in failure rates, a steady erosion of public support, and a steady stream of Stossel-esque media stories all the way to 2014. The race is on now between the public denunciation of NCLB and the public denunciation of public schools.

The strategy of blaming the states is a Rovian diversion of the first order to take attention away from the criminal source of our current travails. Nationalizing testing simply guarantees the manufactured failure and dismantling of the public schools that the neocons set out to accomplish in the first place. It will simply and effectively remove all options of the states and towns to delay the inevitable destruction as planned.

Dr. Ravitch is simply a switch in that great machine.


Update:
Gerald Bracey sent me this clarification on the NAEP data cited by Ravitch:
there are two sets of NAEP data here.  Diane is referring
to the trend analyses which the Bushies did, in fact, try to
use as evidence that NCLB was working. Of course, since the
last time the trend data was collected was in 1999, it's a
little hard to specify when growth occurred.

The later data which you have the Post quoting is the regular
NAEP assessment which results in those "Report Card" results.

1 comment:

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