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

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Continuing Re-education of Diane Ravitch

As Koret Task Force member, former Reagan Asst. Secretary of ED, and long time booster of the Business Roundtable agenda for American education, Diane Ravitch has clearly undergone an ideological makeover during this long election season. In a NYTimes op-ed in 2005 that gushed support for the NCLB ideological booster shot and scare document, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Ravitch made a compelling case for using a national test to insure that states could not squirm out of the inevitable failure that NCLB was intended to confirm:
America will not begin to meet the challenge of developing the potential of our students until we have accurate reporting about their educational progress. We will not have accurate reporting until that function is removed from the constraints of state and local politics.
That didn't happen (yet). What did happen, of course, is that Bush-Spellings education plan began to unravel from the weight of its own corruption, ineptitude, and ideological overreaching, combined with pressure imposed by an increasingly-skeptical public.

A new Forbes commentary shows that Ravitch, always the political chameleon, has turned decidedly blue. Even the tough talk about requiring states to come up with their own sanctions for "failed" schools has been dialed back, though her insistence upon the need for a national test appears unwavering (at least until the political winds sweep her off her feet).

Here is my favorite part of the Forbes commentary:
. . . . As the approach of the 2014 deadline for 100% proficiency grows nearer, the bar gets higher for every school. Consequently, the number of "failing" schools escalates every year. Last year, 25,000 of the nation's 90,000 schools failed to make what the law calls "adequate yearly progress." This year, the number is likely to be higher.

A recent article in Science by researchers funded by the National Science Foundation predicted that by 2014, fully 100% of all elementary schools in California would be failing schools.

With the stakes so high, NCLB has turned every school into a test-preparation factory, focused solely on reading and mathematics. They are the only subjects that count in a school's ranking, so teachers routinely reduce attention to history, science, foreign language, literature, geography, the arts and other non-tested subjects. With this narrowing of the curriculum, students may be getting dumbed down even if their scores go up. Do we really want a society where our fellow citizens know nothing of history, literature, science and the arts?

Never before has the heavy hand of the federal government reached so intrusively into every classroom in the nation. And there is little to show for this intrusion.

The Obama administration can get off to a good start by revising NCLB. First, it should eliminate the goal of universal proficiency by 2014, because it is unattainable. Period. No state or nation has ever achieved 100% proficiency. . . . .

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