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

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Strawman argument is all they have

In the comments of Diane Ravitch's recent EdWeek Bridging Differences, "Why I Am Marching on July 30," one comment captures the bankrupt support for the new reformer movement coming from Secretary Duncan, Bill Gates, and Michelle Rhee.

paulhoss@hotmail.com takes this swipe at those such as Ravitch challenging the new reformers:

"What to say about SOS? In theory it could have promise. In reality SOS will have little to no impact. Jonathan Kozol, Monty Neill, Deborah Meier, Diane Ravitch, etc., are of a common mindset, the bottom line of which is anti-accountability for everyone and everything in our schools."

The problem? This is a classic strawman argument: Misrepresent those you want to demonize and then banter on about your misrepresentation.

To hold someone accountable who has autonomy and has control over outcomes is something everyone supports. Ravitch, et al., would and do support this sort of accountability built on teacher agency—the same sort of accountability that a college professor experiences since colleges hire professors for their expertise and then expect those professors to perform as professionals. Just as we expect of medical doctors, who we hold accountable for their diagnoses and prescriptions, but not for a patient's genetic predispositions or failure to take that medication or follow those doctor's recommendations.

To call for accountability and then PRESCRIBE bad practices for those people AND to hold that group accountable for things over which they have no control is pure political demagoguery. THIS is what Duncan, Gates, Rhee, etc., represent.

Standards, testing, and accountability HAVE NOT WORKED and we have 3 decades of proof:


Teacher quality is DWARFED by out of school factors:



Teacher/school quality = 14%; out-of-school factors = 86%:


Ravtich, et al., who are opposing the new reformers are speaking expertise in the face of celebrity and demagoguery.

The new reformers and their supporters have nothing on which to stand so they instead walk arm in arm with a strawman in this ongoing perverse Wizard of Oz show called U.S. education policy. . .

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