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

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Brooks/Ravitch Continued

The New York Times has published Diane Ravitch's measured and accurate response to Brooks' attack on her and the voice of educators and scholars who are refuting the hollow new-reformer movement in education spawned under the Obama administration (Duncan, Gates, Rhee, Gates). Brooks' strawman tactics resonate with the public and echo the ideological claims of the new reformers, but the evidence-based and nuance responses to these tactics tend to be marginalized and misrepresented in the media and among the self-proclaimed reformers themselves.

The NYT has requested letters in response to Ravitch's response:

Editors’ Note: We invite readers to respond to this letter, as part of our new Sunday Dialogue feature. We plan to publish a sampling of responses in the Sunday Review, and Diane Ravitch will be given an opportunity to reply. E-mail: letters@nytimes.com

And here is what I sent, though I suspect it may not see print:

What do David Brooks' claims about education reform and criticism of Diane Ravitch have in common? They are incomplete and inaccurate.

Ravitch's credibility rests on her historical context for education in the U.S. while Brooks insists on ignoring the evidence and perpetuating "no excuses" ideology that makes powerful rhetoric but not solid policy. The education reform debate must rest on some basic facts:

• Measurable student outcomes (tests) reflect dominantly the out-of-school factors in students' lives beyond the control of the schools (See David Berliner's work that identifies the six factors we must address).

• When U.S. student outcomes are compared internationally and poverty is considered in that comparison, the U.S. ranks higher than most countries we tend to claim are superior to the U.S. in education (See Mel Riddile's analysis of PISA).

The accountability era over the past 30 years has not created the reform promised; in fact, the accountability era focusing on standards and testing has done far more harm than good (See the new study edited by Michael Hout and Stuart W. Elliott).

• Teacher quality's influence on measurable student outcomes is small (See "What Research Says About the Effect of Teachers" by the Education Writers Association).

• Claims of "miracle" schools have been discredited, are not scalable, or implement practices that are not desirable in a free society—including the Harlem "miracle," the Texas "miracle," and the Chicago "miracle," all of which have impacted flawed political rhetoric and policy (See "miracleschools"Wiki).

We need political leadership dedicated to addressing the inordinate weight of poverty on children in the U.S. while we also reform our public schools to insure that they do not perpetuate the inequities found in our society, including setting aside failed bureaucratic approaches to schools and classist "no excuses" ideologies creating highly stratified charter schools across the U.S.

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