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

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

In Denouncing Common Core, Ravitch Promotes National Standards

Even back to the days when Diane Ravitch was a trusted employee of the Bush I Administration, she was an advocate for voluntary national curriculum standards.  

She has continued to hold this position, even as her previous pro-corporate vices became untenable for anyone with intellectual aspirations or even a lick of integrity. She said in a New York Times op-ed in 2005 that "unfortunately, the political calculations that resulted in the No Child Left Behind law adopting a strategy of letting the states choose their own standards and tests remain the reality."

Some things change, and some don't.  What has not changed is Ravitch's embrace of national standards, even though she continues to insist that such standards, if we were to have them, would not necessitate national testing.  She had this exchange with John Merrow in August 2009, when asked about the connection between national standards and national tests:
Merrow: If we have common standards, are national tests likely to follow?

Ravitch: Not necessarily. If the standards are worthy, then any testing organization should be able to develop test specifications that are aligned with the standards.
Pearson, of course, has proven her correct, even with national standards that aren't worthy, whatever "worthy" might mean to her.  

But it is not the content of national standards that has Ravitch's dander up these days but, rather, the process of making the standards.  From her post yesterday, now in wide circulation:
The reason to oppose the Common Core is not because of their content, some of which is good, some of which is problematic, some of which needs revision (but there is no process for appeal or revision).

The reason to oppose the Common Core standards is because they violate the well-established and internationally recognized process for setting standards in a way that is transparent, that recognizes the expertise of those who must implement them, that builds on the consensus of concerned parties, and that permits appeal and revision.
The reason that there is so much controversy and pushback now is that the Gates Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education were in a hurry and decided to ignore the nationally and internationally recognized rules for setting standards, and in doing so, sowed suspicion and distrust. Process matters. . . .
Process didn't matter, however, to Dennis van Roekel or Randi Weingarten in the years following the somewhat magical appearance and acceptance of Common Core in 2010, and even Ravitch remained agnostic on Common Core until 2013, when it finally dawned on her that the process was "fatally flawed."  

But I interject too much.  Let her finish the point from yesterday's post:
. . . . Lacking most of these qualities, especially due process, consensus among interested groups, and the right of appeal, the Common Core cannot be considered authoritative, nor should they be considered standards. The process of creating national academic standards should be revised to accord with the essential and necessary procedural requirements of standard-setting as described by the American National Standards Institute. National standards cannot be created ex nihilo without a transparent, open, participatory consensus process that allows for appeal and revision.
So the never-held debate on whether national standards are even desirable obviously remains unimportant, it would seem, especially for those who have  already accepted the concept as valid. If we can assure the "process," then it would seem that surely the product will follow.  

To me this reads like a formula that risks the likelihood of concocting another lethal ed reform cocktail, even as it satisfies some long-held desire for national standards.  

Does Ravitch believe that the arrogance-intoxicated corporate overlords she is dealing with are going to be held to the corporate standards of ANSI, the same one they have already flipped off? 

At this point when CCSS is about to collapse, there is a great deal of pressure being exerted by the Oligarchs to strike a deal that preserves the fetid Common Core.  Will their guarantee of fair "process" lure Ravitch to the Roundtable, where she, Randi, and Dennis can do a three-way fist bump before their lunch money is taken away by Bill Gates and Eli Broad, just as AFT's was following Randi's celebratory "contract" for Newark teachers.

We need the debate on if or why national standards are needed, a debate that Ravitch has avoided, going all the way back to 2009, when her former gentle nemesis, Deborah Meier, tried to coax her out of her cave.  

I offer Meier's insights from Ed Week back in 2009, presented here as a way to possibly launch the discussion that never happened. 

    The Power of Big Money & Big State Over Knowledge

    Dear Diane,

    But let’s not postpone our discussion about national standards for too long. It mostly boils down to my fear about official ideologies and centralized power over ideas. Plus, our old disagreement about intellectual “neutrality” and objectivity.

    I found your analysis of Obama’s education policy intriguing: pro-spending, but largely along lines Chicago, NYC, et al have pioneered.

    My disagreements are deep-seated. I want a public system of schooling that has local bases and biases—where we don’t all have to agree on what “social justice” teaching means. It’s a risk—but democracy rests on that risk. The messiness of different standards is, to me, a blessing that creates escape hatches for trying something different—within broad limits.

    The power of Big Money and the Big State over knowledge and its distribution is immense—including in schooling. My early image of charters was precisely that they might be counter-powers, not so different than what in Boston we called Pilots and in NYC Alternative schools: mom-and-pop ventures, built around a few people with interesting ideas and a constituency that wants to join them in carrying it out. In the case of Pilots and Alternatives, they came under the jurisdiction of local labor-management; charters depend on an arrangement with the State.

    But somehow we’ve gotten the worst of both private entrepreneurs and public bureaucrats. Transparency has never been harder to find, whether in our highly centralized urban systems or our continuously enlarging charter sector. There are no serious checks and balances, and lots of private “edu-chains” supported by public funds. There is no “public.” Thus, with virtually no public input, NYC’s mayor is allowed to close neighborhood schools and replace them with charters. Parents meanwhile try to figure out how to manipulate a bewildering array of choices while schools are “empowered” to restrict entrance only to high test-scorers, good writers, whatever. In the name of “fairness and equity” we have more selectivity along racial, class, and ability lines, more (white) gifted classes, and fewer than ever minorities in the prestigious high schools. And flat test scores and rising dropout rates.

    The big business mindset, so destructive nationwide, is being offered a free hand in our schools. Schools are “delivery” systems, teachers are deliverers of curriculum, principals are CEOs. It’s an intensification of the old factory-model for new technology factories. Local empowerment in today’s schools usually means more power to the principal and less for the line workers, students, or parents—now seen as obstructers of progress.

My question, then, to longtime supporters of national standards: Why must we have them?

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