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

Monday, February 01, 2016

Ravitch Revisionism

It has taken just over a month since the passage of the god-awful rewrite of ESEA for Diane Ravitch to begin revising the history of her earlier enthusiastic support for the piece of dreck legislation that Gary Orfield and others have noted will turn back education policy in this country by more than a half century.  

In initiating her own limp revisionism, Ravitch has skewed a number of facts and left out out others, while failing to account for her quick pivot from unabashed ESSA fan to its harshest critic.  

A correction is required, then, and in order to do so in a manner that does not misinterpret Diane's blog post, I will post her remarks in italics, which I will intersperse with bracketed clarifications.
It was difficult for Congress to agree on a replacement for the failed No Child Left Behind. NCLB was supposed to be reauthorized in 2007, but it took eight long years to finally reach a bipartisan agreement.

The good part about the Every Child Succeeds Act is that it spells the end of federal punishment for schools, principals, and teachers whose students have low test scores, and it restricts the ability of the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to dictate how schools should reform. There is no more AYP (adequate yearly progress); there is no more deadline of 2014 by which time every student everywhere will be proficient, which was always a hoax that no one believed in.
[I'm afraid there is bad news in Diane's good news.  The federal punishments in ESSA continue, if we mean by punishment annual testing in all schools and  months of test prep that go with annual testing in high poverty schools.  For even though Adequate Yearly Progress has been officially removed, those schools with highest poverty and the lowest scores must engage in a test-based version of The Hunger Games, whereby every poor school battles to avoid ending up dead in the bottom 5 percent of schools.  

By federal mandate in ESSA, the schools in the bottom 5 percent must be turned around.  And with ESSA's massive charter incentives to states and the corporate foundations, charter conversion will be the turnaround of choice in most states. 

So even though the ludicrous 2014 target date for proficiency is now gone, every poor school in America has a target on its back with the new ESSA.   And with a new 5 percent of lowest performing schools emerging each year, the privatization will continue just as before under NCLB, except that there will be much less federal oversight.  Of course, none of this is news to Diane, even though she does not talk about any of it when she is offering the "good news" about ESSA].  There would be no "good news" if she did.]
The bad part about ESSA is that it preserves the mindset of NCLB, a mindset that says that standards, testing and accountability are the keys to student success. They are not. NCLB proved they are not. Since “A Nation at Risk” in 1983, policymakers have been in love with the idea that this combination will cause a dramatic rise in test scores and close the achievement gap among different groups. It has done neither, yet ESSA continues the fable. 
[Some policymakers of the past believed this "fable," while others were guided by a desire to present public schools in the worst possible light in order to clear the way for the introduction of school vouchers (back in the pre-charter days).  Diane knows a great deal about this group of "policymakers" because she worked for them.  She knows about the desire to end the "public school monopoly," for it was her boss, GHW Bush, who made the phrase famous.  And it was Ravitch, herself, who tried to suppress reports questioning the education doomsday scenario started under Reagan, and it was Diane who howled the loudest in the New York Times when the Sandia Report finally appeared.  

Ravitch was the most those prominent voices that the Times labeled "the purveyors of bad news."]
At the outset of the Senate deliberations, Senator Lamar Alexander offered a choice between annual testing, as in NCLB, and grade-span testing (e.g., grades 4, 8, 12). A group of civil rights organizations issued a statement saying that annual testing guaranteed the civil rights of disadvantaged minorities. This sealed the deal; most other organizations and the Democratic majority fell in line behind the civil rights groups. In my view, annual testing does nothing to advance civil rights; to the contrary, it labels children based on test scores and disproportionately and adversely harms children of color and children with disabilities and English language learners. These groups should have been fighting for measures other than standardized tests, but they did not.
[This is the purest of fictions, and one that portrays Diane's privatizing pal, Lamar Alexander, in the best light possible.  Diane knew then and she knows now that the small scrum of civil rights organizations that embraced annual testing in January 2015 represented groups that owed much to the corporate foundations and the Obama Administration for buttering their bread so sweetly over their years.  News stores containing criticism of the "testing civil rights thought disorder" were widespread in the weeks and months following the "civil rights groups'" capitulation to the testing juggernaut.  No deal was sealed until the AFT, NEA, FairTest, and NPE pushed forward to promote the ESEA deal that the presumed Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and her Wall Street bundlers could get behind.  That is what sealed the deal. 

So what helped much more to "seal the deal" was the embrace of the ECAA/ESSA by Ravitch, NEA, FairTest, and AFT.  In April 2015, Diane threw all of her support behind the Alexander/Murray compromise, which was like turning a fire hose on the tiny flames of resistance to the emerging ESEA debacle.  Diane said in a blog post in April:
One may quibble with details, but the bottom line is that this bill defangs the U.S. Department of Education; it no longer will exert control over every school with mandates. This bill strips the status quo of federal power to ruin schools and the lives of children and educators. . . .This is a far better bill than I had hoped or feared.
[It is that 1000 pages of details that were not worth quibbling about, which now, from the safety of post-deal analysis, requires Diane to revise her own history of support.]
And so the children of American remain saddled with annual testing, and states remain saddled with the enormous expense of annual testing.

My view: The federal government should not dictate any testing. The decision to test or not should be left to every state. Contrary to the belief promoted by ex-Secretary Duncan, NAEP testing gives us all the information we need based on sampling about performance in math and reading, by race, language, gender, poverty status, disability status, and also achievement gaps. Annual tests of every child are a waste of instructional time and money. They provide no useful information.

I am disappointed, though not surprised, that the law encourages more privatization of public schools by promoting the funding and expansion of privately managed charter schools. More genuine and beloved community public schools will be replaced by corporate McSchools. The new federal money plus Walton’s new $1 billion commitment, plus Eli Broad’s charter zealotry, will spur the continuing destruction of public education, especially in urban districts, but their ambition is to go beyond the big cities and into the suburbs, the exurbs, and even rural areas.
[Diane could not be surprised because she was part of a cabal that had access to the contents of the emerging bill before she put gave the NPE seal of approval on it last April.  I guess the 70 pages detailing the billions in new charter incentives were just "details" not worth quibbling about last April.  Certainly they were not important enough to share with her readers.]

I am disappointed that the new law encourages phony “graduate” schools of education, like Relay and Match, which have no scholars, no research, nothing but charter teachers teaching charter teachers how to raise test scores. This will not improve education. It will simply expand the supply of charter school enforcers who have learned to “teach like a robot.”
I am disappointed that there are strict limits on the number of children with disabilities who can be exempted from regular state testing and given accommodations. This seems to me to be a decision that should be made at the school level, not by the federal government.

I am disappointed that the law does not permit parents to opt out of state testing. As a law written by a dominantly Republican Congress, it is surprising that it does not recognize parental rights. Furthermore, a Congress that favors choice of schools should also favor the parents’ choice to say no to testing that they believe is useless and unnecessary for their child’s education.

I would have written a different law.

[Perhaps in a later post Diane will explain how it is that the Republican Congress "favors choice of schools."  You must ask the poor and minority parents in Boston, Chicago, Memphis, Los Angeles, and every other American city why their choices have been ignored as their schools are closed and handed over to corporate know nothings with plans to behaviorally sterilize their children.  It was a Republican majority in charge when the education genocide began in earnest in 2000.]

I would have removed testing and accountability altogether from the law and left that to the states. Why should Congress decide how often children should be tested? What is their authority for making this decision? What knowledge do they have? If states want to know how they are doing, they can review their NAEP scores.

I would have strengthened the enforcement of civil rights and student privacy within the law.

I would have established standards for charter schools, so that they disclose their finances fully and accept students that are similar to those in the community they serve. I would have prohibited for-profit charter schools and for-profit virtual charter schools.

I would have increased funding for special education.

I would have encouraged teacher education programs to raise their standards for entry, but not by relying on standardized tests (they might look, for example, at grade-point average and essays about why the candidate wants to teach. I would have encouraged the professionalism of teachers by requiring certification in the subjects taught, as well as at least a year of student teaching, so that states were not able to drop their standards for teachers. I would have required certification for district superintendents and state superintendents.

I would have funded and required school nurses, psychologists, librarians, guidance counselors, and social workers in every Title I school. I would have expanded funding specifically for reduced class sizes in Title I schools. I would have required an arts program staffed with certified arts teachers in every school.

But instead, we are saddled with standards, testing, and accountability.
[Last April when Diane found the ESEA rewrite much better than she might have hoped for, did she not notice all these important missing elements that she would now include?  Was Alexander's bill so good that she had no recommendations at that time other than to sign on the dotted line? 

Last April she mentioned none of the improvements that she now heartily champions, and it was then that she had the opportunity to advocate and gather support among her followers for any or all the improvements listed above.]
The good thing that the law does is to shift the issues to the state level (except when it doesn’t). That means that citizens have some chance to get a better perspective on education by voting out those legislators who are currently crippling public education in their states.
[As I have pointed out before, there is nothing for the unfunded corporate education resistance to celebrate when a single battle front becomes fifty battle fronts.  ALEC and Gates and Broad and The Waltons have the resources to amplify their war on schools in all fifty states.  Where are the resources coming from to organize and oppose these monsters in 50 states?  

Does Ravitch believe they can be voted down, one district at a time, when the billionaires have unlimited funds to buy politicians?  Does Ravitch really believe the revolution against CorpEd will be won at the ballot box? And more importantly, does she believe that resegregation, testing child abuse, and new initiatives like competency based education can be regulated by a neutered  
U. S. Department of Education that ESSA has guaranteed.]
The outlook is that, as a result of ESSA, the states in a downward spiral–like Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Texas, Alabama, Kansas, and many more–will continue in that direction until there is a rebellion among the citizenry. ESSA gives people a chance to take action. But that’s about all it does. I’m grateful that AYP is gone; I am grateful that the timetable is gone; I am grateful that the Secretary of Education can no longer boss everyone around. I am glad that Race to the Top is gone. Otherwise, it is NCLB handed over to the states to tinker with.

After 15 years of nonstop testing and accountability, we need a new vision. ESSA is not it. 
[Diane Ravitch knew last April when she endorsed it that ESSA was "NCLB handed over to the states to tinker with."  She could not say that because she had a job to do that had nothing to do with telling the truth to the people who line up for her autograph after they buy her books and cheer her empty rhetorical jabs at those she in bed with.  

As she always has been, Diane is serving someone other than the children, teachers, and parents that she officially loves and regularly turns her back on when the "policymakers" callAs such, Diane is the mistress of manipulation and disingenuity and a barrier to effective corporate education resistance.  

By failing to act when she could have before this ESSA was passed with her blessing, she has demonstrated in spades where her loyalty lies.  It's her bed that she has made, and now she must sleep in it.  Yes, Diane, we need a new vision, and you don't have it.]


  1. Keep doing what you're doing. Many support you.

  2. Bye bye title 1
    That's next
    Hmm looks like nclb was actually out to destroy Itself i.e title 1
    Every child succeeds is Block grant to states
    Now republican governors have power to punish teachers and children however they see fit and Christie is leading the way now in nj with huge investments in charter schools
    Bye bye teacher Union pensions rights
    Keep voting for these people and dig your own graves

  3. As a person who spent years inside those schools now targeted for turnaround as ESSA's lowest 5% -- I can only say that the turnaround wheel has already been whirling for years, now, and that there are few qualified personnel even left working inside these systems. It has ALL become just smoke and mirrors.