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

Friday, April 24, 2020

Wishing Away Goliath, Part 2 w/updates

Jim Horn
Part 1 can be found here

Updated May 3, 2020

Just over ten years ago when Diane Ravitch signaled that she was about to leave the corporate ed reform ship and walk ashore as an apostle of the Resistance, I and many others were hoping to read The Death and Life of the Great American School System as a roadmap to the inner workings of the corrupt education reform establishment.  Finally, I thought, if the world was ever to know the full story of the seminal events that had misshaped, corrupted, and, otherwise, damaged public education over the three prior decades, an insider-backslider like Diane Ravitch might be the one who could spill the beans.  After all, as an historian, wouldn't she want to set the record straight as part of her redemption plan?

What was the inside scoop, for instance, on the manipulations of NAEP cut scores to make American students appear underprepared and their schools grossly negligent in preparing them?  Diane was on the scene when those cut scores were set in stone by Checker Finn, who served as President of NAEP's Governing Board in 1989:

In an article titled "A Test Everyone Will Fail," the late Gerald Bracey (2007/2011) wrote this about the manipulated NAEP cut scores and why nothing has ever been done since 1989 to make them realistic metrics of American student achievement:
. . . these numbers are useful as scare techniques and bludgeons. If you can batter people into believing that the schools are in awful shape, you can make them anxious about their future and you can control them. In the 1980s the schools-suck-bloc used such numbers to make us fearful that Japan, now emerging from a 15-year-long recession-stagnation was going to take away all of our markets; today India and China play the role of economic ogres.
Diane served on the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), from 1997 to 2004.  During her tenure, she did nothing to change the cut scores, which the National Academy of Science described in 1993 as "fundamentally flawed."  

In fact, at a Hoover Institution press briefing in 2001, Koret Task Force member, Diane Ravitch, bragged:
The National Assessment of Educational Progress has gotten, I think, much stronger. When Checker [Finn] was chairman of the NAGBE Board, the governing board, they created real standards so that now we are able to report periodically to the nation about where American kids are in terms of learning different important subject areas in their school studies.
And to this day, Diane has said nothing in any of her three books written since 2010 about this ongoing scandal. The same scandalously high proficiency levels remain scandalously high and "fundamentally flawed," and they are the same unreachable proficiency targets that "reformers" use to hammer schools whenever new NAEP results are published.

And so it quickly became clear even in my initial reading of The Death and Life . . . that Ravitch was much less interested in blowing the whistle than preaching a message of redemption to her former allies.  Rather than sharing the facts about the NAEP scandal or the two other prominent scandals that will be the focus of Parts 3 and 4, Diane has offered the education reform establishment homilies, tsk-tsks, and finger wagging. 

Meanwhile, the real history American education policy's greatest manipulations remains untold by someone with all the facts to tell it.  To this day, Diane regularly presents the education reform establishment as simply misguided and misinformed individuals and organizations with good intentions, rather than as an ideologically and cash-driven movement to monetize and privatize public institutions.  

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