Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Education Guru: "Doh!"


Yes, Homer Simpson is an exemplary model of doing something really stupid and realizing his mistake only when it’s too late to fix it. I hope that’s what Diane Ravitch is feeling these days – not that it will do any good for the rest of us.

Ravitch served in President Bush’s Education Department and was one of the leading advocates of the No Child Left Behind law that has afflicted public education for the last decade. Schools across the country scramble to meet the rigorous testing standards with insufficient funding, and every year the bar is raised higher and higher. By the year 2014, schools are supposed to make certain 100% of the students score proficient or above on every test – and continue to do so forevermore. That’s 100%. Even special education students. Even students who don’t speak English and can’t read the test.

Recently, however, Ravitch has come to realize that she may have made a mistake. She now calls the hallmarks of NCLB (standardized testing and charter schools) “faddish trends” which are undermining our school system. She suddenly noticed that the emphasis on reading and math testing has squeezed out history, art, music, and physical education. Ravitch is surprised to discover that her system of accountability has caused “test cramming and bean counting” to replace quality education. I don’t know if she’s noticed yet that non-English speakers are having a little trouble passing the test, but obviously her learning curve is kind of shallow. NCLB is a Frankenstein monster.

Slap your forehead, Ms. Ravitch. We could have told you this a long time ago. In fact, I think we did tell you. Now, how are you going to get rid of the monster?

The whole story about Ravitch’s change of heart can be found in this New York Times article. Thank you, Dr. Al Past, for bringing it to my attention.

7 comments:

  1. Yes, well, a lot of us felt at the time that the thing was wrong even before the first negative results became overtly apparent.

    Malcolm

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  2. I'm thinking that Diane Ravitch isn't much of a chess player.

    I'm not very pleased that she has my name, either.

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  3. My nose led me to that, unfortunately.

    In Texas, we call that program "No Child's Behind Left."

    Our governor, who just won a primary claiming that Texas now has a budget surplus, has told the local community college to cut its own budget 5% (in spite of a 50% increase in enrollment due to joblessness) because the state is out of money. Chew on that, Queen of Hearts!

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  4. These people come up with these idiotic schemes, and then they walk away leaving their mess behind. My dyxlexic daughter was in the "whole language" experiment in the early eighties. As a result, I had to hire a phonics tutor or she would never have learned how to read. Arrrrrrgh!

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  5. NCLB forced me and a bunch of other teachers out of the profession. It was a mindless, soulless approach to education, founded, I believe, on a deep hatred for children. When a program necessitates entire school districts to can recess (despite what the research overwhelmingly says) and forces others to require Kindergarteners to perform on bubble tests (Fer f**k's sake, they only just learned how to read!), it is wholly out of touch with how kids think, learn and operate. Plus, they hate children. Bastards.

    Man, don't even get me started.

    And now - NOW! - after saddling school districts with massively expensive tests (and many of the tests untested - and owned and opereated by corporations enjoying non-bidded sweetheart deals) these folks want to bat their eyes and say "whoopsies"? Um, no. Sorry. Ninth circle of hell and what have you.

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  6. Kelly, I would have said they hated teachers and wanted to villify them, but your interpretation works too!

    In my state, schools are blamed when English Language Learners can't pass the test. However, when ELL students learn enough English to pass the test, they no longer count as ELL students! How do you like that for a Catch-22!

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  7. At first, seeing the fabulous physique of Homer, I thought this was going to be humorous. Wrong. Dianne, the moment I saw 'No Child Left Behind' I wanted to hurl. I've had my go-arounds with their 'set guidelines'. It's all bull...and quite sad. There are double standards and astronomical heights a teacher is supposed to be able to perform without the proper tools. Augh!!

    It's a good thing we as writers don't sit behind our desks writing crap about things we know nothing about. We'd never sell a book.

    Sorry, was that too harsh?

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