Monday, August 02, 2010

Diane Ravitch on KUOW Today

From KUOW:

I just wanted to give you a heads up that we’ll talking to Diane Ravitch today about her book ‘The Death and Life of the Great American School System.’ It’s happening @ 12:40 pm today on The Conversation.

19 comments:

FightingForKids said...

I just listed to it. The one thing that she said that is absolutely wrong is that schools (this is when she was speaking of the Gates Foundation's support of charter schools) can't innovate because they are under the heavy restrictions of No Child Left Behind. That may be true now, but I find it interesting she leaves out the reason NCLB was started--because the system was truly leaving children behind and it wasn't fixing itself when it didn't have tight restrictions. NCLB may not have been THE answer, but it did blow the doors off of chronically low performing schools.

I respect that she is a continuous learner and has learned--like the rest of us have--that NCLB is not the answer, but I think she needs to also be honest about the shape of public education (particularly for urban schools) was in before NCLB.

gavroche said...

F4K - I would argue that however imperfect public schools may have been before No Child Left Behind, NCLB has made our schools worse.

NCLB has been an unmitigated failure. Not only that, it has done serious damage to the way we teach our kids and to the focus and morale of schools.

"Race to the Top," with its blinkered focus on the pet "reforms" of the billionaire dilettantes dabbling in education (Gates, Broad, Walton) which research shows over and over again do not advance true student learning -- charters, merit pay and standardized tests -- continues this punitive, stifling approach.

NCLB and RTTT have created an environment so focused on the crudest measures of learning -- test scores -- that it is predictably leading to the fraud and test-rigging we are seeing in New York, Charleston, and elsewhere.

We did have innovative schools before NCLB, we still have them now, but NCLB and "Race to the Top" which both crush creativity and the autonomy of school districts, schools and teachers, with standardized curriculum and the test scores uber alles mentality are working against such innovation.

Charters by the way, are not "innovative." They've been around for years, and the regimented approach of the KIPP franchise is as old as the military model it imitates.

What is so disturbing is that Obama/Duncan and their minions ("Broad Academy Superintendents" like our own Goodloe-Johnson, Gates, Broad) are continuing the failed legacy and agenda of No Child Left Behind.

So much for the promised "change" and "hope" everyone voted for.

Obama may pay for this betrayal of teachers, by the way, at the polls in the fall.

I find it very telling that Diane Ravitch, a very knowledgeable and reputable education historian and former education cabinet member in both Republican and Democratic Presidential administrations, has determined that the main agenda of the current ed reformers is wrong and destructive -- she opposes privatization via charters, merit pay, and high stakes testing.

I feel that those of us who share her views are in good company.

FightingForKids said...

gavroche, I'm not aguing against her findings. Again, I respect that she learned from the error of her ways pushing NCLB. I still think she needs to acknowledge that public education for low income and kids of color was at best substandard before NCLB and it wasn't being innovative on it's own--thus the push for charter schools.

That's all. I'm not saying charters are right or wrong. But I can say with confidence and experience that public ed (as a system) is not doing the job.

Jan said...

Gavroche:
I agree with FightingForKids that there could be some acknowledgement that many students were performing badly in schools BEFORE NCLB. This doesn't diminish the fact that NCLB (a) has generally failed to improve things and (b) in many specific schools, is making education worse -- both for kids who are/were doing well, AND for kids who need extra attention and resources to catch up -- for all the reasons you mention.
FightingforKids -- I wonder though, at the omission you point out. I would be curious to know whether, at this point, Ms. Ravitch does not believe that the reason NCLB was started was because "the system was truly leaving kids behind and [not fixing itself without restrictions]." Given that so much of what NCLB has accomplished has been to divert public funds to private, often for-profit entities (or to nonprofits whose charitable component appears weak at best), to private charter schools, private testing companies, private "charter management companies, private tutoring services, etc., I wonder if she has not possibly concluded that we were all sold a bill of goods -- and that the "stated" purpose of NCLB (improving public education) was not the real driving force behind it at all (the "real" purpose being -- privatizing as much of public education as possible, on the (mistaken) theory that privately funded effort will ALWAYS beat publicly funded effort). I know that I was initially enthusiastic about at least some of NCLB's attributes, particularly breaking out and tracking separately small groups of students whose lack of progress might otherwise have gone unnoticed in a school with otherwise high achieving students. But no longer.

If what you think is needed is an admission that things weren't great for many of America's students BEFORE NCLB, I don't think that folks would disagree. I certainly wouldn't. But most of its provisions have been such utter failures (in terms of improving student learning), that I have to wonder whether they were ever intended to succeed at that goal.

FightingForKids said...

Interesting points Jan. I don't know enough about NCLB to say what the real underlying intent was. I agree that the idea of isolating individual students and not taking the aggregate from a school really made a difference in terms of exposing the failings of public school systems. The one other thing that was good (or bad depending on how you look at it) is the feds didn't require a whole separate test and allowed states to use their own tests.

It was just a bad implementation on a mostly well intended effor? Not sure. It sure wasn't funded well--I think we can agree on that one too :-).

Jan said...

While I agree that the discrepancies among the various tests added to the unfairness and unworkability of NCLB, I don't agree that there should have been a federal test -- because I believe that learning is inherently an individual/family thing, and the closer to local control you can keep the standards (and the content), the better. Worst is federal, next worse is state. Better is district or school-wide.
Just think for a minute about the ridiculous circus we all watched not long back, as the Texas State Board of Education "re-wrote" text books -- with the spectre of seeing many of those "edits" in national textbooks in years to come -- because that is the way the industry works -- they pander to Texas and California, due to size and purchasing power, and the rest of us just have to choke down whatever those two states order up.
MAYBE it would have been beneficial if each state's tests had to pass some sort of "qualifying review" for soundness, but I say that without any clue as to whether that would have been effective (it is nice to think that maybe we could have been rid of the dreadful WASL sooner).
In any case, the existence of national tests has exposed much of the bad local tests. Communities are beginning to "wise up" to the idea that they have been "gamed" by dumbed down tests, and their students may not, in fact, have made the improvements that were advertised.
But I do agree that it wasn't funded well. If high test scores in 2 subjects (reading and math) are the golden ticket to keep you employed, and nothing else counts, it should not surprise us that that is where ALL the money goes. Recess vanishes, art and drama disappear, social studies and science get short shrift, and tests get "fiddled" with -- while many of the things that make learning compelling -- creativity, community engagement, innovation, etc. all trickle away. We should have public Waldorf schools. We should have way more ability to structure instruction so that children learn at their own pace -- rather than according to "grade level" standards, which may be too high or two low. A school should be able to decide to start teaching Latin in 5th grade, and Greek in 7th, and make them both mandatory, as long as enough families value classical education to want to put their kids there. We should have schools that start kids at 7, instead of 5, for families whose children would benefit from a later start -- and others that start at 3 or 4, for kids whose families think they would benefit from an earlier introduction to formal education.

dan dempsey said...

WOW what NCLB did was provide us with data so we knew how various demographic groups were doing. ... But as for fixing much ... NO.

Toppenish High was first to sanction level 5 and things have not improved a great deal.

Like I said take a look at Orbits pages 22 and 23.

If you see much in the way of improvement for low income or educationally disadvantaged subgroups ... you are seeing something hard to find.

kprugman said...

While the funding for education has gone down, especially federal funding, the cost of education has gone up and it takes longer for students to get an education that would have been comparable for a young adult growing up 30 years ago.

We can all agree - US education is a systemic failure. The most important aspect in education that has changed during the past 30 years are the laws that were supposed to improve the funding of education.

The major force behind these changes continues to be the Governor's Roundtable and ex-Governor John Engler. Public funded charter schools are his legacy. NCLB is one phase of a larger reform effort initiated by the Governor's Roundtable and Conservative Republicans.

http://www.educationreport.org/pubs/mer/article.aspx?id=4847

Anonymous said...

I've encouraged Melissa and I encourage everyone who has something to say about Public Ed in America to read Yong Zhao's, Catching up, or Leading the Way.
If, as kprugman says, "We can all agree - US education is a systemic failure..." then it might be a surprise to know, as Yong Zhao points out that China, Singapore, and others look at the US Ed system as a model that they want to emulate. Why? They've produced high powered test wonks; but, not so successful at instilling the qualities global companies value: creative problem solving, confidence in thinking outside the box, communicative and collaboration skills, taking risks.

I recall Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Childrens Zone saying, "...with the best teachers in the best schools, a child who starts out 2 years behind will still be 2 years behind at the end of the school year...To close the achievement gap you start before the child is born..." With quality healthcare, with a comfortable safe place to live and a safe school, with enough healthy food, with lots of books that parents read to their children.

Also, Malcolm Gladwell points out in Outliers that during the school year poor disadvantaged children increase their reading skills at a faster pace than their more well-off classmates. Yet, during summer they lose 50% of what they acquired, whereas their well-off classmates increase their reading skills significantly during the summer. Was the Education System to blame?

Quality healthcare, a comfortable safe place to live and safe school, plenty of healthy food, parents that spend a lot of time engaged and reading with their children. I would argue this to be a better remedy than to "blow the doors off of chronically low performing schools." As, our own MGL has done with Cleveland, Howthorne, W. Seattle and soon to be targeted Emerson.
ken berry

wseadawg said...

F4K: I don't disagree with you that schools were bad before NCLB. But NCLB represented yet another prime opportunity for deep-pocket money interests, anti-union interests, and anti-public education interests to profit from a crisis.

It was never about helping kids. If it were, it would have been aimed at kids, not entire schools. Only closing schools and liquidating staff could change the landscape and hand public institutions over to private interests. Same thing with Alt Cert teacher programs that were lined up and ready to go before NCLB even became law. Package deal. Make a profit and weaken union labor while you're at it. A profit seeker's wet dream.

kprugman said...

Anon is preaching the gospel of math reform. He neglects to say Yong Zhao is a professor in the Ed Department at MSU.

He is also Executive Director of the Confucius Institute - from Wiki

"A newly declassified intelligence report by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service says Beijing is out to win the world's hearts and minds, not just its economic markets, as a means of cementing power." [9] India rejected the Chinese offer to establish institutes in Indian schools: "China's proposal is to expand its 'Confucius Institute' of language teaching into India. But the Indian government suspects that this is a Chinese design to spread its soft power – widening influence by using culture as a propagational tool."

Chinese schools, far from embracing American methods, use instructional methods closer to what one finds in India or Singapore. The instruction is guided, uses traditional algorithms, introduces geometry at an earlier age, and integrates algebraic with geometric instruction.

Math reform is a deception, not a panacea as some professors are claiming. Only a fool, like a Core Plus author, would write a paper claiming Vedic Math will improve your math skills by 1500%.

Many Japanese teachers have been brought to the US in order to observe first-hand US classroom instruction with reform curriculum, but none have yet to implement the same instruction in their home schools.

If math reform were working, why don't we see it in our test results. Anon is a hypocrite. Math reform is a racist's rant. (google racist mathematician)

kprugman said...

Education Next is another rant - it appears they have a puzzle. Why is it 'their' surveys show minorities are in favor of Charter Schools, while civil rights groups have issued a statement against Obama's decision to push forward Charter Schools. The last paragraph is long, but well worth reading.

"It is puzzling, then, that a coalition of prominent civil rights organizations last week issued a statement criticizing the Obama administration’s current emphasis on chartering as a strategy to turn around low-performing schools and bemoaning the heavy concentration of charters in high-minority areas.

Fortunately, the president does not seem to have taken their concerns to heart. He and his education secretary Arne Duncan, in separate speeches last week to the National Urban League, offered no apologies for their support for charter schools. It would appear that the president (or perhaps his pollsters) has a better sense of the minority community’s views than does the NAACP."

Ed reform is a sword-swallowing act and the educrats are going to have to do a whole lot better convincing parents that achievement will go up. I have Mexican kids in my classroom who are years ahead of the American kids. The politicians mouth had better open wider.

kprugman said...

If Education Next were honest and unbiased in their poll surveys, then they might publish instead that minorities trust the NAACP, far more than they trust Obama or the criminals making public education a for-profit enterprise. Shame on Governor Engler. Provide kids with decent textbooks and maybe THEN achievement would go up. The next thing Obama will be suggesting is euthanizing all teachers, just to put them out of their misery. Please don't make me read or write another feel-good standard. Public education is making kids stupid.

kprugman said...

“In so many ways, our reform agenda is all about equity. Competition isn’t about winners and losers. It’s about getting better.”

Who is this idiot?

kprugman said...

Gladwell is another so-called idiot. Many of us were unavailable all during our summers - my summer vacation was spent fishing and farming where there was no running water and I still went to university. I went barefoot all summer.

My hs teachers were mostly war veterans. They were great teachers, but they were inspirational, not really gifted. I avoided other kids and I stayed and read in the library.

The longer an immigrant attends school in their own country, the more likely they will attend a US college. That is a fact!

My children call themselves Mexican, but I am an American and mostly Scotch and German - my ancestors crossed the Appalachians with Daniel Boone. For me, that says alot about American values.

FightingForKids said...

One of these days we're actually going to have civil discourse on this blog without calling people names and ranting about reformist agendas.

I'm done posting on thus thread since it has gone down that slippery slope. It was nice for the short time it lasted. You all have fun.

kprugman said...

Malcolm should give credit where credit is due. He writes for the New Yorker but he knows as much about social research as any layman. He can persude a yuppy. Perhaps he needs an education.

"In [Gladwell's] recent piece (2009) in the New Yorker ("Most Likely to Succeed," December 15), Malcolm Gladwell likens finding good teachers for America's schools to the "quarterback problem" that pro football teams have in predicting which star college player will make it in the NFL. "

When smart people get it so Wrong
by Martin Conroy

Politics is not like training a dog to roll over.

Great teachers are as good at running revolutions as they are at teaching kids.

The best students to educate are the one's who are starving for food. Education reform - Success for all - is a fraud and a hoax.

kprugman said...

I can dream up fairy-tale solutions as well as Malcolm. Idiot's paradise. Its all there in the research, but why are most of us still not convinced.

Sahila said...

I repeat.... who here amongst us is "great" at what we do in our professional lives (and, pushing the envelope, in our parenting)?

Be honest with yourselves... Who's outstanding, who's better than average, who's mediocre and who's just hanging in there, doing the bare minimum day after day after day...

People in glass houses shouldnt throw stones...

I dont understand this rabid frothing at the mouth about "bad" teachers.... there are comparatively few "bad" teachers out there... and what is perhaps the most important thing for our children to learn is that life is full of challenges and people with whom we might not connect at the optimal level...

The most valuable learning for our kids (not data, not algorithms, not content) is to find within themselves the flexibility to continue to move forward in spite of the conditions and people they are surrounded by...

Our kids are not going to be irretrievably harmed by one year of less than optimal teaching...

And our teachers dont have control over the conditions of life walking into their classrooms every day, over the curriculum and over the materials they're given to teach that curriculum...

Before you lay all the blame at teachers, deal with all of those factors...

Give it a rest, people....