Diane Ravitch Editorial on the Failure of NCLB

I have long admired Diane Ravitch. While I have disagreed with her on fundamental philosophical grounds, her arguments have always been grounded in the realities of schooling--even if those were the realities of conservative parents and stakeholders.

Now the evidence has shown what some of us predicted and what many of us have known for years: that external tests of basic skills and punitive sanctions were just going to lead to illusory gains (if any) and undermine other value outcomes. Her editorial in today's (April 2) Washington Post is very direct. While I disagree with her on where to go from here, I applaud her for using her audience and her reputation to help convince a lot of stakeholders who have found one reason or another to ignore the considerable evidence against continuing NCLB. Like Jim Popham has been saying for years, all of the improvement schools could make with test scores already happened between 1990 and 2000, once newspapers began publishing test scores.

Certainly this will factor into the pending NCLB reauthorization. Perhaps Indiana's Republican leadership will read this and think twice about going forward with their two core ideas for their Race to the Top reform proposal, even though it was not funded. The twin shells in their reform shotgun is "Pay for Performance" merit pay for Indiana teachers based on basic skills test scores, and "Value Added" growth modeling that ranks teachers based on how much "achievement" they instilled in their kids. For reasons Ravitch summarizes and other concerns outlined in a recent letter and report by the National Academy, the recoil from pulling these two triggers at once might be just enough to blow our schools and our children pretty far back into the 20th century.


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