Diane Ravitch's change of heart
Diane Ravitch, one of America's most influential education scholars, was in town yesterday afternoon and spoke to a couple hundred people in Baltimore, some of whom have spent as many decades thinking about education as she has.
The former No Child Left Behind cheerleader released a book several months ago called The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.
In the book, she details her change of heart over school reform in America, saying that accountability and charter schools have not worked. After a decade of espousing the cause of the conservatives who said choice and testing were the key to closing the achievement gap and making schools work for all students, she has decided she was very wrong.
Yesterday, she said that studies have shown that while some charter schools are working well, overall students do no better in charters than regular public schools. She believes that charters have focused attention away from resolving the most vexing problems in public education.
And while she supports testing students, she says the results are now being used to punish teachers, principals and students. Rather, she said, we should be using poor test scores for a school or a student to diagnose a problem and then using all our energy to zero in on fixing it rather than punishing the offenders.
"There have been no results from this eight-year investment in tests," she said. While she acknowledges that National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test scores have risen over the eight years, she says they rose faster during other time periods. (Although I might add the caveat here that I am not sure we have enough research to document why test scores rose in the 1970s and 1980s faster than between 2002 and 2010.)
She's against much of the core of teacher reforms now being proposed across the country, including linking teacher evaluations to test scores.