The Wisdom and Wit of Diane Ravitch

2013 – Good Teachers Fail, Common Core Failures, & Gates Buys Democracy

  • In New York they repealed a law that prohibited using test scores to assess teacher performance. Yet around the nation, there are examples of top teachers getting low scores. Huston, for example, fired its teacher of the year. The tests are social constructions, not scientific instruments, which is why they make no sense. It’s key to understand that teacher evaluations need to be a matter of more subjective judgment.
  • Thus far because of Race to the Top 45 states have adopted the Common Core. These standards were implemented before they were tested. This didn’t stop their boosters from making exaggerated claims. Failure rates on Common Core tests were greater than two-thirds faced with tests beyond their reach many students gave up. Note that there is nothing in these tests that relates to careers. Yet politicians and corporate reformers continue to swear by standards they have likely never read. The costs of testing have been taken from other essential services.
  • The rise of the accountability movement created the idea of failing schools. With accountability comes blame, and thanks to our politicians the blame has landed on schools and teachers. Schools that fail are either closed or taken over by the state. A look at New Jersey shows how crazy this is. Their low performing schools have been under state control for more than 20 years without any significant improvement.
  • Next we focus on how the Gates Foundation has spread its education money around. They underwrote all four organizations involved in writing the Common Core Standards. They gave money to 16 universities along with many foundations and institutes to promote them. In essence, a democratic process has taken a short cut. When you have enough money you can purchase institutions that are fundamentally democratic. You can also be responsible for the failure of a large majority of students. Ravitch doesn’t question Gate’s intention, but she does question his judgment. Congress should investigate how one man has so much influence.
  • There is a big focus on international test scores. The reason we don’t do well is that we have more poverty than other nations tested. The fact that we have the world’s top economy indicates that good test scores don’t mean much. We should also be wary of comparisons between individual states. The fact that NCLB and RTTT haven’t raised test scores shows them to be manifest failures. They do, however, risk crushing the qualities that have made our nation what it is.
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