The Wisdom and Wit of Diane Ravitch

2014 – The Dreaded Common Core Standards

  • There was lack of any democratic participation in their development. No one who wrote them had any expertise in early childhood education. As a result, early standards are not developmentally appropriate and leave inadequate time for imaginative play. Lessons are scripted depriving teachers of professional autonomy. They give for-profit testing companies too much power. The passing points on the tests are set so about 30% pass. They were not field tested. Unlike important standards in most fields, they did not follow the American National Standards Institute protocol.
  • The results are demoralized teachers, an unprecedented exodus of experienced teachers, closure of many schools, opening of many charter school some of which are for profit, and attack on teachers’ due process rights. No other developed nation has done any of these things. Yet there are allies and opponents on both the left and the right of the political spectrum. Their only value is to rank students using a questionable metric. Common Core testing will cost billions that will have to come from somewhere else in the school budget.
  • Reformers have used fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) to undermine public confidence in public schools. FUD was pioneered decades by big tobacco and later by the sugar industry.
  • Ravitch sites media outlets on the left and right for not checking facts handed to them by reformers. It’s clear that they are complicit in the damage being done to public schools.
  • She recommends that parents not allow their children to take the standardized tests. They lack instant feedback for teachers and students. The so-called Value-Added-Measurement used by many states measures correlation rather than causation. The majority of the variation in scores cannot be attributed to the teachers. They are even bad for gifted students since their scores are already at the ceiling.
  • People with vast wealth give large sums to political candidates, who when elected, protect the economic interests of their benefactors. Politicians blame the schools for loss of jobs when it’s their rich donors who automated them or sent them overseas. Why prepare every student for college when nine of the ten fastest growing jobs don’t require a college degree. The one that does is registered nurse.
  • While China has the highest scores on International tests (PISA) they have produced no Nobel Prizes. In the US high scores are a function of affluence. The SAT could well be the Student Affluence Test. At the same time, elites like Gates and Obama send their children to private schools where little standardized testing occurs.
  • Results for Common Core test are typically 70% failing. If a teacher gave a test and 70% failed you would think the teacher was not competent or didn’t test what she taught. Ravitch suggests that we judge schools by things like how many students play a musical instrument, how many produce research papers, how many perform public service, how many complete individual or group projects, and how many use robots or other innovative technology. Can you think of some others?
  • Time to meet Yong Zhao. Born and raised in China he is now a top educator and author of several books. He explains how the overuse of standardized testing has hurt Chinese schools. While they are good at test taking, they lack the skills needed to innovate. They sacrifice creativity, divergent thinking, originality, and individualism. I have summarized several of Yong’s books available on this site.
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