Diane Ravich

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s commentary for EdSource last month, called “How Not to Fix No Child Left Behind,” consisted for the most part of mushy platitudes that must be measured against the realities of his actions over the past six years.

During that time, Duncan has aggregated an unprecedented power to tell states and districts how to operate. The administration’s Race to the Top program was not passed into law by Congress, yet it was funded with $5 billion awarded by Congress as part of the economic stimulus plan following the 2008 recession.

Duncan used that huge financial largesse to make himself the nation’s education czar. When states were most economically distressed, he dangled billions of dollars before them in a competition. They were not eligible to enter the competition unless they agreed to lift caps on opening more privately managed charter schools, to rely on test scores to a significant degree when evaluating teachers, to adopt “college-and-career-ready standards” (aka the Common Core standards, which had not even been completed in 2009 when the competition was announced) and to take dramatic action to “turn around” schools with low test scores (such as closing the school or firing all or most of the staff).

Almost every state applied for a share of the billions that Duncan controlled, and almost every state changed its laws to conform to his wishes, yet only 18 states and the District of Columbia won awards. Duncan added the same conditions to state waivers from NCLB’s unrealistic target of 100% proficiency in reading and math for all children in grades 3-8.

As an exercise in federal power, it was brilliant, as Duncan got almost every state to do what he wanted and make it appear to be voluntary. It is important to bear in mind that none of the so-called sanctions and remedies in No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top was supported by evidence from research or experience.

State takeovers of low-performing schools have seldom (if ever) led to improvement; charter schools have a mixed and mostly unimpressive record; evaluating teachers by their students’ test scores has been unsuccessful because most of the factors that influence test scores (like family life) are beyond the control of teachers, and students are not randomly assigned to classes; and the effects of the Common Core standards are untested and unknown.

When Duncan writes “how not to fix NCLB,” he is responding to the Republicans’ revulsion to his heavy-handed exercise of power over the last six years. They want to curb his ability and that of future secretaries of education to overstep the long-understood federal system that limits the role of the U.S. Department of Education.

There is much to dislike in the Republicans’ rewrite of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which is the most recent version of America’s most important education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). They intend to make Title I funding for poor children portable, so that the money can be transferred to charter schools and perhaps vouchers as well. Instead of federal aid being targeted to help schools in poor communities, it will become available to spur school choice, which has long been the Republicans’ favorite remedy, despite the absence of evidence for the efficacy of either charters or vouchers.

Any genuine fix to NCLB would recognize that the administration of President George W. Bush took a wrong turn by changing ESEA from a law devoted to equity to a law devoted to testing and accountability. The switch from ESEA to NCLB was a substitution of punishment and sanctions for direct federal aid to the neediest districts. ESEA and the federal aid it supplied were supposed to help poor children, not convert their schools into test-prep factories or close them or privatize them.

Both Republicans and Democrats are determined to maintain the annual testing regime at the heart of NCLB. It is perplexing to see so many Democrats aligning themselves with George W. Bush’s educational legacy of annual testing. Teachers and parents know that high-stakes testing has distorted the purpose of education, has diverted billions of dollars to the testing industry, has discouraged teachers, has labeled children as “failures” in elementary school, and that NCLB is widely viewed as a failed law.

Advocates of the testing regime will point to improved test scores as “proof” that the demands of NCLB were correct. But they won’t admit that test scores improved even faster before NCLB was implemented, or that scores on international tests remain flat. Nor do they care that the relentless focus on testing has reduced the time available for the arts, science, history, civics, foreign languages and physical education. Thus, the quality of education for most children has been reduced in pursuit of higher test scores.

Over the past six years, the evidence showing the invalidity of Duncan’s “reforms” continues to accumulate, yet he insists on ignoring it. He loves charters, even though they intensify segregation and the zero-tolerance policies of “no excuses” charters create harsh disciplinary environments, leading to high suspension rates. He remains determined to judge teachers by test scores, even though the National Academy of Education, the American Educational Research Association and even the American Statistical Association warned against it. Duncan’s preferred method of teacher evaluation has been found to be unstable and inaccurate, but he doesn’t care or notice.

Enrollment in teacher education programs across the country and even in Teach for America has dropped sharply; veteran teachers are taking early retirement. But Duncan does not associate the lowered status of the teaching profession or the demoralization of teachers with his own punitive policies.

Instead of talking about “how not to fix NCLB,” here are a few ideas for how genuinely to fix NCLB:

  • Restore the original purpose of the ESEA: equity for poor children and the schools they attend. These schools need more money for smaller classes, social workers, nurses, and librarians, not more testing.
  • Designate federal aid for reducing class size, for intensive tutoring by certified teachers and for other interventions that are known to be effective.
  • Raise standards for those entering teaching.
  • Eliminate the testing and accountability portions of the law and leave decisions about when and how often to test to states and districts.
  • Rely on the federal testing program – the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) – to provide an audit of every state’s progress. NAEP data are disaggregated by race, gender, ethnicity, language and disability status. NAEP tracks achievement gaps between blacks and whites and Hispanics and whites. Anyone who wishes to compare Missouri and California can easily do so with NAEP data that measures performance in reading and math in 4th and 8th grade every two years.

Testing every child every year in grades 3-8 and 11 is an enormous waste of money and instructional time. Testing samples of students, as the NAEP does, tells us whatever we need to know. Teachers should write their own tests; they know what they taught and what their students should have learned. Use normed standardized tests only for diagnostic purposes, to help students, not to reward or punish them and not to reward or punish their teachers or close their schools.

Policymakers may decide to reauthorize NCLB and give it a new name. But if they maintain the current program of high-stakes testing, as both Secretary Duncan and the Republicans want, they will feed the fires of the anti-testing movement. They will confront angry parents, students and educators who know that testing has become too consequential, too punitive and too frequent. High-performing nations do not test every child every year. We shouldn’t either.

 •••

Diane Ravitch, an education historian at New York University, is the author of “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.”  She was Assistant Secretary of Education for Research and Improvement in the administration of President George H.W. Bush from 1991-93.

The opinions expressed in this commentary represent solely those of the author. EdSource welcomes commentaries representing diverse points of view. If you would like to submit a commentary, please contact us.

SHARE ARTICLE

Join the conversation by going to Edsource's Twitter or Facebook pages. If you do not have a social media account, you can learn how to create a Twitter account here and a Facebook account here.

  1. Don 1 year ago1 year ago

    I'll be blunt. Why is Ed Source quiet on the common core opposition and upheaval going on in other states, particularly in New York where it is in full blown meltdown? And there's been no mention of constitutional challenges while plenty of positive spin is available here. Does it have anything to do with the 3/4 million $$$ Gates donated to Ed Source? You decide. Here's what US Dept of Ed lawyers Robert … Read More

    I’ll be blunt. Why is Ed Source quiet on the common core opposition and upheaval going on in other states, particularly in New York where it is in full blown meltdown? And there’s been no mention of constitutional challenges while plenty of positive spin is available here. Does it have anything to do with the 3/4 million $$$ Gates donated to Ed Source? You decide.

    Here’s what US Dept of Ed lawyers Robert Eitel and Kent Talbert had to say with respect to CCSS:

    “These standards and assessments will ultimately direct the course of elementary and secondary study in most states across the nation, running the risk that states will become little more than administrative agents for a nationalized K-12 program of instruction raising a fundamental question about whether the Department is exceeding its statutory boundaries.”

  2. Don 1 year ago1 year ago

    "... people don’t really give a sh** about what you feel or think." So says David Coleman, primary architect of Common Core. David Coleman certainly doesn't give a sh** what the public school community thinks of Common Core having pushed it through sight unseen as a requirement for eligibility for RTTT. And now that CC opposition is growing Gates' is pulling out the stops to fund every media outlet to help prop up the … Read More

    “… people don’t really give a sh** about what you feel or think.” So says David Coleman, primary architect of Common Core.

    David Coleman certainly doesn’t give a sh** what the public school community thinks of Common Core having pushed it through sight unseen as a requirement for eligibility for RTTT. And now that CC opposition is growing Gates’ is pulling out the stops to fund every media outlet to help prop up the Common Core Initiative. Ed Source received over $3/4 of a million dollars.

    A Rhodes scholar of philosophy with no credentials in education who never taught a class in public school is the man who, along with Jason Zimba and 3 others, transformed public education using Bill Gates’ money and the power of the Federal Government through RTTT and NCLB waivers circumventing the proscriptions of the 10th Amendment. Here he gives you a snapshot of his idea of what public education is all about. Interpret as you wish.

    Except from his speech in Albany, NY in 2011.

    “Do you know the two most popular forms of writing in the American high school today?…It is either the exposition of a personal opinion or the presentation of a personal matter. The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem with these two forms of writing is as you grow up in this world you realize people don’t really give a **** about what you feel or think. What they instead care about is can you make an argument with evidence, is there something verifiable behind what you’re saying or what you think or feel that you can demonstrate to me. It is a rare working environment that someone says, “Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.”

  3. Concerned Parent 2 years ago2 years ago

    While I believe that there are shenanigans going on all over the U.S.A. with regard to education, I do believe we do need to have some clear measure of how each school does with regard to simple benchmarks of learning. Too often I see a lack of accountability in how schools are doing, and the time to check on the accountability lapses in say 5-6-7-8years. What a let down as a parent to see the … Read More

    While I believe that there are shenanigans going on all over the U.S.A. with regard to education, I do believe we do need to have some clear measure of how each school does with regard to simple benchmarks of learning.

    Too often I see a lack of accountability in how schools are doing, and the time to check on the accountability lapses in say 5-6-7-8years.

    What a let down as a parent to see the Smarter Balance test still stand up in California when it is known to be flawed.

    Why do we use tests that are flawed and not inform the parents that the tests are not measuring things properly.

    I guess we know that the tests measure bad, but we go ahead anyway and use the children as test subjects to maybe make profits due to the test taking process itself.

    Money is driving the education and politics.

    I believe with Common Core vast grade inflation came along in year 2013-2015.

    The definitions of what good is or outstanding is, is, well, lost and not accurate from school to school and district to district.

    I think a basic benchmark for math should have been given this year (2014-2015) and the Smarter Balance test or whatever it is now called needed to be thrown away.

    Many parents, including myself are thinking that the math being taught to our children this year has been substandard due to many reasons.

    So, the old No Child Left Behind law was good in some way in that it offered testing that measured knowledge, and it seems that such testing was and is better than Smarter Balance, in my opinion, so, I ask that we find simple benchmark testing to go back to for each grade level.

    I believe again students have regressed in math knowledge across our U.S.A. with regard to math because of the Common Core roll out.

    Some say our educational system is “trendy,” some say it is “political,” I think it is not doing well.

  4. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    I respect Diane Ravitch. And I agree with much she has to say. She's a thoughtful and insightful commentator on the education scene. In the case of portability, however, she and other critics of the Republican plan to hand over greater authority to districts never mention the fact that Title 1 is widely regarded in academia as having failed to achieve its goal to reduce the achievement gap for the most concentrated disadvantaged … Read More

    I respect Diane Ravitch. And I agree with much she has to say. She’s a thoughtful and insightful commentator on the education scene. In the case of portability, however, she and other critics of the Republican plan to hand over greater authority to districts never mention the fact that Title 1 is widely regarded in academia as having failed to achieve its goal to reduce the achievement gap for the most concentrated disadvantaged populations. Democrats failed to pass real reforms to the program for 6 years while they prevailed in Congress. T1’s cumbersome requirements, specifically supplement-not-supplant and comparability, by all accounts make it difficult to effectively administer. Any local T1 administrator will agree that the program is inundated with inefficiencies that take away from program effectiveness. Currently, high schools only receive 10% of T1 funds though they have 25% of the T1 population. For all intents and purposes, T1 is a classic federal government dinosaur.

    At the same time local control advocates hail the new found flexibility of LCFF to bring decisionmaking closer to the classroom while rejecting efforts to do the same with T1 and give districts more latitude in how to administer it at the local level. They fear a reduction in funds for high poverty schools. That is, they fear local administrators won’t make the right choices for their students. And anti-privatization forces see it as a strategy to increase school choice. It’s fine for the State of California to have a block grant program for target students, but the same doesn’t apply to the Federal Government??? Why do advocates of local control believe district administrators can be trusted to make the right decisions with about 95% of their budgets, but can’t be trusted to do so with the 5% or so that is T1?

    Ravitch, as a charter and privatization opponent views portability as an instrument to school choice. And while it would likely provide some benefits in that regard, portability applies to all 33,000,000 students of whom a small fraction attend charters, or use vouchers or other tax credits type programs. Charters, unlike the other two, already receive T1funding and may get some small benefit but few will choose to attend a charter just to bring along their T1 funding. So I find some of Dr. Ravitches views about portability and charters more partisan than need be. At the same time, I don’t support the Republican plan to allow T1 to flow to private schools under the Student Success Act as that is wholly inappropriate for public funding. In any case, Obama won’t sign the current Republican rewrite that Lamar Alexander is pushing so it looks like there will be little if any changes. That will sit quite well for the guardians of the outdated behemoth that is Title One.

    Replies

    • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

      Diane Ravitch has shown herself NOT to be a political partisan when it comes to arguing against Common Core and the edu-industrial testing complex that goes with it. For these "reforms" to stick it was essential that America's liberal union establishment swallowed the prescription pill that is the CCSS. But why did they? Teachers have raked high stakes testing under NCLB over the coals for years. Then they meekly rolled over and … Read More

      Diane Ravitch has shown herself NOT to be a political partisan when it comes to arguing against Common Core and the edu-industrial testing complex that goes with it. For these “reforms” to stick it was essential that America’s liberal union establishment swallowed the prescription pill that is the CCSS. But why did they? Teachers have raked high stakes testing under NCLB over the coals for years. Then they meekly rolled over and accepted it sight unseen. With no researched based evidence to support it, CCSS, in one fell swoop, changed the face of American education and, as she has warned, this monumental federal experiment, disguised as a state lead effort, poses a grave danger should it fail. When it comes to a nation at risk, CCSS has really upped the ante.

      Ravitch has spoken with authority about the unholy relationship between CCSS and the testing industry, the two of which are connected at the hip. Why have so many unionists like Gary bought into this. Standards and curriculum were never at the heart of the problem of this American nation or stagnation.

    • navigio 1 year ago1 year ago

      Title I already goes to private schools if they want it.

  5. Tim Casey 2 years ago2 years ago

    If Ms. Ravitch won’t run for president, can she at least be the principal at my school? We’re desperate for some common sense and competence here…. 🙁

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      Ravitch isn’t great. She blindly supports LIFO and no consequences or bonuses based on number of sick days.

  6. Dr Farr 2 years ago2 years ago

    In response to comments like this, about the need for parents and taxpayers to have “input” in the running of public schools: “What are you saying, Gary, that parents and the public at large should have no voice because the media has poisoned the well? What I think you’re really espousing is a public school system run by insiders with no input from the public except its money.” Well, there’s input and input. This seems like another … Read More

    In response to comments like this, about the need for parents and taxpayers to have “input” in the running of public schools:

    “What are you saying, Gary, that parents and the public at large should have no voice because the media has poisoned the well? What I think you’re really espousing is a public school system run by insiders with no input from the public except its money.”

    Well, there’s input and input. This seems like another instantiation of the old saw, “Everybody’s an expert on education because everybody went to school.” So, a broader public, woefully misinformed about pedagogy and assessment (and don’t forget that the so-called data mentioned in the assessment discourse is mostly derived from multiple choice questions), should be allowed to overrule professionals’ judgement because it likes to see simplistic end of year numbers? Why has nobody proposed extending the “input” of the broader public to professional decision-making bodies in Medicine and Engineering? For example, how about inviting taxpayers to weigh in on the deliberations of Medical Examiners’ boards? But in this discussion, it’s only the educators who are accused of being “insiders”
    As a former teacher of 20-plus years experience in K-12, and a professor of education for the past 10 years, I must say how depressing it is to see the conversation still dominated by the Ed-Policy folks who ramble on about tests and “data” with little apparent knowledge of authentic assessment and the classroom, where it should be happening daily by expert teachers.
    How about arguing for the reallocation of our taxpayers’ dollars away from Pearson, et al and into real professional development (not test prep) for our teachers, and into building better schools in our poorer communities?
    I bet the public could get behind that!

  7. dee anne moore 2 years ago2 years ago

    It's like watching a required dance competition in which it has been predetermined that all dancers must become proficient at the tango and will be judged only on how well they can do the tango ...regardless of the talents and rhythm of each individual... In addition, if the participants are more abled to waltz or cha-cha or turkey trot...and the tango is not their forte, the instructors are deemed ineffective. I keep waiting for … Read More

    It’s like watching a required dance competition in which it has been predetermined that all dancers must become proficient at the tango and will be judged only on how well they can do the tango …regardless of the talents and rhythm of each individual… In addition, if the participants are more abled to waltz or cha-cha or turkey trot…and the tango is not their forte, the instructors are deemed ineffective.

    I keep waiting for a NATIONAL discussion which has as a purpose a workable definition of what it means to be educated in 2015… a definition that fits the heart and core of ‘being human’….in an interdependent society that also values the uniqueness of the individuals.

    Perhaps a start might be to acknowledge that we are not geared to be punched out like cookies from identical cookie cutters…that being educated is a complex concept where a variety of components are involved ..where each individual’s unique gifts and talents are nurtured and developed and valued as contributions to the fabric of our society.

    Until we can have that conversation…that discussion …we are feeding our frustrations…confusing our future generation and demonstrating that the United States is unwilling to engage everyone in the process of democracy. We are further demonstrating that those with the experience and passion for educating as well as those whose lives will be shaped by the processes are unwelcomed to participate in the conversation…and whose unique talents and gifts are irrelevant

    The formulaic testing that is being thrust upon our students and which is being done primarily to ‘test’ the ‘testors’.is defended by those who only consider their own narrow perspective, while those who oppose it find themselves to be marginalized and labeled as archaic and unable to accept change.

    It is not change that has become unacceptable..rather, .it is the force-feeding of a change that does not take into consideration the variations and complexities existing within the fabric of our society. The beauty of being human is the joy we can contribute to our own lives, to our families, to our communities and our world. Being limited to a strict formulae that only has, as its purpose, the fitting of the individual into a mold…will, in my opinion result in a monochromatic grayness…a world devoid of joy.

    Replies

    • Phil Stover 2 years ago2 years ago

      Dee Anne. I love your comment. It is very well written and insightful. I would like your permission to include it in my upcoming book…. “Beyond the Classroom… The American Public School District.” perhaps you could contact me through my website? Thanks, Phil

  8. Ramon Sanchez 2 years ago2 years ago

    I agree with the author 1000% It’s time to give educators the power to make a real difference!

  9. Ecer 2 years ago2 years ago

    Best way to fix NCLB: repeal it. It's based on ignorant, mistaken assumptions about how education works, and therefore it can't work. And while you're at it, repeal pretty much everything done to education since NCLB, since it's all been based on those same ignorant assumptions: that teaching, not poverty, is the problem with poor schools, and that the teachers are just lazy and need to be threatened in order to get them … Read More

    Best way to fix NCLB: repeal it. It’s based on ignorant, mistaken assumptions about how education works, and therefore it can’t work. And while you’re at it, repeal pretty much everything done to education since NCLB, since it’s all been based on those same ignorant assumptions: that teaching, not poverty, is the problem with poor schools, and that the teachers are just lazy and need to be threatened in order to get them to teach better. If we went back to 2000 education policies, focusing on helping poor students instead of punishing their teachers, we’d be enormously better off.

  10. Liza Jackson 2 years ago2 years ago

    There is no way to "fix" no NCLB. It needs to be thrown out. The problem is not that they want to make Title 1 portable for poor children, the problem is the meaning of Title 1 has been changed by Duncan to mean it now covers any child or school not meeting "the standards" of common core. This will further take money away from lower income students and schools and widen the class gap. … Read More

    There is no way to “fix” no NCLB. It needs to be thrown out. The problem is not that they want to make Title 1 portable for poor children, the problem is the meaning of Title 1 has been changed by Duncan to mean it now covers any child or school not meeting “the standards” of common core. This will further take money away from lower income students and schools and widen the class gap. Taking away the testing and lowering class sizes does not fix the problem if we don’t do away with Outcome Based Education. This is a distraction and Ravitch knows it. Read Charlotte Iserbyt’s blog or Anita Hoge’s blog for a more in depth explanation.

  11. Helene Stone PhD 2 years ago2 years ago

    We can encourage everyone to send a copy of Dr Ravitch’s article to our Senators and Representatives.—at least the section “how genuinely to fix NCLB” and sourced of course to the actual publication. Like Dr Ravitch, I have no illusions that anyone in Congress is paying attention, but if enough people do that, perhaps some of them will read it. Alternatively, or additionally, everyone can write to Secretary Duncan … Read More

    We can encourage everyone to send a copy of Dr Ravitch’s article to our Senators and Representatives.—at least the section “how genuinely to fix NCLB” and sourced of course to the actual publication. Like Dr Ravitch, I have no illusions that anyone in Congress is paying attention, but if enough people do that, perhaps some of them will read it. Alternatively, or additionally, everyone can write to Secretary Duncan with a copy, telling him that (1)we agree with Dr Ravitch and (2) ask him to respond specifically and point-by-point to her ideas. (e.g. no “mushy platitudes”)

  12. Carol Singletary 2 years ago2 years ago

    Good suggestions, Diane. I just wish we would follow them. Have you read Peter Green’s latest Curmudgucation blog about schools being the canary in the coal mine? His analogy is spot on, and your suggestions would bring in the fresh air we need.

    http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2015/03/canaries-schools-poverty.html

  13. May King 2 years ago2 years ago

    To all parents and educators who concern for civility in America: The ultimate goal in public Education is that educators will cultivate the civil rights, the civilization in humanity, and the responsibility of being civilized citizens in the most powerful country like America in early 20th century (1914-1945). Throughout all historical cultures in the world, we must recognize that the peak of harmonious time in any powerful nation happens in the period when people (= general public), … Read More

    To all parents and educators who concern for civility in America:

    The ultimate goal in public Education is that educators will cultivate the civil rights, the civilization in humanity, and the responsibility of being civilized citizens in the most powerful country like America in early 20th century (1914-1945).

    Throughout all historical cultures in the world, we must recognize that the peak of harmonious time in any powerful nation happens in the period when people (= general public), young and old are happy at work and at school. All tests and competitions should not impose on people whether at work or at school because these unwanted events put pressures and stresses on people. As a result, people become frustrated and sick.

    Therefore, the rich bribes the power in order to create chaos to people, so that the rich can make profit from selling the stresses and medication. Most of all, the rich aims to create many modern slaves or a generation of “YES” men and “YES” women who follow rules and regulation without knowing how to reason or debate.

    If all parents and all educators love children, please unite to join OP OUT movement in order to cultivate children how to exercise their civil rights by example and action. It is right time to cultivate children how to protect their civility and democracy by practicing their country’s constitution.

    Whoever loves testing scheme; please remember that children will take up any challenge whenever they are ready. Could you realize that immigrants overcome the language barrier to achieve many high status quo positions in wherever they settle? There is a simple reason that immigrants ask for their dignity award, NOT punishment.

    In conclusion, there are so many cheating scandals for a monetary reward, BUT only hard-work, effort, and CONSCIENCE in contributing to the well-being of humankind will be awarded with Nobel Prize. Please DO NOT impose any stresses on people, young or old. Everyone has his/her own pace to progress. We need to learn how to care and share by helping one to another, BUT not by bullying. Back2basic

  14. Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

    Much thanks to Dr. Ravitch for articulating what should and should not occur re "reform" of ESEA. I could not have said it better myself.Then again, I have said much of it myself. The only point I may disagree on is the use of NAEP for state to state comparisons. The NAEP people, unless they have re-calibrated when I was not looking, have always been pretty insistent that the NAEP was not designed for that purpose … Read More

    Much thanks to Dr. Ravitch for articulating what should and should not occur re “reform” of ESEA. I could not have said it better myself.Then again, I have said much of it myself.

    The only point I may disagree on is the use of NAEP for state to state comparisons. The NAEP people, unless they have re-calibrated when I was not looking, have always been pretty insistent that the NAEP was not designed for that purpose and, therefore, it is a very sketchy idea to use it for that purpose. I’m not sure what is supposed to be accomplished by the comparisons anyway.

    It is true that the most effective way to use testing, as countries like Finland have demonstrated, is to use NAEP style matrix testing for system wide checks. The test scores we have been receiving are not now, and never have been, of any significant use at the classroom level.

    It is symptomatic of our politicized education system that what works well elsewhere (or even what works well here) is to be rigorously ignored by the self-styled reform community, likely because doing things effectively would eliminate the opportunity to point fingers. And that finger pointing has because much more the focus as opposed to focusing on things that might improve education. There is a whole industry that has been founded on finger pointing. And a very well financed industry it is with the Gates, Broads, Waltons and various tech-industry savants involved.

  15. Eric Brandon 2 years ago2 years ago

    I completely agree with this letter on its approach to standardized testing. Such tests can be used for global assessment at large levels, but they are nearly useless for telling us how individual teachers and students are really doing. My children take the current tests, and, since they are grade level tests, they tell me nothing about how my above grade-level children are really doing. The local benchmark tests given at the … Read More

    I completely agree with this letter on its approach to standardized testing. Such tests can be used for global assessment at large levels, but they are nearly useless for telling us how individual teachers and students are really doing. My children take the current tests, and, since they are grade level tests, they tell me nothing about how my above grade-level children are really doing. The local benchmark tests given at the county level are the ones used by the teachers. The federally mandated tests are a waste of time.

    As for more resources for those school, usually with many poor children, who need them, I am in agreement. I think that looking at summer school programs for such schools is a good idea. I believe that are many studies around showing that poorer children lose reading and math skills over the summer. Giving them summer reading and math programs would help with that obvious problem.

    More teaching, less testing. That pretty much captures my current attitude. I do with my children were being taught more and tested less.

  16. Clara Fitzpatrick 2 years ago2 years ago

    I agree almost totally with Ravitch's comments. I believe the original purpose of ESEA, to help children living in poverty to attain a decent and equitable education, has been lost in the quest for cash strapped states to squander federal government mandated testing money on test companies and their accompanying so called standards building. Witness the latest acclaim by the newest testing magnate's claim,"Congratulations to all of our #PARCC ready students, teachers, technology … Read More

    I agree almost totally with Ravitch’s comments. I believe the original purpose of
    ESEA, to help children living in poverty to attain a decent and equitable education, has been lost in the quest for cash strapped states to squander federal government mandated testing money on test companies and their accompanying so called standards building. Witness the latest acclaim by the newest testing magnate’s claim,”Congratulations to all of our #PARCC ready students, teachers, technology coordinators, principals and others for a great job with a historic first – a multi-state, mostly online test administration to 5 million students.” With no research or concern about the students, parents, and teachers that this big bamboozle affected it was proudly acclaimed without of course saying that the nation’s third largest school district where Duncan served unsuccessfully had indicated that they would not test all of its students because they were not ready,only to be threatened by the state and by extension, the federal government, with loss of millions of dollars . These are dollars that could have gone to this school district which has nearly 80% of the students living in poverty, some schools without a librarian, some without a full time nurse or social worker, and some schools, even without enough toilet paper. Yet Chicago had to waste teaching time and learning to m meet the corporate greed extant in the testing mandate.
    I can only hope Diane is correct that the fires of the anti-testing movement will be fueled, but they won’t be soon enough to save thousands of poor students from this travesty of equality, justice and self-esteem.
    There is one idea, though that I believe Diane opened but did not fully explain. “Increase teacher quality”. How was left out. Again, the federal government thinks that teacher quality can be improved by more testing of the teacher and use of students’ tests as evaluation. This very testing of teachers in Illinois is partially responsible for the decline and lost of many qualified minority teachers because we do not yet have a way to determine what makes an excellent teacher of diverse student populations.
    We need Diane and others like her to take an active role in helping to get parents, students and teachers to fuel the fires of the anti-testing movement and put some logs on the fire to promote equality of education for all of the nation’s students.

    b

  17. Mary 2 years ago2 years ago

    The very moment you mention "democrat" or "republican" a line is drawn. It was a bipartisan problem to begin with starting when the PISA scores were released in 2000 and Clinton developed Goals 2000 and handed it over to the National Governors Association and it was continued with Bush, and on to Obama. Reform amped up in intensity every three years because that's when the PISA testing resulst were released. Our education … Read More

    The very moment you mention “democrat” or “republican” a line is drawn. It was a bipartisan problem to begin with starting when the PISA scores were released in 2000 and Clinton developed Goals 2000 and handed it over to the National Governors Association and it was continued with Bush, and on to Obama. Reform amped up in intensity every three years because that’s when the PISA testing resulst were released. Our education leaders would lose their minds when the scores came out showing no real improvement. Make no mistake, Diana THAT is what this is all about, being at the top of those PISA results. Now with Pearson in line to revise and create a new PISA test, all the pieces just sort of fall together.

    A three point plan had to be:
    1.) Privatize schools. Perhaps they could pick and choose which schools had students participate in the administration of PISA if they were all privatized and since all schools will be collecting data, it would be easy to find the top performing schools.
    2.) Launch an all-out attack on public schools in order to dismantle them. Make educators the enemy so that no one will care. Not sure about this one? Every time the PISA results were released (every three years) the talking heads on the news would report how stupid our country’s students are and how they will not be able to compete in a world global economy when they grow up and that will put our country at risk. It got so far as union-busting all over the country; incredible! There publicists were incredible because people still believe this is true.
    3.) Have some influence on the test results directly. While Pearson (PARCC) is a European owned company, it has a headquarters in the U.S. in New Jersey. Several months ago, Pearson announced it will be working with the OECD on reestablishing a new PISA test.

    I envision a professional basketball player playing really dirty in order to win a preseason game against his biggest rival even though the game doesn’t count for their record. The basketball player is relentless with his aggressiveness. Other players look at him like he’s crazy, but they give him a wide birth. Wait a minute…wasn’t Arne Duncan a professional basketball player in Australia after graduating from Harvard? I’m sure he understands that “winning is everything” mentality. That’s why we were all racing to the top of PISA test results. People just didn’t know that it was really just an international competition amongst (thirty-four) country-members of the OECD and not because our students were at risk.

    So, if you want to eliminate high stakes attachments to standardized test scores, you will have to offer them something that will help the U.S. students perform better on the PISA. How about adding a ninth grade class on PISA testing practice and strategies in ninth grade?

    Oh! and, can we ask that CCSS be a guideline and not mandatory for states?

    Thanks so much,

    Mary

    Replies

    • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

      Glad you brought up Goals 2000, predecessor to NCLB. How easily we forget. Let’s deal with a couple of the goals as numbered below. My comments in parenthesis. The Goals 2000: Educate America Act (P.L. 103-227)" was signed into law on March 31, 1994 By the Year 2000... #1--All children in America will start school ready to learn. (This one just had to be replaced. Having all children arriving at school ready to learn actually put the … Read More

      Glad you brought up Goals 2000, predecessor to NCLB. How easily we forget. Let’s deal with a couple of the goals as numbered below. My comments in parenthesis.

      The Goals 2000: Educate America Act (P.L. 103-227)” was signed into law on March 31, 1994

      By the Year 2000…

      #1–All children in America will start school ready to learn.

      (This one just had to be replaced. Having all children arriving at school ready to learn actually put the onus of “accountability” on policy makers. Children are not “ready to learn” when they spend 87% of their waking hours in conditions of poverty. So this meant dealing with the massive amounts of children’s poverty in the US. Much preferable is an “accountability system” [aka, NCLB] where 3rd Grade teacher, Ms. Jones, loses her job because the high number of poor kids in her class do not demonstrate they are “ready to learn.” )

      #2–The high school graduation rate will increase to at least 90 percent.

      (Again, graduating from high school or not, is closely linked to minority and poverty status, so again policies dealing with poverty is key here and intolerably places accountability at the top of the policy making chain, not the “bottom” [aka, the classroom]. And, again, as a nation we are pushing the 90% graduation rate number and what use is a “goal” if you are achieving it and have no one to blame or not achieving it?)

      #3–All students will leave grades 4, 8, and 12 having demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter including English, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, the arts, history, and geography, and every school in America will ensure that all students learn to use their minds well, so they may be prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment in our nation’s modern economy.

      (This goal clearly was not going to work with testing to be done yearly and way too much focus on fuzzy stuff like students using their minds and being prepared for responsible citizenship.)

      #4–United States students will be first in the world in mathematics and science achievement.

      (Actually, US kids in schools with 10% or fewer kids in poverty are already tops in the world so this, again, brings up embarrassing questions about why the US has nearly the highest number of students in the industrialized world living in poverty. Out with that goal!).

      #6–Every school in the United States will be free of drugs, violence, and the unauthorized presence of firearms and alcohol and will offer a disciplined environment conducive to learning.

      (Wait a minute, no guns in school? And get on the wrong side of the NRA? Fugetaboutit.)

      #7–The nation’s teaching force will have access to programs for the continued improvement of their professional skills and the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to instruct and prepare all American students for the next century.

      (Supporting the teaching force? Whose idea was this? Teachers are to be shamed, punished, and fired when possible mostly on the basis of “spectral evidence” just like in the good old days of the Red Scares and, better yet, Salem.)

      #8–Every school will promote partnerships that will increase parental involvement and participation in promoting the social, emotional, and academic growth of children.

      (Now wait just a darn minute. Parents should be gulled into believing charter schools are better than regular public schools and just forget all that pesky research showing the opposite. And what’s all this stuff about social and emotional growth? How are you going to get that on a spread sheet?)

    • ann 2 years ago2 years ago

      She said “raise standards for those entering teaching”. A long term but essential element of improving schools in the U.S.

      • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

        Ann, Vergara will prove more immediate. If we can fire the bottom 5-10%, you have no idea how much benefit this will have. The difference between a good and bad teacher in one year of elementary school can make a difference of over $700,000 for the kids in the class over a lifetime, so eliminating the worst teachers will eliminate them getting behind due to getting a lemon by bad luck for one … Read More

        Ann, Vergara will prove more immediate. If we can fire the bottom 5-10%, you have no idea how much benefit this will have. The difference between a good and bad teacher in one year of elementary school can make a difference of over $700,000 for the kids in the class over a lifetime, so eliminating the worst teachers will eliminate them getting behind due to getting a lemon by bad luck for one year. My youngest son spent 1st grade with a lemon. However, the benefits don’t end there. If lay offs are at the discretion of the principal and contingent on parent reviews, kid reviews, administration reviews and attendance, the current practice of teachers taking days off just because they are in the contract will be greatly reduced, and as sub costs come down there will be more money for teacher salaries. Currently if one teacher never calls in sick they feel they are losing out, but all teachers will fear that if a principal suspects they just do so because they can, their contract may not be renewed. Teachers should be on 3-5 year contracts. Any principal who notices a teacher calls in sick on Mondays or Fridays or is seen out and about on a day they called in sick will hire a new teacher rather than retain one with that level of immorality. Some openly go on vacations during the school year; stopping this will raise teacher salaries by cutting sub costs. Teachers will be more attentive to principals, reforms, and parents. The quality will rise significantly.

        This isn’t unique. Economists have tested this. People will steal things if they feel there is no chance of getting caught. Self-interest motivates all. If you take any profession in the U.S. and make all pay, lay offs, promotion, etc. based on seniority and create a situation where there is no consequence to taking false sick days and it is virtually impossible to be fired, the quality of performance in that profession will drop precipitously. It’s not about teachers, it’s about the system and basic human psychology. Getting better teachers to start won’t change this. I agree we should ask for a higher minimum college GPA, perhaps adjustable based on Major and College Attended. I had a 3.9 at Cal in a good major but not a hard scientific one but I’d say anyone in my Major with under a 3.0 or really under a 3.3 wasn’t really trying. If you take people with easier Majors and 2.5 GPAs at a State College, they aren’t going to be good role models for kids. They won’t encourage them to prioritize school and study long hours (Asians study 13.8 hours a week vs. 5.6 for whites in CA) because they didn’t. They’ll be more likely to make jokes about not studying and drunken parties they attended in college. If you had a 2.5 at State, you’re no role model and poor kids aren’t going to rise into the upper middle class by following your example.

      • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

        Ann: Not really. The most comprehensive study of teachers' academic prowess in the US was done by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) in a study: How Teachers Compare. It demonstrates that teachers compare with any other college educated group of professionals you might think of. Teachers are a little better with language skills than attorneys and a little less proficient with math than engineers. When people talk about the "Quality of teachers" or "Quality of schools" … Read More

        Ann:

        Not really. The most comprehensive study of teachers’ academic prowess in the US was done by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) in a study: How Teachers Compare. It demonstrates that teachers compare with any other college educated group of professionals you might think of. Teachers are a little better with language skills than attorneys and a little less proficient with math than engineers.

        When people talk about the “Quality of teachers” or “Quality of schools” or, for that matter, where the “bad teachers” are and how various statutes protect them, its amazing that’s it’s incredibly difficult to find low quality teachers or schools or districts who struggle getting “good” teachers, or administrators paralyzed by the law, in districts with predominately high wealth students.

        BTW on those vaunted international tests, US schools with 10% or fewer students on “free and reduced lunch” are the highest scoring in the world.

        All of these relationships, between high wealth and high school achievement, are mere coincidences to the self-styled reformers. To the thinking though, it’s presents a different picture.

  18. Miguel De Santos 2 years ago2 years ago

    When can we vote for Diane Ravitch for Secretary of Education? Someone with common sense in public education.

  19. Lois 2 years ago2 years ago

    Thank you for your clear assessment of what Arne Duncan has done and how he did it, the effects it has had, and how both his and the Republicans' plan will not lead to improved and equal education, especially for poor children. Thanks also for your specific solutions to actually fix NCLB, including using normed standardized tests for diagnostic purposes. What is the next step to get your suggestions implemented--are there any in Congress that … Read More

    Thank you for your clear assessment of what Arne Duncan has done and how he did it, the effects it has had, and how both his and the Republicans’ plan will not lead to improved and equal education, especially for poor children. Thanks also for your specific solutions to actually fix NCLB, including using normed standardized tests for diagnostic purposes. What is the next step to get your suggestions implemented–are there any in Congress that might write a bill encompassing your solutions that could be encouraged to do so?

  20. Doug McRae 2 years ago2 years ago

    The idea that NAEP data along with only teacher-made tests will suffice for meaningful accountability data just won't fly. The problem is, NAEP with its matrix sampling design does not generate any assessment information at the student or school level, and only at the district level for a few large districts in CA, and it only has data for grades 4 and 8 every other year. So, almost no actionable data at all for districts … Read More

    The idea that NAEP data along with only teacher-made tests will suffice for meaningful accountability data just won’t fly. The problem is, NAEP with its matrix sampling design does not generate any assessment information at the student or school level, and only at the district level for a few large districts in CA, and it only has data for grades 4 and 8 every other year. So, almost no actionable data at all for districts or schools, and no standardized information across schools or districts, no useful information for the trenches, and reduced state level information for both grade levels and years. Provided NAEP is adjusted to measure the common core [some NAEP purists will fight that tooth and nail], we could get information to feed the beast for federal data in DC and soft data [tho probably the best that can be done] for international comparisons, as well as data for the keyboards of national observers like Ravitch. We have census statewide testing programs for selected grades and content areas precisely for needs not satisfied by NAEP-level data nor satisfied by teacher-only made tests, to generate some actionable comparable data for all schools and districts and for selected subgroups lower than the state level.

    The above being said, the debate on how many grades, for which content areas, for census testing should be an open debate. There is no question many statewide testing programs have so many bells and whistles that in total they add up to abusive testing. But, rather than throw the baby out with the bath water, how about refreshing the bath water by eliminating redundant testing and more carefully deciding which grades should have census testing for which content areas. In California, the high school assessment program for the last 10-12 years has been grossly overloaded. CAHSEE and STAR tests cover the same content area and grade levels, and these overlaps should have been reduced 8-10 years ago by coordinating the two programs [for example, kids with good scores on STAR grades 8-9 are pre-qualified to meet the CAHSEE graduation requirement and do not have to take CAHSEE in grade 10]. Some STAR high school census tests overlapped with STAR end-of-course tests; the end-of-course tests provided the more useful information, and many of the census tests could have been abandoned years ago. In other words, smarter design decisions could have prevented the overloading of the high school statewide assessment schedule considerably; Sen Jack Scott carried legislation to this effect in 2008, but it was never implemented. The problem was not the tests per se, it was the lack of appropriate planning for the design of the entire statewide assessment program. Hopefully this design mentality will prevail as the CAASPP testing program is fleshed out to include science and social studies and to meet the varying purposes that will invariably surface.

    But, the Ravitch suggestion for NAEP-only plus only teacher-made tests won’t fly; there are needs for standardized testing information in-between those two levels.

    Replies

    • Manuel 2 years ago2 years ago

      That is a very informative post, Doug, but I am left with more questions after you raised some intriguing ideas. From what you wrote, Doug, it seems to me that the need for "assessment information at the student or school level" is there not because it is needed to run a school, but because the Public School Accountability Act of 1999 decrees that it should be produced. Is the PSAA still needed after we have seen … Read More

      That is a very informative post, Doug, but I am left with more questions after you raised some intriguing ideas.

      From what you wrote, Doug, it seems to me that the need for “assessment information at the student or school level” is there not because it is needed to run a school, but because the Public School Accountability Act of 1999 decrees that it should be produced.

      Is the PSAA still needed after we have seen what a beast it has created? It is worse, in many ways, than the federal beast that has to be fed. So why not starve it and drown it in a bathtub and just feed the federal beast? BTW, when does the PSAA sunset, if at all?

      And what exactly is the “actionable data” that the PSAA-mandated tests generate for for districts or schools?

      As for “useful information for the trenches,” are you referring to the idea that teachers will adjust their methods when they see the test scores for the previous year? But how could they when they get no information at all on what the students learned (or not)?

      And if you the “state level information for both grade levels and years” is what was put into the API hopper, well, now that the API will change, is this information still needed?

      Like I said, you raised more questions, in my opinion. Nevertheless, thanks!

    • Carl Cohn 2 years ago2 years ago

      Doug, your argument is an excellent representation of the folly of the past decade and half. At one point, I was actually in the trenches running an award-winning urban school system, and I can assure you that we didn't get there because of the "actionable data" provided by the state and federal government. We improved the capacity of our teachers through powerful professional development and we used locally developed data to intervene early with kids … Read More

      Doug, your argument is an excellent representation of the folly of the past decade and half. At one point, I was actually in the trenches running an award-winning urban school system, and I can assure you that we didn’t get there because of the “actionable data” provided by the state and federal government. We improved the capacity of our teachers through powerful professional development and we used locally developed data to intervene early with kids who were behind.

      I continue to be amazed at how many really smart people like you suffer from Stockholm syndrome…

      • Doug McRae 2 years ago2 years ago

        I don't think I'm suffering from Stockholm syndrome, Carl, rather I'm listening to vices that K-12 insiders (like teachers and administrators) frequently don't like to listen to, i.e., parents and taxpayers. This latter group, which pays the bills for K-12 public schools, are 70-80 percent in favor of end-of-year tests that attempt to track achievement in a standardized comparable way for all schools, all districts, and importantly significant subgroups like ELs, low-SESs, and SWDs. … Read More

        I don’t think I’m suffering from Stockholm syndrome, Carl, rather I’m listening to vices that K-12 insiders (like teachers and administrators) frequently don’t like to listen to, i.e., parents and taxpayers. This latter group, which pays the bills for K-12 public schools, are 70-80 percent in favor of end-of-year tests that attempt to track achievement in a standardized comparable way for all schools, all districts, and importantly significant subgroups like ELs, low-SESs, and SWDs. School insiders are now and have been resistant, in general, toward anything that tends to hold their feet to the fire. The Ravitch suggestion for NAEP-only combined with non-standardized teacher-only testing (no standardization or comparability among schools or districts or important subgroups at these levels) clearly sides with education insiders rather than the larger parent and taxpayer views.

        Yup, you were in the trenches running an award-winning urban school district [perhaps standardized statewide assessment data contributed to those accolades? (grin)], and did it very well. Has the Long Beach “way” been widely replicated with the same degree of success? Not yet, as far as I know, tho it has helped many other districts in many ways. I’d agree “actionable data” from state and federal sources were not the primary factors for Long Beach success, that local instructional tracking data and great attention to really good sustained professional development were the key factors. But the end-of-year statewide assessment data did serve to document gains in a standardized way and point to areas where gains were not sufficient when such areas were identified. This is an appropriate division of effort for local district local school vs statewide assessment data. Only a local control view that advocates for a “get out of my kitchen, let me do my own thing” without external checks for how well it is working would result in a “let’s get rid of well designed end-of-year standardized achievement tests for all districts and schools” as advocated by Ravitch.

        • Doug McRae 2 years ago2 years ago

          Oops, meant “voices” in the top line above . . . .

          • Carl Cohn 2 years ago2 years ago

            It’s possible that we are “vices”…LOL!

            • Doug McRae 2 years ago2 years ago

              You said that, I didn’t . . . or mean to . . . . LOL!!

          • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

            Oh! Those voices. From the Annenberg Media site addressing the 2013 Gallup/PDK polling on education issues:

            “A recent poll shows that the majority of Americans now oppose using test scores to evaluate teachers. The American Policy Makers Gallup poll also found that most people think increased testing has hurt public schools.”

        • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

          We shouldn't forget that PSAA served to help highlight inequities or that the LCFF law, a reform spearheaded and heralded by education insiders, was largely due to that highlighting. I'm no fan of the overuse of standardized testing and can agree that the last 15 years has been marked by such overuse to the detriment of students. That's obvious enough. That said, lack of useful data for teaching purposes and poor policy … Read More

          We shouldn’t forget that PSAA served to help highlight inequities or that the LCFF law, a reform spearheaded and heralded by education insiders, was largely due to that highlighting.

          I’m no fan of the overuse of standardized testing and can agree that the last 15 years has been marked by such overuse to the detriment of students. That’s obvious enough. That said, lack of useful data for teaching purposes and poor policy decision-making doesn’t preclude the necessity of well-designed testing for accountability purposes as Doug expertly explained. In the same way the construction of eastern span of the SF Bay Bridge was improperly managed, but that doesn’t mean it was not properly designed or that we don’t need a bridge.

          Public education insider’s rely on statewide standardized assessments to demonstrate relative improvement and that wins praise. When they aren’t demonstrating improvement they don’t like such assessments.

          Despite achievement gap improvement during the 90’s, in 2013 LBUSD received a D+ for serving low-income Latino and African American students in a study released by Education-Trust-West.

          Then director, Aran Ramanathan, said, “We know Long Beach is touted as a top district in California. When we saw their data, we were surprised — very surprised,” he said. “It’s not our data. It’s the state’s data,” he added. “We have the greatest level of respect for folks down there, but the data is the data.”

          We need a relative picture of achievement even if it’s only a snapshot, particularly now that we have local control. That isn’t to say the picture shouldn’t include more “actionable data”. It should given the time and expense allocated to the testing regime. Whether that’s possible I don’t know.

        • Gary Ravani 2 years ago2 years ago

          Problem is, Doug, the "voices" you assert you are listening to (right off the bat that's not a good start. Voices?!) are formed by the "crisis in the schools" hysteria that is generated via media hype. It's like the "Ebola Crisis" that meant the end of civilization as we know it. Not really. And just what, in a very practical sense, have the disembodied "voices" really gained? This is part of an "accountability system" that focuses on … Read More

          Problem is, Doug, the “voices” you assert you are listening to (right off the bat that’s not a good start. Voices?!) are formed by the “crisis in the schools” hysteria that is generated via media hype. It’s like the “Ebola Crisis” that meant the end of civilization as we know it. Not really.

          And just what, in a very practical sense, have the disembodied “voices” really gained?

          This is part of an “accountability system” that focuses on those (drat those ‘insiders” who’ve dedicated their professional lives to actually working in schools) who are responsible for about 33% of the the differences in measurable test scores. Those who can be said to be responsible for the other 66% are home free. They can point fingers, print box scores in the paper, file frivolous lawsuits, do whatever EXCEPT be held accountable for their responsibilities. That’s why the whole test score mania has been such a demonstrable failure and policy farce.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            What are you saying, Gary, that parents and the public at large should have no voice because the media has poisoned the well? What I think you’re really espousing is a public school system run by insiders with no input from the public except its money.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            The opinions of parents and the public should be ignored at all costs. What do these outsiders really know about teaching since the lion’s share of the achievement gap can be attributed to their failure to properly prepare their children, granted some do a commendable job? What is all the hoopla about parent engagement? Who really wants to have families engaged when they're unable to intelligently participate in public debate … Read More

            The opinions of parents and the public should be ignored at all costs. What do these outsiders really know about teaching since the lion’s share of the achievement gap can be attributed to their failure to properly prepare their children, granted some do a commendable job? What is all the hoopla about parent engagement? Who really wants to have families engaged when they’re unable to intelligently participate in public debate of the issues affecting their own children? Most haven’t got the slightest idea what it takes to teach a child in poverty. And why is that? – Because they themselves are poor – and dumb! That’s why parent-teacher conferences are such a waste of teacher time and why public servitude and teaching are noble.

        • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

          Do those voices sound as if they know what is best for education? The term "accountability" has positive connotations with the public. It really doesn't matter if it is a fake, absurd, or faulty sense of accountability. People just eat that stuff up. However, I am positive that if they spent a year in a classroom trying to raise Johnny's scores from Below Basic to Basic or if they just observed the inner workings of … Read More

          Do those voices sound as if they know what is best for education? The term “accountability” has positive connotations with the public. It really doesn’t matter if it is a fake, absurd, or faulty sense of accountability. People just eat that stuff up. However, I am positive that if they spent a year in a classroom trying to raise Johnny’s scores from Below Basic to Basic or if they just observed the inner workings of an inner-city school, I am sure they would change their minds quite quickly.

        • navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

          We spend at least 2 weeks just taking the state tests. A lot more when you include how their existence impacts curriculum and instruction. When we have budget shortfalls, those are not the days we cut. Now we have private companies promising better results on the standardized tests they've authored for us if we'd just use their interim assessments and even formative tools! This is not simply being in the kitchen. We have rabid psychopaths … Read More

          We spend at least 2 weeks just taking the state tests. A lot more when you include how their existence impacts curriculum and instruction. When we have budget shortfalls, those are not the days we cut. Now we have private companies promising better results on the standardized tests they’ve authored for us if we’d just use their interim assessments and even formative tools! This is not simply being in the kitchen. We have rabid psychopaths at the throats of legislators trying to convince them that ‘the solution’ is to use the ‘data’ generated by these very tests you claim could be used to identify holes in instruction or program effectiveness to instead be used to simply fire teachers or identify them for being trimmed during lean years (which virtually everyone agrees will never end when viewed from the standpoint of what a student requires for a quality education–yet we somehow fail to keep that in mind when ‘evaluating’ how a school or district is ‘performing’). This is not actionable data, it is a hammer.
          We even have otherwise smart people using edtrust ‘data’ to make decisions about program effectiveness when that ‘data’ is based on unadjusted subgroup API gaps, which is about as appropriate to use as a measure for instructional or program effectiveness as a 12-inch ruler is for measuring the distance to the moon; perhaps even especially so in a district like long beach.
          Providing accountability data to the public is useless if the goal truly is as a district-internal improvement tool. Instead, public data is provided under the belief that it is through supply and demand; through pressure put on them by their ‘customers’ that districts will suddenly wake up and do what’s right. This reminds me of the argument during our last parcel tax debate that withholding additional funds–during the height of the recession, no less–was the best way to slap some sense into district administration to finally mend their ways and do what they should have been doing all along, which is counteracting the impact of societal and generational poverty. Of course everyone wants that!

          Normally, I am a huge proponent of trying to replenish with clean bath water. But I look at what it is we are actually implementing–much of which you’ve even fairly criticized as horribly misguided–and I wonder how much more toxic sludge we must continue to watch ooze from the spigot until we can expect to see some clean water. Especially when the spring is not even on our land.
          We need to have a real discussion about accountability, why we want it, and more importantly why we think we want it. We need to understand what the price is that we pay for it and determine whether it is worth that price (no it is not free). And we need to do that before we can ask people what their opinions on it are, and then use those opinions to define pedagogical strategy without so much as batting an eye.

        • Manuel 2 years ago2 years ago

          Now that the dust has settled, I'd like to put in my two cents, if I may. You, Doug, claim to be listening to parents and taxpayers. But have you told them that those above your pay grade, as you once put it, are the ones who have made the decisions on where to put the cutoff points in those tests you believe to be "well designed" and are, when it is all said and done, responsible … Read More

          Now that the dust has settled, I’d like to put in my two cents, if I may.

          You, Doug, claim to be listening to parents and taxpayers.

          But have you told them that those above your pay grade, as you once put it, are the ones who have made the decisions on where to put the cutoff points in those tests you believe to be “well designed” and are, when it is all said and done, responsible for maintaining the “achievement gap?”

          Sure, you can maintain that the Gaussian distribution of the tests is inevitable and you might be right. But then insistance in the part of those voices you did not mention (politicians, educrats, educational “entrepreneurs” and rich people with nothing better to do than tell the rest of us how we should run our public schools they don’t even use for their own children) that the entire population better be above the average or else indicates that the game is rigged from the get-go.

          The problem with testing and the resulting scores is that the public (including the voices you did mention) are never ever told what is in the tests and how the “data” is manipulated. Why? There are the usual pious statements (“the security of the test items must be preserved”) but the real reason is because they demonstrate that the tests have nothing to with what goes on in the classroom. Sure, someone will say that the grades given by teachers to their students are equally susceptible to manipulation. But this is insane because we had a reasonable education system before the accountability hysteria took over.

          The day test scores correlate with classroom grades is when I’ll believe that a test measures academic achievement and can be used to determine where our tax dollars should be spent at.

          (Yes, I’ll repeat it again: LAUSD compared the 2008-09 CST scores to classroom grades and found that the score distribution was not affected by classroom grade if and when the students were taking the test seriously. Even when they were not, significant populations of classroom-failing students were achieving “advanced” scores. To claim that classroom grade inflation and deflation in cohorts of 50,000+ students across a large geographical area explains this lack of correlation is total BS. And people want to label schools as failing and fire teachers over this so-called “actionable data?” Talk about a criminal misuse of statistics.)

    • Ecer 2 years ago2 years ago

      The point that Ravitch is making is that "accountability testing" is not a good idea--you can't tell how teachers are doing by testing their students. Yes, NAEP is not enough for "accountability testing." Nothing short of a miracle would be. In the absence of that miracle, we should probably stop wasting money on "accountability" that can't work. Read More

      The point that Ravitch is making is that “accountability testing” is not a good idea–you can’t tell how teachers are doing by testing their students. Yes, NAEP is not enough for “accountability testing.” Nothing short of a miracle would be.

      In the absence of that miracle, we should probably stop wasting money on “accountability” that can’t work.

  21. Kathy Shepard 2 years ago2 years ago

    Thank you. Now how can we get your ideas to be the law??