I admire Diane Ravitch's intelligence and her tenacity. She wanted to believe in President Bush's No Child Left Behind, President Obama's Race to the Top, and the Common Core (Renouncing the Common Core). Faced with their clear failure, she speaks out:
...As I watched the harmful effects of No Child Left Behind, I began to have doubts. The law required that all schools reach 100 percent proficiency as measured by state tests or face harsh punishments. This was an impossible goal. Standardized tests became the be-all and end-all of education, and states spent billions on them.
Social scientists have long known that the best predictor of test scores is family income. Yet policy makers encouraged the firing of thousands of teachers and the closing of thousands of low-scoring public schools, mostly in poor black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
As the damage escalated, I renounced my support for high-stakes testing and charter schools. Nonetheless, I clung to the hope that we might agree on national standards and a national curriculum. Surely, I thought, they would promote equity since all children would study the same things and take the same tests. But now I realize that I was wrong about that, too.
Six years after the release of our first national standards, the Common Core and the new federal tests that accompanied them, it seems clear that the pursuit of a national curriculum is yet another excuse to avoid making serious efforts to reduce the main causes of low student achievement: poverty and racial segregation...
The Race to the Top demoralized teachers, caused teacher shortages and led to the defunding of the arts and other subjects that were not tested. Those billions would have been better spent to reduce class sizes, especially in struggling schools, to restore arts and physical education classes, to rebuild physically crumbling schools, and to provide universal early childhood education...
What is called “the achievement gap” is actually an “opportunity gap.” What we need are schools where all children have the same chance to learn. That doesn’t require national standards or national tests, which improve neither teaching nor learning and do nothing to help poor children at racially segregated schools. We need to focus on that, not on promoting failed ideas.
Ravitch has announced her support of Hillary Clinton, but it will be a critical support after she is elected (Why I am voting for Hillary Clinton):
Hillary says she supports only “high quality charter schools,” but what does that mean? The charters with the highest test scores? Those are the charters that are most likely to exclude students who don’t speak English and students with disabilities and to push out problem students. Why should our government deliberately fund a two-track school system? Charter schools are NOT public schools. They are private schools that receive public funding.
If she is elected, and I hope she is, I will continue to fight for public education. Supporting public education is not a choice, it is a civic responsibility. It is a civic responsibility for those whose children are grown and for those who have no children. This is what good citizens do. I will continue to try to persuade the Democrats to oppose the school privatization policies promoted by ALEC, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Rick Snyder, Rick Scott, Mike Pence, Pat McCrory, Donald Trump, the Republican Party, and the Tea Party.
Ravitch's blog is a must for anyone interested in education. She is devastating on the regime of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education under Obama:
The short version is that he opened doors for the booming education business. The longer version is that he did nothing to reverse the resegregation of American schools, but his efforts have been a boon to the testing industry and the charter industry.
Thanks to Arne, many entrepreneurs were encouraged to sell stuff to schools. The U.S. Department of Education is a marketing machine for the tech industry. Wanna buy a new ap? Check with ED. How else to explain the transition of almost every public school in the nation to online testing, even though studies show that students test better when they use paper and pen/pencil? Did anyone ask for that?
Other changes that Arne was responsible for: an explosion of publicly funded private schools (charter schools); Common Core; closing thousands of public schools in black and brown communities; massive collection of personally identifiable student data; data mining.
How many billions were wasted on ed tech and Common Core that might have been spent to reduce class sizes and improve teachers’ salaries or to encourage desegregation?
See also Where does Hillary Clinton stand on education reform? in The New Yorker.