Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Diane Ravitch Urges Major Overhaul of NCLB

Diance Ravitch has an op-ed article in the New York Times today urging major overhaul of NCLB.

Her proposal is first, to abandon the silly rhetorical goal of 100% proficiency, and second, to abandon the flawed state level tests.

In place of the tests she proposes that the federal government collect all statistical data, in line with the national assessment of educational progress or NAEP, and then support the states in providing local solutions for the specific problems the tests reveal.

See her article at:

Ravitch's article can be a good jumping off platform for further thoughts on NCLB. Please consider offering a comment about it.


teacherken said...

I blogged about this at dailykos today. You can read what I wrote here

Normally when I write about educational stuff at dailykos it gets a lot of traffic. This was posted in middle of day so it did not. But there are some interesting comments.

Too bad Ravitch was not listening to those of us who predicted exactly what she (and Checker Finn) now admit they had not foreseen. Somehow I feel like Jim Webb or Eric Shinsecki with what they predicted about Iraq.

Oh well.

Duane Campbell said...

We have been discussing this piece and the Chester Finn piece on ELL Advocates.
Here is a beginning reflection.

This is not about supporting Chester Finn nor Diane Ravitch.

Note what the say. Finn says NCLB is a "civil rights manifesto", it threatens hard won accountability gains - so it should be amended.

Ravitch apparently wants a better test, a single nation wide test. She is not opposed to the current over testing, just stop those states from being too easy in their own testing.

The Forum on Education and Democracy offers a better response: the "NCLB's rigid, mechanistic, sanctions-based approach is doing more harm than good. The modest changes in the House Education Committee's discussion draft and those apparently under consideration in the Senate HELP Committee will not solve the problems. Minor tinkering won't fix the law's reliance on high-stakes testing, unrealistic achievement targets, and punitive mandates.

This brand of accountability sets up a majority of American schools for failure. Repeated studies have shown that most schools in most states will not make AYP (see link to report, below). Over the next few years, the result will be to weaken public support for public education. It could pave the way for privatization schemes that will leave increasing numbers of children behind. More generally, the chaos created by NCLB will intensify voters' cynicism about the federal government's ability to play a constructive or even competent role in social policy."

So, for me no cheers that Finn and Ravitch have taken a critical stand. They want to be consulted as insiders to write a more rigid accountability stand.
This reminds me of Ravitch's pernicious role in California. She was one of three who wrote the History /Social Science Framework in 1987, and currently in use. She defined what multiculturalism is, a neo con version, very Euro centric.
That is what these three are doing here. They are joining the chorus in opposition to NCLB in order to be selected to sit on the panels to draft a new bill or new language.

Duane Campbell

James Horn said...

Conservatives are fleeing the burning NCLB ship, preferring to drown in open waters or, as in some cases, attempt to crawl aboard a rescue vessel, even if it seems to be occupied by liberals. Yuck!

Yesterday's op-ed in the NYTimes by Diane Ravitch shows what can happen when an arch conservative decides, for political/survival reasons, to become her own misunderstood version of a liberal. In accomplishing such a feat, Ravitch would have been well-served to continue her making-nice conversations with Deborah Meier long enough to find out what a real liberal would do with the crumbling privatization plan of NCLB, rather than letting Chester Finn's people in Central Casting come up with their caricatured version of the Liberal Solution.

Ravitch seems to think the old Bush charade of local control in education accountability, which has so far meant that states make and administer their own tests while the Feds hand out the punishment, should now be reversed so that now Central Planning will make/administer the tests, while the states and localities will take on the policing and accountability/sentencing roles. If this is what the Cons believe liberalism is about, their socio-political calendar has, indeed, been turned back to the the early 1950s.

The only people likely to be excited by Ravitch's proposed nightmare are the national socialists who have already decided to willingly sacrifice the Republic to preserve, at any cost, American economic hegemony around the world to benefit an increasingly-paranoid group of white, protestant CEOs.

Ravitch's piece, then, serves as nice propaganda salve for the shamed privatizers, who would now seem to be in retreat from their engineered plan to sacrifice a generation of children as a means to cynnically produce a political end.

If she were really interested in reversing roles, why not make the Feds truly accountable, rather than the states and local school districts? Why not give Washington until, let's say, 2030 to bring down the poverty scores in America? If we were were to focus on ending poverty in America, all this wasted time and money on the orgy of tabulation could be saved, because when poverty ends and family incomes go up, achievement gaps will narrow and real achievement for all will be realized. There is a candidate who has a plan for this, Diane--his name is John Edwards.

Diane's op-ed, however, called "Get Congress Out of the Classroom." still pretends that moving around the deck chairs on the sinking education accountability ship will somehow help. And the title of her op-ed belies a continuing denial of the fact that it was the Executive Branch that crafted this current debacle, rather than an out-of-touch and out-maneuvered Congress. It's just too bad that Ravitch did not use her broad influence seven years ago to publish an op-ed that might have been called "Get the White House Out of the Schoolhouse." If she had, she might have been high and dry at this very moment, rather than swimming for her political life.

Jim Horn
Schools Matter

Barbara Stengel said...

Diane Ravitch can be an arrogant pain in the neck but I find that it's usually worthwhile to take her seriously -even when, especially when, I think I disagree. In this case, I completely agree that NCLB is "fundamentally flawed," ludicrous in its design that called for 100% proficiency by 2014. It's ludicrous for reasons that have been ably documented in lots of places -- e.g. disjunct between national testing requirements but 50 different sets of standards and actual tests, failure to recognize legitimate differences among learners and the inability of certains kinds of instruments to capture knowledge and capability, reliance on one simplistic and inauthentic form of assessment, differential impact on urban and suburban schools, etc.

All summer long I sat on the beach and watched news report after news report that made me think that the tide had turned, that NCLB would not be reauthorized in any recognizable form. I still think that -- and support from Ravitch, Finn and others confirms my assessment. Even though Congress is still conducting hearings and various versions of reauthorization are being proposed and Presidential candidates still offer tepid support, I think the ebb tide is replacing the flow tide. It's not a "done deal" but the signs are there.

Now I don't agree with Ravitch's assessment that NCLB can be salvaged. I think it has to be repudiated in its design and motivation (as a shill for school "choice"). But I do think it's right that there is a role for the federal government and I think NAEP can play a part in that. In truth, it's the only test that probably makes some sense to use. And its role can be comparative. It IS useful, I think, to know what my students know in comparison to students around the country. I and my colleagues can make a responsible decision to adjust curriculum if we find a disjunction we take to be significant. And it is helpful for school boards and state DoEs to frame their task and challenge. However, it's use cannot be the kind of punitive bludgeon we've seen in recent years. And a national testing requirement should not be used as a cover to make inroads on a highly politicized issue like vouchers. If we're going to switch to a voucher system, let's take the issue on straightaway.

As far as I'm concerned, NCLB has to go away because it relies on ONE measure of achievement, a technique that is scientificallly and statistically unjustifiable. Triangulation of data/sources is critical to ground any policy judgment. So whatever NCLB can become, it should require and be based on a much richer picture of student growth.

Leonard Waks said...

By publishing Ravitch's article the Times serves an important function -- putting out a statement that provokes a range of reasonable replies.

Because NCLB is a political document and not a philosophical thesis, reasoned argument will not entirely determine its fate. The law has many constituents who lobby effectively.

That said, a vigorous debate can affect the legislative end-game and final result.

I agree with Ken that there are positive elements in Ravitch's piece (whatever any one of us thinks of Ravitch herself, which is really a different matter).

As Barbara notes, NAEP provides useful data to states and local districts. It never caused anyopne to teach for the test, and could not.

Now if the federal government used the NAEP data to distribute additional money to states and local districts that were performing poorly but demonstrated serious intent to improve, and the funds could be used in accord with certain broad guidelines but with much local flexibility, that would be a big improvement.

Some of us would prefer the whole thing to go away. I agree with Barb that the tide has turned, and have written a long article explaining why. (Anyone wanting more info should email me). But I don't think we are there quite yet.

So I am willing to settle for a greatly weakened bill and welcome any support for it, even if it is not my first choice.