Wednesday, October 03, 2007

New Blog Asks for Comments on Ravitch's Op-Ed

Check out the new blog started by the chair of the Dewey Society's Commission on Social Issues, Len Waks, who asks for comments on Diane Ravitch's NYT op ed today on NCLB.


Barbara Stengel said...

I posted this comment on the JDS blog but I'm repeating here . . .

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.

A. G. Rud said...

Well said, Barb. Re Ravitch, a long time ago I sat at a lunch table in Chapel Hill with her and Mortimer Adler. Talk about being surrounded by essentialism! It was an odd lunch; as I remember, she was there to give a lunchtime talk at a Paideia conference. I spent a fair amount of time squiring around Mortimer Adler on other occasions in my previous job, never quite understanding the fit of his world view with that of North Carolina.

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