Tuesday, July 19, 2016

How Has Opposition to Corporate School Reform Evolved? | janresseger

How Has Opposition to Corporate School Reform Evolved? | janresseger:

How Has Opposition to Corporate School Reform Evolved?

The Republicans began their convention here in Cleveland yesterday, and the Democrats will meet soon in Philadelphia. The political season is upon us, with not much attention to the policies that affect our public schools. But I believe support for important reform in public schools has evolved considerably over the past couple of decades, despite that we still see intense advocacy for corporate reform supported by philanthropists and think tanks promoting the supposed efficiency of markets.
In 2010, Diane Ravitch, the education historian who had supported corporate reform as a fellow at the Hoover Institution and an assistant secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush, did an about face in The Death and Life of the Great American School System.  Basic Books has recently published a revised edition. To mark the new edition of Ravitch’s important book, Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post recently published an interview with Ravitch and in a subsequent column an excerpt from the revised edition. Ravitch’s description of the evolution of her own thinking seems to me a good summary of the developing consensus of today’s thoughtful advocates who want to preserve a strong system of public education that serves all children and protects their rights.
When she published The Death and Life of the Great American School System in 2010, Ravitch rejected her previous support for the kind of accountability-based school “reform” defined by the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act because, she said, she had discovered it didn’t work.  It neither raised overall school achievement nor closed gaps in scores among racial and economic groups of children. In her 2010 book, Ravitch also categorically rejected the Obama-Duncan philosophy of education epitomized by Race to the Top and the Bloomberg-Klein commitment to the explosive growth of charter schools that dominated the enormous New York City school district at the time.  She castigated the ideas of a group of super-wealthy philanthropists she called The Billionaire Boys Club: Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and the Waltons.
In her interview last month with Strauss, Ravitch describes her delight when Basic Books invited her to publish a revised edition, because over time her thinking has continued to develop: “As time passed, I realized that there was one key point in the book that I found embarrassing. In the final chapter, I reiterated my long-standing support for national standards and a national curriculum… The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that national standards and a national curriculum was another truly bad idea.” Ravitch describes the new edition in which: “I quite bluntly admit… that the pursuit of national standards, national curriculum and national tests is a dead end… Even in states that have the same standards and tests, there are achievement gaps, reflecting wealth and poverty. Politicians continue to claim that making tests harder will make students smarter. But tests are not an instructional method; they are a measure… What we now know, because of the failure of the Common Core, is that increasing the difficulty of the material to be learned and the rigor of the tests widens the achievement gaps. Children who are already struggling to keep up will fall farther behind.”
When Strauss asks how Ravitch believes the anti-corporate-reform movement, of which Ravitch has been a leader, has changed the conversation, Ravitch answers: “Fewer people today believe that charters have some special magic; more people understand now that those with the highest scores exclude low-performing students or push them out.  The virtual How Has Opposition to Corporate School Reform Evolved? | janresseger:

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