Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ravitch, unpredictable, still likes NCLB basics

Jay Mathews's take, pointing out how she totally misrepresents a Washington Post editorial (she regularly in the book mischaracterizes reformers views):

Ravitch is our best living historian of education. In my view she is the best ever, since those who preceded her, including some of her mentors, did not write nearly as well. Her
"Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms" is a masterpiece. I was surprised then that she wasn't more patient in this book with the American way of improving education.

Many education reforms have gone badly in the last 20 years, but there never has been a golden age of school improvement. No Child Left Behind had many flaws, but it left us better off than than we were before, with more attention to low-income and learning disabled children, and some gains in lower grades, particularly in math. We bumble along, doing our best, hoping that our next idea will produce big gains but knowing that all we can expect is to be a bit better than before.

There are some crazies out there who disagree with this and say an education revolution is possible. They know who they are. They don't include the weary legislators and White House aides who put together No Child Left Behind, making the compromises that are necessary in the democratic society that Ravitch celebrates throughout her book.

Still, she trashes educators and commentators who, she says, put their faith in one-step solutions. She said a 2009 pro-charter study "suggested to editorialists at the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and other national media that charter schools were the silver bullet that could finally solve the most deep-seated problems of urban education." She kindly footnoted the editorials, so I went and read the one in the Post. It was a typical endorsement of charters as an improvement, not a panacea.

"The desperation of poor parents whose children are stuck on waiting lists for charter schools is well-founded," the editorial said. It did not say that reform was going to save the inner city.


Ravitch, unpredictable, still likes NCLB basics

Jay Mathews

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