Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ravitch the Reformed Testmaniac

Diane Ravitch is a fascinating case, a highly educated and influential person who has a very rare trait: she is willing to admit a mistake, as when she now realizes that her support for the testmania was a tremendous error.  Her book "The Death and Life of the American School System" is tremendous.
In their embrace of testing, Sparks Middle School, Aspire Antonio Maria Lugo Academy and Wilmington Middle School reflect the data-driven approach to education that has dominated American schools since the No Child Left Behind Act was approved in 2001.

These schools swear by their system, but it’s a trend that many reformers decry, among them Diane Ravitch, the former assistant U.S. secretary of education. Ravitch, who initially supported No Child, now says the mandate for standardized testing is “part of the sickness of American education.” She chronicled her change of heart in The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education, a 2010 best-seller.

It’s not data that’s missing, Ravitch says. It’s vision. Testing should be used as a diagnostic tool, not to replace instruction. As she said in a recent interview with Miller-McCune, “You don’t spend your life to get a temperature of 98.6.”

“This heavy concentration on testing and scores distorts education,” Ravitch says. “The schools take time from the arts, history, foreign languages, civics and other important studies to get those scores up. Makes a school look better, but it has nothing to do with good education. … Are the kids in the school honest? Are they responsible? Are they willing to stand up to bullies and show courage?”
 That was from Miller-McCune magazine, a very interesting new magazine.  More on schools from their website:

Back-to-School Basics

Back-to-School BasicsFor a look at what public schools are doing to repair themselves on the cheap, check out the education stories found in the September-October 2011 issue of Miller-McCune, and when they’ll be available on

Teacher Collaboration Gives Schools Better Results, August 22

What Would Diane Ravitch Say?, August 22

Chicago Charter Schools Aim to Lift Urban Education, August 23

Bad Teachers Improving With Help From Peers, August 24

Showing Where Community Colleges Pass, Fail, August 25

Bridging the Budget Gap with Stolen Lunch Money, August 25

Teaching Religious Literacy in California’s Bible Belt, August 26

Checking Consumerism at the School Door, August 26

And … an online exclusive:
The Real Cheating Scandal of Standardized Tests
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