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Is Diane Ravitch Making a Dent in the “Education Reform” movement?

June 10, 2011

I would like to think so, and so would Anthony Cody who wrote this piece over at Education Week, I thought it was really good so I decided to pass it along.  Cody makes the case that Jonathan Alter, like Guggenheim before him with his “Waiting for Superman” ode to the reform movement, are basically kicking a hornets nest.

Every time a “reformer” criticizes what they call the “status quo”  teachers fight back, via blog posts, opinions pieces, or nationally with a voice like Diane Ravitch’s.  From Cody’s piece:

Why do they write these things? It is a sign that critics like Ravitch are making a dent in the “education reform” narrative. She is especially devastating, because she focuses on the heart of the mythology the “reformers” have offered to justify their policies. This Alter hit was provoked after Ravitch unspun the latest “miracle schools” that supposedly prove poverty doesn’t matter, and that high expectations and accountability are the keys to success. Ravitch knows that it takes on-the-ground facts to defeat a mythology, and provides them in her writing.

But the response has outweighed Alter’s weak attack tenfold. And the response is far more authoritative than his original bluster. Dozens of teachers are stepping up, as did Alice Mercer, to point out how education reform policies actually affect their schools.

Cody’s piece included a link to Alice Mercer’s blog (which I hadn’t read before, thank you Anthony) in which she writes about Jonathan Alter’s argument being “moronic.”

I am a teacher in a so-called failing school. I have spent my 10+ year career teaching in high poverty schools. Like most schools in poor neighborhoods, they have been low performing, and always in one of the many “reform” programs that have been promulgated during my career (California’s II-USP, Program Improvement under NCLB, and “Turn Around” Reform under RttT).
So-called “miracle” results are used as a blunt instrument to rap those of us teaching in those schools about our heads when we are not able to lift test scores more than the 5% a year that is a reasonable increase. It is perfectly reasonable to question these miracles by comparing scores to other tests because you are not saying they are failures, just that they aren’t as successful as they claim based on the single (stupid) measure by which we are all judged.

Each time a “reformer” fills the Internet, or airwaves with disingenuous information about how testing works, or teachers are bad, or poverty can be overcome by testing, or how miracles happen in low performing schools – they are met with the truth by bloggers and those with an eye towards healthy skepticism.  We need to keep this trend up and hold their feet to the fire.



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