Friday, May 25, 2012
Too many children left behind
I heard Diane Ravitch on Charlie Rose last night. What a breath of fresh air! Listening to Romney lay out his "education plan," he obviously should have consulted with Ravitch first, then he might have had something. As it is, he lays out the same recipe for disaster which Ravitch criticizes in her new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, calling for an end to vouchers and testing. She said on Rose that there is no evidence to suggest the "free market" model for education has worked. She was quite critical of charter schools, which Davis Guggenheim extolled in Waiting for Superman. Maybe Romney sees himself as "Superman." More likely just another cynical ploy, among many, to use education as a hot political button.
Ravitch appears to be above the political rhetoric. She had previously served as assistant secretary of education in Pere Bush's administration, and supported the idea of vouchers and testing at the time, but looking at the empirical data changed her mind. The idea of vouchers apparently goes back to Milton Freedman, the great guru of supply-side economics, who promoted the idea of making the public education system into a "free market" in a widely circulated paper back in the 50s. It wasn't adopted then, but became the basis for the conservative education agenda in the 90s. The idea has been adopted by many school districts over the years. She focused on Milwaukee in her discussion with Rose.
She is also very critical of the Obama administration insistence on tweaking the No Child Left Behind program, which she feels has been a complete failure. Testing has become the bane of public education, with so many schools now teaching to the Test for their own survival, as the results have become the prime criteria for which schools stay and which schools go. Over 100 New York city schools have been closed down over the last few years because of poor test results. She says tests should only be used as a diagnostic tool, not an administration tool like this. She pointed to Finland, Singapore and Japan, which have the best education systems in the world, and these countries don't use testing like this, nor dilute their public education system with vouchers. What they have is a national commitment to public education.