Sunday, September 30, 2012

Stop the Madness: We Were Wrong

One of the architects and staunchest advocates of the "No Child Left Behind" initiative now admits she was wrong.  Diane Ravitch, the former U.S. assistant of education under presidents Bush and Clinton, once believed in teacher and school performance rankings and rigid student testing that has given rise to an entire testing industry and strained the public education system in America to the breaking point.

Now, she believes, it is time to admit that many of the underlying assumptions and strategies were wrong, even harmful.  Indeed, one of her chief concerns is that this movement that began with genuine concerns for young students has been co-opted by a variety of economic self-interests that are driving much of the major education reforms in America today.  In an interview with the Austin Chronicle this week, Ravitch describes these self-appointed reformers as "policymakers who know nothing about public education, allied with organizations that expressly want to see it dismantled."  It is the latter intent that is most disturbing, especially for so many students that are left behind by many of these reform efforts.

Don't take my word for it.  You have a chance to hear her speak at 2:00 this afternoon at Eastside Memorial High School.  You may not agree with her, but you owe it to yourself as an educated citizen to hear what she has to say.  Someone has wisely observed that the first thing to do when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.  Diane Ravitch is imploring us to do just that.  Frankly, I think it's rather remarkable these days to hear any expert or authority admit they were wrong and attempt to make corrections.  We would all be much better off if we would emulate her honesty and courage.  Give her a hearing and let me know what you think.