Diane Ravitch, the education historian who  served in the first Bush administration’s Education Department, is now changing her positions on relation to the  educational reform philosophy of  school reform in US, while criticizing the  privatization in the public system and assessment measure trends that relegate the teaching of social contents in the curriculum.

From New York Times, March 2,  2010 by Sam Dillon:

Once outspoken about the power of standardized testing, charter schools and free markets to improve schools, Dr. Ravitch is now caustically critical. She underwent an intellectual crisis, she says, discovering that these strategies, which she now calls faddish trends, were undermining public education. She resigned last year from the boards of two conservative research groups.

It makes sense, after all  there is mounting evidence that seems to point out that those strategies of reform undermine public education.

“School reform today is like a freight train, and I’m out on the tracks saying, ‘You’re going the wrong way!’ ” Dr. Ravitch said in an interview.

Dr. Ravitch is one of the most influential education scholars of recent decades, and her turnaround has become the buzz of school policy circles.

“What’s Diane up to? That’s what people are asking.” said Grover J. Whitehurst, who was the director of the Department of Education’s research arm in the second Bush administration and is now Dr. Ravitch’s colleague at the Brookings Institution.

Among the topics on which Dr. Ravitch has reversed her views is the main federal law on public schools, No Child Left Behind, which is up for a rewrite in coming weeks in Congress. She once supported it, but now says its requirements for testing in math and reading have squeezed vital subjects like history and art out of classrooms.

It is also very interesting to observe on  the type of international exemplars that she uses to justify her change of positions.

“Nations like Finland and Japan seek out the best college graduates for teaching positions, prepare them well, pay them well and treat them with respect,” she said. “They make sure that all their students study the arts, history, literature, geography, civics, foreign languages, the sciences and other subjects. They do this because this is the way to ensure good education. We’re on the wrong track.”

read full article here

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