Sunday, March 06, 2011

Responding to Ravitch

Diane Ravitch has a guest blog on Edutopia that once again reinforced my perception of her educational opinions as opportunist pandering. Her thinking is neither original nor thought-provoking but it is annoying.

Here's some of what she asserts:

Myth #2: Achievement Will Soar With Younger, More Enthusiastic Teachers

A second, related narrative asserts that teachers who work in the poorest schools are lazy and burned out; achievement will soar if only we can fire more of the older teachers and replace them with young, enthusiastic ones, especially those from Teach for America, who have only five weeks of training. But this demand runs counter to what we know to be true in every other profession: experience is a plus. Indeed, while the evidence is mixed on some aspects of education policy, it is unmistakably clear on this point: experience is one of the best predictors of teacher quality.

I responded to the whole set of arguments this way;

Ravitch is as much responsible for the way things are as anyone. For over thirty years she's served in positions of authority often double-talking.

Her *truth* is disingenuous. The so-called achievement gap is pure fiction, a statistical artefact of an education industry run amok. It is the coinage of a social-engineered subliminal class-ism. By warehousing the poor in urban encampments, the rest of America doesn't have to deal or interact with them. The real-estate pyramid schemes that have wrecked our economy were the engine that kept this phenomenon rolling profitably.

Educators have known for forty years that children of poverty environments cannot be lifted from that original state of ignorance and desperation by schooling alone. We can talk about this. The fact that Ravitch insists that we can't speaks to the real myth.

Myth #1: Educators are the solution to America's education crisis

They are not. They and their unions have long ago sold out the welfare of children for the negotiated comforts of cozy and disingenuous work rules that eliminate any possibility that schools can be managed for the best interests of everyone involved.

Numerous studies indicate that the insane escalation of spending on education shows flat if not negligible classroom returns. *That* is the real achievement gap and everyone paying the bill knows it.

Politicians who pander to the idea that schools should become homogeneous in achievement ignore the fact that in order for schools to get better we need achievement gaps. If there are no superior schools continuously pushing the educational envelope how can we get better? Since when is being academically "equal" a good thing?

We should be advancing education gaps in every subject and pedagogy, dropping the ineffective and adopting the proven winners. WAIT! That's against union work rules.

Myth #2; The false dichotomy of young vs old teachers. Here Ravitch is simply acting as a special interest lobbyist for preserving a seniority system that is cancerous to educational reform.

She isn't trying to elevate the debate, she's trying to derail intelligent discussion. Ravitch and her followers will insist class size is an important factor in children's education because *magically* teachers will spend more time individualizing classroom learning.

Anecdotally, teachers ALL insist this happens. Study after study disputes this assertion. Studies indicate that *the opportunity for individual attention* increases. Yet only teachers who already practice the art actually practice the art - a rare breed. Furthermore, studies indicate that some teachers are better with small classes and some are awful. Likewise with large classroom sizes.

What does seniority have to do with this? What? Why can't schools be managed to take advantage of teachers strengths and weaknesses? Why?

WAIT! Union rules.

Yes, Diane let's be honest. By all means. But you have a lot of catching up to do .

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