Wrong on education

A really interesting interview with an education reformer who has seen the error of her previous ways and actually know believes almost entirely the opposite of what she used to.  More than anything, it’s quite refreshing to see someone in public life admit to being completely wrong.  The nickel summary:

“We are in the grips of a kind of national madness,” Diane Ravitch told me, “closing schools, firing teachers, shutting down public education.” What makes this statement interesting is that, for many years, Ravitch was a powerful voice within the national education reform movement she now rejects as faddish, empirically unfounded, and bad for America’s kids.

As assistant secretary of education under George H.W. Bush, Ravitch became an outspoken supporter of educational testing, school choice, charter schools, and No Child Left Behind. Later, she championed those positions as a member of the National Assessment Governing Board (the entity that oversees education testing in the United States) and through her involvement with two prominent conservative think tanks, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Koret Task Force.

Today, Ravitch refers to the reforms she once championed as “deforms.

I found this little exchange on tests particularly interesting:

What other experiences nudged you along in your transformation?

Seeing the results of testing, for one. There was a long period of time where I thought, what’s wrong with testing? We test people all the time; you go to the doctor, you have tests. But as I saw the consequences begin to kick in, I realized, this isn’t just testing. People are being punished because of test scores. We’ve created a system where Mrs. Smith is going to teach nothing but what’s tested. The arts aren’t tested and the sciences aren’t tested, and the conservative response to that is, “Well, test everything.” But the problem is—and this is another thing I found myself recoiling from—then you’ll do nothing but test. People tend to scoff at anything that’s subjective, but it’s the essays and the projects that make it fun for kids and give them an opportunity to show comprehension.

So that made me stop and think. And then, too, I became very outspoken in my criticism of Bloomberg, which created this tremendous tension between me and almost everyone else on the conservative side of the spectrum.

I think there is some real value in testing, mostly to figure out what teachers are actually doing a good job and, to some degree, to see how well individual students are learning, but I think the punishment based on test scores is not working.  My oldest son, David, had End of Grade tests last week.  Almost a month left of school left afterwards, but sadly, I’m not sure how much more they are going to learn, since it’s not “on the test.”  I think I wrote a while back about the evidence that elementary school homework is largely pointless, but given that David was actually having homework (fortunately, a very modest amount), I really don’t like the message that homework is no longer necessary now that the tests are done.

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Robin Hood– pretty good movie, wrong title

I saw Robin Hood this week and quite enjoyed it, despite reading and listening to a number of reviews that suggested I wouldn’t.  In truth, the screenplay was pretty mediocre, but I’m a sucker for medieval violence with high production values.  Knights, archers, swordfights, coats of arms, castle sieges, etc.,– what’s not to love?  The problem comes when you actually expect this movie to adhere at all to the Robin Hood legend.  Based on numerous reviews, that’s a sure road to disappointment.  Almost every criticism I’ve heard of the movie has to do with how it fails the Robin Hood story in one way or another.  So, if you’ve got strong expectations out of what you expect with a movie called “Robin Hood,” you probably shouldn’t see it.  However, if you just like to see medieval guys fight with swords, etc., it’s good stuff.

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