For decades, Diane Ravitch staunchly supported standardized testing, teacher accountability and school choice.
It wasn’t until after she served as an assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Education and as a member of the National Assessment Governing Board that supervised national testing that Ravitch realized she was wrong.
“I don’t regret the time I spent doing those things because it gave me an unusual opportunity to have a voice. I was on the other side and saw the error of my ways,” said Ravitch, 75, a New York University research professor of education. “It gave me a national platform.”
Ravitch, an education historian, has won the 2014 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Education for her 2010 book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education.”
The book, which appeared on the New York Times’ nonfiction bestseller list, chronicles Ravitch’s decades-long journey from reform advocate to critic and encourages schools to return to a curriculum that values art, literature, creativity and problem-solving.
“This book gives us an important historical perspective,” said Melissa Andris, the award’s administrator. “Ravitch marshals an impressive body of evidence to show how, on the whole, these reforms are not working as promised and are leaving many schools in the same or even worse shape than before.”
Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said Ravitch is “one of the most influential people on Twitter and in social media.”
“I have followed her work for years and have used her research on many occasions,” Holliday said. “I may not agree with her 100 percent, but I think she has raised the right questions for states to consider when it comes to education reform. She is well-deserving of this award.”
In an interview with The Courier-Journal this week, Ravitch said there is “way too much of an emphasis on standardized testing in this country.”
“The federal government requires standardized tests — we are the most over-tested country in the world,” she said. “It’s an encroachment on state and local control. The feds put up 10 percent of money, but exercise 90 percent of control.”
Ravitch said schools should be focusing more on originality and independence, not on a child’s “ability to bubble in the right answer.”
“With a standardized test, you are answering a question that has already been answered,” she said. “As someone who has spent years studying and looking at thousands of standardized test questions, I would much rather see original work.”
In addition to her 2010 book, Ravitch has authored several others, including this year’s “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.” She also blogs regularly on her website, which had nearly 3.5 million page views in less than a year.
Ravitch has been a critic of the testing associated with the Common Core State Standards — a set of academic guidelines designed by states that clearly describe what students need to know before they complete each grade level.
Two years ago, Kentucky was the first in the nation to implement the newer, tougher standards and since 2010, 45 states and the District of Columbia have agreed to adopt the standards and test students on them by 2014-15.
“I am not as opposed to the standards as I am to the tests being used,” she said. “Kids can have As and Bs on their report cards, yet fail the state test. These tests were designed so that kids would fail and that is ridiculous.”
Ravitch said the standards “could be fixed, could be made better” and should be placed on hold until that happens.
“Standardized testing has become an industry,” she said. “Tests ought to be made by the teachers; they know they what they taught and what the kids need.”
Holliday said Ravitch “creates quite a stir and has a lot of critics, but I’m not one of them.”
“She has a tremendous following with teachers and administrators who worry that some states are moving too fast with the teacher-evaluation stuff,” he said.
Ravitch also has advocated against using student test scores when evaluating the performance of teachers and is an opponent of charter schools.
“I am very concerned about privatization, because public education is the bedrock of a democratic society,” she said.
Ravitch said she will use some of the $100,000 she will receive from winning the Grawemeyer to support “good causes that support public education.”
“I am very honored to be awarded the Grawemeyer,” Ravitch said. “I will continue to devote my time to raising awareness on how to improve public education.”
Thursday, December 05, 2013
Grawemeyer winner Diane Ravitch says standardized testing hurting education
This from the Courier-Journal: