Turn, Turn, Turn

I just purchased Diane’s Ravitch’s newest book The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education (on my Kindle, of course).  Reading the first chapter is like hearing a confession; intriguing, captivating, and leaving you wanting to hear all the gory and sexy details.  

For those of you who do not know Diane Ravitch, start here.  But if you have read her, you may be surprised now.  She has rescinded her previous stands on testing, standards, and choice. Her newest book explains who she no longer can support the ridiculousness of the accountability movement, the folly that charter schools and competition in education will produce better schools, or the tests-make-best thinking.  This turn has angered some – especially those who have been affected by Ravitch’s previous writings and political wranglings.

Think on this line from chapter one

School reformers sometimes resemble the characters in Dr. Seuss’s Solla Sollew, who are always searching for that mythical land `where they never have troubles, at least very few.’ Or like Dumbo, they are convinced they could fly if only they had a magic feather. In my writings, I have consistently warned that, in education, there are no shortcuts, no utopias, and no silver bullets. For certain, there are no magic feathers that enable elephants to fly.

Magic feather like those offered by Wiggins or others of his ilk? Shortcuts like modeling schools after businesses?  Yes.  And I shall discover more as I delve deeper into her confession.   But what is already saddened me is that by the end of chapter one, you already know and realize that the federal government and state government (at least here in NJ) is going the wrong way; testing, choice, centralization, and national standards are the tone and focus.

To keep things fresh on the blog, I’ll try to post weekly and purge the details of Ravitch’s epiphanies.  But for now, if you can, get the book.  I assure you that every page deserves another turn.

Author: Michael Parent, Ed.D

Father, husband, school administrator in NJ. "Education cures poverty".

5 thoughts on “Turn, Turn, Turn”

  1. I'm not sure if I have time for Ravitch's book right now, so I will have to tune in here for your take on it. Her about-face on school choice was mentioned in an article on charter schools in yesterday's NYTimes.


  2. Mr. Parent,

    I'm interested on your take on the “ridiculousness of the accountability movement.” Holding teachers accountable, just as we hold anyone in any profession accountable is never a bad thing in my estimation.

    You might be interested in a story in today's Wall Street Journal about teacher accountability in New York. Here's the link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704879704575236491442429802.html?KEYWORDS=merryl

    – Bob Zeitlinger


  3. Mr. Parent,

    I was going to expand my response to debate some of your points about NCLB and some of the other national issues you raised. In thinking about it, I've decided not to since it would do nothing more than divert attention from the real issue at hand: accountablility in NJ and more specifically accountability in Dumont.

    Let me know your thoughts on my previous post.

    — Bob Zeitlinger


  4. I was there when she first read her excerpt at the Gotham Schools party a while back. Since then, I've found myself truly enamored with her words and her passion. I didn't get to “meet” her during the time when she was on the other side of the debate, but as many have said, “When I see the facts, and the facts change, I change.” Intelligent.


  5. I am all in support of accountabiliy for students and teachers. However, when an LEA commits to government funding to support programs, the focus immediately becomes a mandate wrapped in a bow of red-tape and colorful papertrails. The original focus becomes lost as the new focus is on avoiding sanctions and keeping employment. Students are no longer the priority, but rather a vehicle carrying educators down the road to accalades or sanctions. We desperately need to go back to locally controlled decision making, proving that we can trust our local superintendents, administrators and educators to do whats best for students…politicians are not educators.


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