Excellent Talk By Diane Ravitch

You really owe it to yourself to read this.

Click here to read it.

A couple of paragraphs from her speech:

We have now had ten years of No Child Left Behind, and we now know that there has been very little change in the gaps between the children of the rich and the children of the poor, between black children and white children, between Hispanic children and white children. Meanwhile our policymakers say we need higher standards, more rigorous standards, and more testing. How exactly will that help children who are struggling to read and do math? Or, in some cases, struggling to read and speak English? Or in the case of children with disabilities, how are they helped by harder tests? This is like saying, “if these children can’t jump over a four-foot bar, let’s lift the bar to six feet and see how they do.” Do you know how they will do? It seems obvious to me.

Just this week, the federal government released the urban district test results and we could see that the gap remained as large as ever. After ten years of NCLB, the children at the bottom were still at the bottom. Those districts where poverty and racial segregation—such as Detroit and Washington, D.C.–are most concentrated had the lowest scores.

But wait, some of the districts tested by the federal government have been actually implementing the market-based reforms advocated by the corporate reformers: New York City, which has had mayoral control since 2002; Washington, D.C., which has had mayoral control since 2007; Chicago, where Arne Duncan launched market-based reforms in 2001; and Milwaukee, which has had vouchers since 1990.

Since the mayor took charge in 2002, New York City has enthusiastically imposed market-style reforms. It has more choice than any other major city—parents and students get to choose among 400 high schools, as well as more than 100 charter schools. All schools are given letter grades based on test scores. NYC spent $56 million on merit pay, then abandoned the program when it showed zero results. After nine years of market-based reforms, however, the achievement gap between black and white students is unchanged. On the federal tests, math scores are up but no more than in districts without market reforms. Eighth grade reading scores have been flat since 2003.


In Washington, D.C., there have been many claims in the media about sensational test score gains, but that’s not what you see on the latest federal tests. In fourth grade reading, the scores have been rising steadily since 2003, but not for all students. The scores of high-income students have gone up but the scores of black students, Hispanic students, and low-income students remain unchanged for the past four years. In eighth grade reading, scores are down for the past four years for black students, Hispanic students, and low-income students. And most importantly, the District of Columbia public school system has the largest achievement gap of any city in the nation between white and black students, a staggering 64 points in 4th grade, compared to an average of 30 points for all urban districts; and an equally staggering 58 points in eighth grade, compared to 28 points for all urban districts.


Published in: on December 12, 2011 at 10:46 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. Having arrived at the close of the first quarter of the new school year and having completed fall conferences, I find there is not even the briefest pause in the frenzied push to bring all students to my state’s specified level of reading achievement as evidenced by a specified range of scores on my district’s specified assessment. This frenzy continues on as though all children develop neurologically at a specified rate, as though all children mature physically and emotionally at a specified rate, as though their homes, environments, diets, bedtimes, exercise, and life stressors all align with a specified uniformity. It would appear as though a specified time is spent, each evening, reading or being read to by all children in all homes, regardless of all the diversity of cultural and family norms today. Even more ludicrous, it would appear that all time spent by all children in front of all forms of electronic toys and devices, including television and play-stations, is specified including content and duration of time.


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