Ravitch is Wrong Site

Why serious people continue to care about what Diane Ravitch says is a mystery to me.  I know why rabid union-members and their allies keep lauding her and citing her as an authority — they like whoever repeats their talking points.  But why do journalists, like Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post, continue to act like Diane Ravitch matters?  Why does the Wall Street Journal give her valuable real estate on their editorial page to repeat untrue distortions, like:

To qualify for Race to the Top money, states and districts were expected to evaluate their teachers by using student test scores, even though research consistently warns of the flaws of this method. [Not true, as a Brookings blue ribbon panel just concluded that the research shows value added testing can be a helpful tool for teacher evaluations.] Similarly, the Obama administration is pressing states and districts to replace low-performing regular public schools with privately managed charter schools, even though research demonstrates that charters don’t, on average, get better academic results than regular public schools. [Again, not true.  Ravitch ignores the positive results of high quality random assignment charter evaluations in Boston and New York and instead focuses exclusively on a lower quality evaluation by Macke Raymond)]

Let’s say out loud what many people know but few have publicly said.  Diane Ravitch has undergone a personal, not an intellectual, transformation.  Because of that personal change she has acquired a new set of friends, including AFT boss Randi Weingarten.  Ravitch is basking in the admiration of these new friends for her remarks, but they are not well-thought-out or intellectually honest positions.

We devoted an entire week on JPGB to feature Stuart Buck’s documentation of how Ravitch is not an intellectually serious person anymore.  Now Whitney Tilson has organized an entire web site on his new blog that lists a host of critiques of the personally-transformed Diane Ravitch. It’s an extremely useful resource to which you can refer gullible journalists, like Strauss and the WSJ editors, whenever they start treating Ravitch as if she were a credible authority.

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12 Responses to Ravitch is Wrong Site

  1. MOMwithAbrain says:

    Normally I agree with the blog, not this time.
    While I despise the radical unions and their radical political agendas, in no way can I support tying a teacher’s evaluation to the standardized assessment. Note, we haven’t SEEN the assessment YET. How do we know it’s going to test academic knowledge? Since Marc Tucker is running the show in many of these states, I suspect he’ll be assessing non-academic skills. I wouldn’t trust a Marc Tucker assessment on my kids and I wouldn’t want to be judged as a teacher either.
    Why do we need a new assessment? Why not simply use the ACT, IBST, Stanford, CAT?
    No, now we have to pay large sums of money to these consortiums to develop an assessment that no one believes will do a quality job of assessing student knowledge.
    Now if you want to assess their attitudes, behavior and values, this might be the way to go. For those of us who still value academic content, we’re not betting the farm on this!

  2. Thanks, MOM. I always appreciate your comments and share your skepticism of the new assessments being developed for national standards.

    But just because there could be bad tests or mis-uses of tests in teacher evaluations doesn’t mean that the use of tests for that purpose is inherently flawed. As the Brookings commission concluded, well-designed tests can be a helpful part of evaluating teacher effectiveness. They note that multiple years of testing improves precision. And they also note that testing should only be part of the evaluation process. But it is clearly untrue to say that “research says” the tests are too flawed to be included in the teacher evaluation process.

  3. Greg Forster says:

    Simple standardized tests like the existing ones that MOM points to, or the NAEP for that matter, are a good way of evaluating whether children are aquiring the basic ability to read and do math. That is far from the only thing we want to evaluate teachers on. But it is one of the more important things, particularly in early grades! It is especially valuable as a tool for ensuring that schools teach these basic abilities to all students, not just the rich white ones.

    Of course, the only form of teacher evaluation and accountability that will work in the long run is to put parents in charge through school choice. But then, most parents do want schools to use standardized testing as one important tool (among many) for delivering information about teacher performance.

    Oh, and Jay, don’t knock the Journal too hard. They are a newspaper, after all, not a think tank. Editorial pages ought to publish a certain amount of bunk; it’s an unavoidable element of their mission. They do publish it as opinion, not news reporting, after all.

  4. Daniel Earley says:

    I’m occasionally tempted to see Ravitch as a new Patty Hearst suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, but the details of the obligatory kidnapping are a bit murky. Alas, her transformation may just be as simple as you indicate, Jay.

  5. Robin Bingham says:

    I don’t see much criticism in your blog entry or on the website you list that is actually fact-based. Rather, both you and the people you list seem to be ideologically opposed to Ravitch. Which is fine, except your ‘facts’ are real, and hers are not. She has her studies, and you have yours.

    One of the worst and most dangerous criticisms listed on Tilson’s site is that Ravitch is wrong in critiquing charter schools because they don’t fit the democratic vision of public education. The truth is, they don’t. The author is right to say that a failing public school helps no one, but the solution should be to figure out how to make democracy work, rather than to turn it over to an oligarchical mysterious entity. Yes, some of these mystery-operators will be great. But some kings are benevolent kings, too. To leave behind the idea of a democratic system because it’s ‘not working’ begs the question– is the existing system actually democratic?

  6. Robin Bingham says:

    Reading over my post, I realize I miss-typed one sentence. The post should read:

    I don’t see much criticism in your blog entry or on the website you list that is actually fact-based. Rather, both you and the people you list seem to be ideologically opposed to Ravitch. Which is fine, except you say your ‘facts’ are real, and hers are not. She backs up all of her claims with empirical data. You can’t discount this. She has her studies, and you have yours. If the conclusions drawn are different, this only means more research needs to be done, not that Ravitch is wrong. Ravitch is decrying the reform movement’s attempt to use a few studies to push through huge changes before these studies have been repeated and researchers have reached consensus.

    One of the worst and most dangerous criticisms listed on Tilson’s site is that Ravitch is wrong in critiquing charter schools because they don’t fit the democratic vision of public education. The truth is, charter schools don’t fit the democratic vision of public education. They are by definition undemocratic. The author is right to say that a failing public school helps no one, but the solution should be to figure out how to make democracy work, rather than to turn it over to an oligarchical mysterious entity. Yes, some of these mystery-operators will be great. But some kings are benevolent kings, too. To leave behind the idea of a democratic system because it’s ‘not working’ begs the question– is the existing system actually democratic?

  7. Greg Forster says:

    School choice is the only democratic system. It puts power in the hands of parents, where it belongs. A government monopoly on schooling is the oligarchic system – and run by a “mysterious entity,” no less. Have you ever tried to get even the most basic information about what goes on in the smoke-filled rooms where the government monopoly system is governed? Ever tried to get basic budget data?

    As for the accusation of ideological motive, my response to that is here.

  8. Daniel Earley says:

    Who knew that our democratic system was based on consensus — among researchers no less? Once upon a time there was this Tuscan chap named Galileo… but I digress.

    Meanwhile, the other eight all-to-familiar talking points in Robin’s post beg another question.

    • Robin Bingham says:

      No one said the democratic system was based on concensus. What I am saying is that as long as research does not provide consensus, one cannot say that Ravitch is wrong. One can discount the studies she uses, yes– but that was not effectively done either on this blog or on the link mentioned above.

      You are right that public schools in poor neighborhoods do not currently act democratically. However, there are legions of public schools that DO operate more or less democratically, and serve their students well. These schools tend to be in wealthier neighborhoods where property values (and property taxes) are higher, and parent involvement is a given. The question should be how do we ensure that ALL public schools fulfill the vision of democracy we have set for our country?

      To decid that because a model is not working for a particular segment of the population, it’s mission is therefore erroneous, is different from fixing the model. School ‘choice’ is not democratic– it formally reduces a parent’s ability to engage in their child’s education to the one-time decision of which school their child should attend. Ideally, parents should have far more power than that in the day-to-day workings of their child’s education.

      Because this is not currently the case does not mean we should abandon the idea of publicly funded, publicly run schools. Our government is only ‘smoke-filled and monopolistic’ where democracy is prevented from functioning properly.

  9. Why anyone would care what you, Jay P Greene, think in regards to education matters.

    As a 20 year teacher I could care less what YOU, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein et.al. ad nausem think.

    For the record, I have EARNED my pay and position. I’m not fortunate to have the Waltons buy me a job like yourself.

  10. Allen,

    I’m actually still on the fence about Ravitch. She still seems to think the “reform” crowd has good intentions.

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