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Friday, February 15, 2008

Why I resigned by Diane Ravitch

An article in the NY Sun reported on Wednesday that Diane Ravitch, eminent education historian and contributor to this blog, resigned from the board of Education Next, a journal that covers education research and policy.

Today, Diane herself explains in her own words in an Sun oped, Why I resigned. Excerpt:

. I resigned because Education Next published a deeply flawed account of Mayor Bloomberg's school reforms. I resigned with regret because I admire Education Next. I have found it to be the most consistently interesting and lively publication about American education currently available.

That is all the more reason why I was surprised to read Peter Meyer's article, "New York City's Education Battles," which is a thinly veiled puff piece for reforms that have been both costly and ineffectual. As a member of the editorial board of Education Next and as someone who has written extensively about education in New York City, I was stunned that I did not see the article until after it was published.

The article treats school reform in New York City as a matter of conflicting opinions, of "he-said, she-said," rather than as a matter of verifiable fact, even when facts are available.

For example, Mr. Meyer says that the New York Times reported "no significant progress in reading and math" between 2003 and 2007 for city students on the federal test called the National Assessment of Educational Progress and "little narrowing of the achievement gap." Mr. Meyer then quotes a hedge fund manager and blogger, Whitney Tilson, who said that the Times' story was "lousy" and that city students actually made gains in three of the four measures.

But the NAEP scores are not a matter of opinion; the facts can be easily checked — google NAEP TUDA 2007 and look at pages 50-51. Anyone who does check will learn quickly that New York City students made no statistically significant gains between 2003 and 2007 in fourth-grade reading, eighth-grade reading, or eighth-grade math. There were no significant gains for black students, white students, Hispanic students, Asian students, or lower-income students. New York City was the only city (of eleven tested) where eighth-grade reading scores declined for black, Hispanic, and lower-income students, and the achievement gap grew. Only in fourth-grade math did city students make statistically significant gains. If facts matter, Mr. Tilson's opinion is wrong.

…..I admire Mayor Bloomberg but I do not admire what he has done to the public schools. I hope that the state Legislature, when it reconsiders public school governance next year, abolishes the bumbling, tyrannical Department of Education and restores an independent Board of Education, appointed by the mayor.

The school system needs checks and balances. It needs a regular, independent audit of graduation rates and test scores. It needs a leadership in which education decisions are made by educators. Such changes won't solve all of our schools' problems, but they will end the pointless turmoil of the past five years, provide honest information about academic progress, and reestablish the role of the public in public education.

The article in Education Next by Peter Meyer that Diane refers to is here.


Anonymous said...

You can talk openly about dogs without being politically incorrect. All domestic dogs, from Chihuahua to Great Dane, are single species canis familiaris; breed genetic differences result from enforced separations by breeders/trainers over 800 years. Similarly, all humans are a single species homo sapiens; race differences resulted from separation over thousands of years by geographic barriers. Dog breeds and human races are directly analogous as sub-groups within their respective single species.

Much can be learned from studying dogs; medical science does a great deal of this to avoid experimentation on humans. The brain is no exception, as dog brain structure and information flow processes are quite similar to that in humans. Numerous dog brain studies to analyze human brain diseases/conditions are in the medical literature.

Any experienced dog breeder will acknowledge the profound influence of genetics on intelligence and behavior. Traits such as trainability, aggression, are highly heritable and difficult to modify. Evaluations of dog intelligence have developed breed rankings according to ease of training and reliability of correct response to learned commands (analogous to education and testing in humans). Among dog breeds, there is a huge Achievement Gap, and it is GENETIC.

Humans are not exempt from the fundamental rules of biology. For humans, there is a mountain of relevant peer-reviewed research by well-credentialed scholars; numerous key citations are available in two recent books: Hart "Understanding Human History" and Lynn "Race Differences in Intelligence." It isnt fuzzy feel-good PC information, but it is indeed solid science...

Anonymous said...

My respect for Diane Ravitch has increased ten fold for her consistent loyalty to the "truth" about Bloomberg's stellar record on school reform. It's bogus and she is not afraid to point it out. Time after time. Some of us who are just tired of him and his starving ego which needs consant press releases on what a great education mayor he is really appreciate her relentless defense of the truth about NYC test scores.
I'm grateful that she is around.