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Daily Show: Diane Ravitch

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Diane Ravitch
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Diane Ravitch believes education reform should focus on getting children out of poverty, not finding the bad teachers.


 

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I have participated in many conversations in which people (including myself) offer up their opinions of "why our educational system is screwed up". Lots of pet theories are offered and I've concluded that no single major problem "explains the data". Problems plaguing education are so wrapped up in broader social, economic, and political problems that no single "fix" is likely to have much effect.

One thing Ravitch said that I think is incorrect (but I'm too lazy to track down the source) is the claim the if you remove the (economically) poor schools from consideration, American schools are 'as good or better than Finland's'. I seem to remember reading something that directly contradicts that claim - though the gap narrows a lot.

if you remove the (economically) poor schools from consideration, American schools are 'as good or better than Finland's'.

While the statistics compared to Finland may be wrong, Ratvich did combine poverty with high concentration of minority students. This often means lots of students who speak English as a 2nd language and same race often means ghetto environment, which is not conducive to studiousness. Teachers and principals CAN make a differnece in these areas, but traditional teaching methods generally don't work for at-risk schools.

I will agree with Ratvich that testing has wreaked havoc on education. I've run into plenty of students who attended "good schools" who tested well, and they are not bright outside of the rote memory arena. There are a number of reasons why education is screwed up in the country, and testing is right up there, IMHO. I should stop writing now, because this is a large canvas to cover.

I dislike standardized testing more every year. It is obvious that the testing itself has perturbed the process of teaching that it is far from a measurement of progress - it is the now the objective of teaching - and a damned crappy objective at that.

I am truly enraged to read WSJ opinion pieces ("Oh to be a Wisconsin teacher") written by GOP suckups that suggest the teachers are living in opulance. (How dare these teachers hold out the hope that their own children might someday attend a decent college or that they might retire after 40 years of work with a pension they can live on!). That doesn't mean that teachers should be exempt from scrutiny - more precisely, it doesn't mean the process by which we produce teachers should be exempt from scrutiny. According to a colleague of mine in the math department in my university, the quality of the students admitted to my university's department of education is vastly poorer than my department (chemistry) or his (math) - by any measure. I say this knowing that one quickly gets mired in the vortex that I referred to above: "broader social, economic, and political problems") After all, if you're going to offer a young person the financially mediocre reward of being a teacher, what kind of quality can you expect in your education majors? If your society is structured in such a way that everything depends on how much you get paid - your own kids' education, your health care, just basic respect - how can you expect that many excellent people will become teachers?

As you said, I should stop writing now, because this is a large canvas to cover.

According to a colleague of mine in the math department in my university, the quality of the students admitted to my university's department of education is vastly poorer than my department (chemistry) or his (math) - by any measure.

True in my neck of the woods as well. The music ed students are at the top of the School of Ed. That isn't to say that there aren't top notch students in the School of Education - here or anywhere - but they are sadly the exception.

When True/Slant was at its peak, there was a good columnist (Michael Salmonowicz) who brought up a number of important educational issues. Since he's a teacher, certified through Teach for America, he came at it from a different perspective than the majority of the education cadre, but he confronted the same workaday issues that all teachers face. Too bad that Forbes took over the blog, because a lot of writers moved to greener pastures, and that was one place to find many good writers and posters on a variety of subjects.

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