Friday, September 20, 2013

Diane Ravitch, Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos

According to Jim Hightower, yellow stripes and dead armadillos are the only things you'll find in the middle of the road. And yet Jessica Levin, happily bad-mouthing Diane Ravitch over at Huffington Post, paints corporate reformers as occupying some middle ground. Levin, ruminating on Ravitch's book while showing little to no evidence she understands it, actually cites Michelle Rhee as one of these moderate voices. I'm reminded of another quote:

When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him.

~Jonathan Swift

Ms. Levin appears to represent one of the first dunces to venture forth into the arena after having purported to read Ravitch's book. Levin finds hitherto unsung nuance in reforminess:

Ravitch claims all education reformers are bent on promoting privatization, vouchers, and for-profit schools. However, most of those I interviewed have little faith in market solutions to improve schools systemically. They won't actively oppose vouchers because they refuse to tell poor parents what they wouldn't tolerate hearing themselves: "Your kids must stay in this failing school while we spend a decade trying to fix it." But many talked about vouchers and for-profits as distractions more than game changers. 

So let's understand this. The corporate reformers oppose vouchers, but won't say they do. The important thing is what they think, not what they do, and of course to move the kids from so-called failing schools. Whether or not they address the underlying issues that cause low test scores, like poverty, learning disabilities, or lack of English, is of no consequence. Whether the schools prove better, equal, or worse than the "failing" schools is also unimportant. Note also that Levin says nothing whatsoever to suggest these "moderates" oppose privatization or for-profit schools in any way whatsoever. Yet she has the audacity to refer to Ravitch as "simplistic." Simplistic is a word I'd use for anyone uncritically viewing Levin's piece.

Levin further contends that reformy folk does not overemphasize testing. I'm not sure which astral plane Ms. Levin resides in, but in this one high-stakes tests determine whether or not schools stay open, and whether or not teachers remain employed. Levin praises Race to the Top, which enables this. She seems blissfully unaware there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that there is any validity whatsoever to value-added ratings.

Even as Teach for America inductees actively steal the jobs of laid-off Chicago teachers, Levin musters the audacity to suggest that it does not endorse any radical agenda, and implies that Ravitch is delusional to suggest anything of the sort.  Doubtless if scab labor took Levin's job, or jobs or her friends and family, she'd beam with approval.

What really amazes me about this column is the complete and utter ignorance of the role of unions. Levin characterizes them as obstructionist, but I've watched as my union embraced mayoral control, and then supported it again after it was fairly well-established as an anti-democratic disaster. UFT had a hand in writing the state evaluation law and boasted that "objective" measures only made up 40% of a teacher rating. They must have forgotten that any teacher failing that 40% must be rated ineffective overall. UFT supported charters, and even co-located to start one. UFT supported a failed merit pay program. Of course, that's not all that unique, since all such programs have failed. And UFT supports Common Core, which adds yet another layer of testing to the tangled web that appears to have eluded Ms. Levin.

If this is the best they can muster against Diane Ravitch, they'd better hope that absolutely no one reads her new book.
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