Chapter 1 is focused on Diane's journey through education reform. It discusses corporate reforms and fad movements. What are your thoughts and experiences with these topics?
I am just a few years younger than Diane, but I've lived through all of the ed movements and fads she discusses from the 1960s through today. While I never bought into the potential for accountability and charter schools as she did from the late 80s through the 90s, I certainly agree with her current positions on them and NCLB. She is correct to focus on the failure to adopt the voluntary National History Standards as a turning point in ed reform. I remember vividly the attack on them led by Lynne Cheney. Gary Nash, UCLA emeritus professor of history, fought back hard, but to no avail. Those who want to read a brief summary he wrote about that fight may do so at http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mlassite/discussions261/nash.html
He also wrote a book about the experience. It is still in print, and can be purchased from Amazon at
Finally, the standards themselves are available online at: http://nchs.ucla.edu/
As someone who was still in school during the 90s, it was interesting to hear Ravitch's take on the National History Standards, a movement of which I was not even aware. Reading about the problems in deciding what "history" to adopt explains a lot about the individual state standards that we are all stuck with.
The book is interesting so far. I actually appreciate that she starts out with this bit of apology/confession regarding her change of views. What I had heard of her previous to this had mainly been in association with NCLB and therefore I came into the book quite wary.
Having changed schools a few times, I learned to ask what "programs" the school has featured during PD. Administrators talk of these with reverence and teachers with disdain. I work very hard to listen to ideas as they are presented because I don't want to tune out. In reality I am testing the water to see how committed admins are and evaluating whether it will yield gains for students in my classes. The fads are often big programs built around a simple idea. If I understand the simple idea, I rarely need the entire program created to promote it. As far as politics in the reform movement, I see it as the natural result of a democratic system. Ideally I would like to see the best educational experts elected to run schools, but as with our government qualifications and experience are not always the primary concern and fear mongering and rhetoric are part of the game. I default back to the idea that sustained democracy requires us to be smarter than the rhetoric.
I like your last sentence very much, but am afraid that we evolved to be suckers for rhetorical and especially the visual manipulation we see in the TV ads for which politicians collect and spend so much money. If you haven't read it, Drew Westen's THE POLITICAL BRAIN is right on point here. Previews from it are available at Google Books. http://books.google.com/books?id=71NYEEaMb4oC&printsec=frontcov...
Thinking back over my lifetime, I believe that the best ed reform I can recall was the National Defense Education Act of 1958; that and the decision in CA in the early 1960s to build a Master Plan. Both required money and vision, which we citizens supported and provided; but as much as I'd like to believe that we did so after reasoned consideration, I remember also that it was probably the Red Scare of the 50s, and Sputnik in particular that won support for these major extensions of "government power" into local and state schools. Fear mongering and rhetoric are not just part of the game, they unfortunately are the game, and probably have been for at least as long as we've had society. Remember that it was the ancient Greeks who first cataloged informal logical fallacies.
Simple ideas and common sense will take us a long way. Some admins apparently think that if we commit enormous resources of time, money, and energy to those simple ideas that good things will happen. Ironically, that causes the simple idea to become overly complicated, sacrificing its essence and power.
I guess it is hard to write a book, sell a program and make a profit if you keep the idea simple. Like PLC's and PLT's. (meet with colleagues and collaborate/share) T
Differentiation: Kids learn in different ways. Be sure to reach each kid.
Response-to-Intervention: Make sure each kid gets what she or he needs.
I've been assigned to align our district's curriculum according to state standards at least twice. I've also aligned them in terms of primary and "medial" behavior goals. I've synced them up with fine arts, cooperative learning, math, and reading. Summative assessments were created at one point. Now those have been ix-nayed, and we're assigned to work on formative assessments.
I'm supposed to take these processes seriously? As Diane Ravitch says, we need a rich, deep curriculum taught by excellent teachers.
All that other stuff is made of thin air ... and hot gas.
Just finished Chapter 1...as someone new to the field and that attended private schools K-12, I am really looking forward to diving in to this book. Much of these 'reform movements' are relativey new to me within the last 5-7 years. However, in my short time as a teacher I too have become leary of fads and flash in the pan fixes. For me, as long as whatever is proposed is good for the goods and proposed with the kids in mind, first and foremost, then it's something worth looking at. On to chapter 2...