Thursday, March 28, 2013

What Matters Most Cannot Be Measured

Diane Ravitch is my hero.  If President Obama was truly a friend of education, he would replace his Education Secretary Arne Duncan with Diane Ravitch.  But he hasn’t and won’t because the NEA has been too busy fawning and flattering as a wing of the Democratic Party instead of acting in service of our core values as a professional, non-partisan organization.

I’d never heard of Diane Ravitch until one day when my superintendent loaned me his copy of “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.”  I avoided reading it because I thought it was going to be one of those vacuous, nonsensical eduspeak books that we are sometimes forced to read.  I was totally mistaken, and I couldn't put her book down, audibly and repeatedly exclaiming affirmatives, “Yes.  Yes.  Yes!”

I got to see her speak at the NEA-RA in Chicago when she was presented the NEA’s Friend of Education award.  The irony of her statement “The current ‘education reform’ movement is pushing bad ideas” was that both the NEA and the WEA have made the political calculation to endorse education reform in order to mute public disapproval of unions and to shape outcomes--to in effect lie with the enemy in order to pick out the sheets.  I think this strategy is a dreadful mistake.

I don’t send dues to Linens-n-Things.

A colleague sent me a link to Diane Ravitch’s blog, and I've enjoyed reading not only her own thinking but also that of other pro-public education activists.  One of them, a California science teacher named Anthony Cody, criticized an unbelievable article by AFT’s Randi Weingarten who drank the Kool-Aid to support the Gates’ Foundation’s drive to improve public education by improving teaching evaluation systems.  This guy is good:

“The fundamental problem with the Gates Foundation is that they have directed the entire national conversation to blaming teachers–instead of poverty and segregation– for low test scores. They have put hundreds of millions of dollars into evaluating teachers, finding good teachers (and rewarding them), finding ‘bad’ teachers (and firing them).”

And . . .

“But here is my view: the teaching profession across America is under attack. The Gates Foundation has helped to fuel that attack by its claim that teacher quality is our biggest problem. Teacher-bashing has become sport for talk shows and pundits. Legislatures are vying to see what they can do to demoralize teachers, what benefit they can strip away, what right they can negate.”

And finally . . .

“I note that no other nation in the world is trying to quantify teaching. There is a reason for that. What matters most cannot be measured, so we value only what can be measured. And that may be what matters least.”

Compare that to this:  

“Washington Education Association Key Issues, 2013 legislative session, 4. Teacher evaluations:  Evaluations”

“WEA members are working hard to implement two teacher evaluation laws already passed by the legislature. The new evaluation procedure must be in place by fall 2013 and be phased in through 2016. The evaluation focuses on professional growth, and includes student assessments as a measure of teacher performance. WEA members also believe the new evaluation system should be fully funded so it succeeds as intended by the Legislature.  This includes initial training and ongoing professional development for teachers and principals. Additional principals and administrative resources are necessary to fully implement the new evaluation system.”

Wrong.  Wrong.  Wrong!

Diane Ravitch's Blog

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