Tag Archives: Diane Ravitch

Education reformers want double standards for THEIR schools

Flipflop

In what is likely to be my favorite post of the week (and, yes, it’s Monday!), Shaun Johnson says:

in case you’re confused, let me summarize Jay P. Greene’s innovative arguments: Standardized test results – and consequences driven almost exclusively by them – are wonderful ways to hold public schools accountable, up to and including shutting down public schools, because public schools are funded by taxpayer dollars and the taxpayer has a right to expect accountability for the effective use of his or her taxes. On the other hand, standardized test results – and consequences driven almost exclusively by them – are terrible ways to hold voucher schools and tax-credit scholarship programs accountable, even though voucher schools and tax-credit scholarship programs provide the exact same service and are also funded by taxpayer dollars and the taxpayer would normally be right to expect accountability for the effective use of his or her taxes but is (for some reason) not right in expecting those things of voucher schools and tax-credit scholarship programs.

Look, you can have public funding with public accountability, or you can have an absence of public accountability and an absence of public funding. You can’t have the public funding and sidestep the public accountability. Sorry, that isn’t how it works.

And if choice advocates don’t like the public accountability system as it snarls at their weaker choice schools, someone should remind them that they all cheered as it tore “failing” public schools limb from limb. Oh, and they also insisted for years that choice schools would leave public schools in the dust, performance-wise. That was one of the reasons for promoting a choice system, wasn’t it?

Jay P. Greene can’t have it both ways. Either public funding should come with test-and-punish accountability, or it shouldn’t.

Being adamantly pro-testing while the tests are used to undermine traditional public schools and then flipping a switch and becoming thoughtfully anti-testing when the same tests threaten to gauge the quality (or publicize the lack thereof) of private schools that are funded with public money doesn’t “feel like” a bait-and-switch.

It *is* the height of cynicism.

Let’s not soften what Jay P. Greene has done here. . . . He has switched his opinion to its polar opposite when the same logic he long applied to the schools he wants to kill was applied (entirely fairly) to the schools he wants to save and replicate. Jay P. Greene even tossed out this gem to bolster his point: “score increases may well be just an artifact of … schools deciding to start prepping students for that high-stakes test… Fordham is confusing real learning increases with test manipulation.”

What? Standardized test scores don’t accurately reflect quality of education? Didn’t Jay P. Greene’s blog once call people who think that way about testing “nihilists?”

Where was all this refreshing nuance when Jay P. Greene was pro-standardized test? Oh, I know where it was: Diane Ravitch was using it, and Jay P. Greene was blasting her for it.

via http://atthechalkface.com/2014/01/20/fordham-and-hess-temporarily-acknowledge-that-reformers-cant-have-it-both-ways

As the supposed achievement benefits of many education reformers’ initiatives fail to materialize, we are seeing this about-face more and more. Stay alert for further hypocrisy…

Image credit: Flip-flop in the morning, Melissa Segal

Diane Ravitch and technology: Once more into the breach…

I’m trying to see Diane Ravitch’s pro-technology stance. I really am. I thought she was more tempered in Reign of Error. She actually noted some positive affordances of instructional technologies for students and teachers and also appropriately noted concerns about some cyber charter schools. But after yet another derisive statement about how technologies are ‘distracting toys,’ I left the following comment on Diane’s blog:

Diane, lately you have been more tempered with your language regarding educational technology, noting that it has powerful potentials when used correctly and also properly noting the stupidity of some implementation efforts (e.g., L.A. Unified and its iPads). However, you undercut your messaging – and reinforce my earlier concerns about the anti-technology tone of your blogging – when you use phrases like this:

“the ubiquity of distracting electronic toys”

As you know, how we say things is important. I wish you would be more consistent with your nuanced language when it comes to instructional technology. Laptops and iPads and smartphones and other computing devices in schools are not ‘toys’ (as you have stated several times) but instead powerful access vehicles to our increasingly-digital information, economic, and learning landscapes. If a particular implementation is dumb, go ahead and label it as such. But please don’t label all instructional technology efforts as ‘distracting’ or ‘toys.’

Thank you.

That resulted in this Twitter exchange:

Ravitch01

Ravitch02

I’ll let you judge whether Diane’s response addressed my claim that she often uses anti-technology language in her writing. And I’ll keep hoping for more nuanced recognitions from her – like I thought she was doing of late – of both the positives and negatives of the digital tools that are transforming our and our students’ lives…

Previous posts on this topic:

The mainstream media doesn’t care when black and brown children are harmed by misguided education policy

Diane Ravitch says:

It has become obvious over the past decade that the mainstream media not only doesn’t care when black and brown children are harmed by misguided education policy, they typically accept the claims of those inflicting the harm. They report without any criticism the policies that bounce black and brown children around the school district as if they were checkers on a checkerboard. They ignore the protests of the parents of these children when their local school is closed to make way for a privately managed charter or for a condo. It is obvious to everyone but the media that they don’t hear the voices of these children or their parents.

So, yes, it took a condescending comment directed toward white suburban mothers by Secretary Duncan to get the attention of the media. You can bemoan that fact, as Paul Thomas does, or celebrate it as the beginning of coalition politics.

It is beyond argument that those in power will not listen to the poor. But when the black and brown moms (and dads) form a coalition with the “white suburban moms,” they are a powerful force that cannot be ignored.

via http://dianeravitch.net/2013/11/26/paul-thomas-the-politics-of-white-outrage-and-my-dissent

Diane Ravitch and learning technologies: Here we go again

What if all students had EQUAL access to incredible learning tools?

I have previously expressed my concerns regarding Diane Ravitch’s denigration of the power of digital technologies for learning and teaching. Her blog gives her a very visible online platform and I think that she should be a little more careful with her wording and claims, particularly given her self-professed lack of computer fluency. Although she’s been relatively quiet on the technology front lately, I believe that a couple of her recent posts about digital learning tools are worth responding to…

Tablets are not real computers

Diane labels a post from Red Queen as ‘one of the best posts ever.’ She quotes Red Queen:

We all know this about tablet “computers”: they are not real “working” machines. When I proposed buying a tablet for my student the dude behind the counter told me: “Don’t do it. You’ll have to buy a keyboard, it has way less memory and no ports, a smaller screen and slower speed: it’s just not what a serious student needs. By the time you’re done adding on, you’ll have a machine almost as expensive as a real computer with far less functionality”.

Any parent will have received that advice from just about any computer salesman. And while there are a few serious students out there who no doubt feel otherwise, I think it’s a fairly safe bet that the word on the street is: tablets are no substitute for a computer; students need computers.

Red Queen goes on to say that tablet computers are ‘frivolous electronics‘ and Diane includes that quote too.

Of course this belies actual reality. Tablets and smartphones continue to become both more powerful and more popular with every iteration. It is projected that sometime this year total tablet shipments will begin to surpass total PC shipments. Schools and educators that are using tablets are finding that they are quite robust computing machines, often able to do things easier or better than is possible with the larger, heavier, and often clunkier form factor of a laptop or desktop. While many people still may prefer a more expensive and robust computing device, it is ludicrous to say in September 2014 that an iOS or Android tablet isn’t a ‘real computer’ or that ‘serious students’ only should use laptops or desktops.

Finland and South Korea and Poland don’t have digital technology in their classrooms

In another post, Diane cites excerpts from Amanda Ripley’s new book, The Smartest Kids in the World:

The anecdotal evidence suggests that Americans waste an extraordinary amount of tax money on high-tech toys for teachers and students, most of which have no proven learning value whatsoever. . . . In most of the highest-performing systems, technology is remarkably absent from classrooms.

Old-school can be good school. Eric’s high school in Busan, South Korea had austere classrooms with bare-bones computer labs. Out front, kids played soccer on a dirt field. From certain angles, the place looked like an American school from the 1950s. Most of Kim’s classrooms in Finland looked the same way: rows of desks in front of a simple chalkboard or an old-fashioned white board, the kind that was not connected to anything but the wall. . . . None of the classrooms in [Tom's] Polish school had interactive white boards.

There are numerous issues with these types of quotes. For instance…

  • The unstated assumption that performance on standardized assessments of low-level thinking is how we should judge educational success. I agree that if our goal is better bubble test achievement, we can drill-and-kill kids all day without any technology whatsoever. We’ve had over a century to perfect the numbing of student minds in analog environments. But if we want to prepare students to be empowered learners and doers within current and future information, economic, and learning landscapes, it’s impossible to do that while shunning technology.
  • The disparagement of digital technologies as ‘toys.’ Digital tools and environments are transforming everything around us in substantive, transformative, and disruptive ways. They are not mere toys unless we choose to only use them in that way. It’s a sad indictment of us as educators and communities that it is taking us so long to awaken to the educational possibilities of learning technologies and the Internet.
  • The equation of interactive white boards (and, in a later quote, student response systems) as the sum and substance of educational technology. Those of us who decry such replicative technologies agree that those are insufficiently empowering of students and thus unlikely to make much of an impact. But putting powerful digital tools into the hands of students that let them create, make, connect, collaborate, and make an impact, both locally and globally? That’s a different story. We need a different vision, one in which we don’t merely use digital technologies – and rows of desks in tight formation – to broadcast to students while they sit passively and watch or listen. And we need to stop pointing at those lackluster wastes of learning power and saying, “See? Told you technology doesn’t make a difference.”
  • The nostalgic yearning for the simple classrooms and schools of yesteryear, uncomplicated by modern learning tools (or, apparently, grass in the schoolyard). Ah, yes, remember when life (supposedly) wasn’t so complicated? Does anyone really want to return to 1950s beliefs and worldviews about learning and society? And if they do, what disservice do we do our youth when we prepare them for 60 years ago rather than now and tomorrow?

Wrap-Up

So, to sum up, so far Diane appears to be against online learning and digital educational games and simulations, and she shares posts that are against tablet computers or paint all technologies as disruptive and distracting. And that’s dangerous because people listen to her. She and many of her fans seem to ignore the fact that it’s awfully difficult to prepare students for success in a digital, global world without giving them access to digital technologies and Internet access. Railing against computer expenditures and Internet connectivity for our children is irresponsible, especially when those funds come from different sources and thus can’t be spent on teachers, support staff, professional development, or educational programming.

Now, to give Diane some credit, there are a few concerns raised in these posts that are worth noting:

  1. It’s a reasonable question to ask whether school equipment and construction funds would be better spent on upgrading facilities or purchasing computers for students, particularly given the time horizons of both construction bonds and technology obsolescence. That’s a difficult decision and I’m glad that I don’t have to make it at the scale that the L.A. Unified school district does.
  2. I, too, have grave misgivings about the Amplify tablets that are being used in Guilford County, North Carolina, but not just because they’re tablets.
  3. When Andreas Schleicher from OECD is quoted as saying that ‘people always matter than props,’ of course that is dead on. The success or failure of learning technologies in schools always will depend more on us as educators than on the tools themselves.
  4. Diane quotes Carlo Rotella, who says that “if everyone agrees that good teachers make all the difference, wouldn’t it make more sense to devote our resources to strengthening the teaching profession with better recruitment, training, support and pay? It seems misguided to try to improve the process of learning by putting an expensive tool in the hands of teachers we otherwise treat like the poor relations of the high-tech whiz kids who design the tool. . . . Are our overwhelmed, besieged, haphazardly recruited, variably trained, underpaid, not-so-elite teachers, in fact, the potential weak link in Amplify’s bid to disrupt American schooling?” Leaving aside the false dichotomy of ‘we can strengthen the teaching profession or we can give students computers but not both,’ this is a pretty insightful statement. As I noted in an earlier post, we have an appalling lack of technology support and training for our educators. We have to stop pretending that if we insert computers into the learning-teaching process that magic will happen and start doing a much better job of helping educators empower students with potentially-transformative digital tools.

These concerns, however, are more specific and nuanced and aren’t painted with an extremely broad anti-technology brush. If Diane typically discussed learning technologies in thoughtful and careful ways like these, I’d have much less concern. Loyal readers here know that I myself often express misgivings about ineffective technology integration and implementation in schools. But to say that there’s no educational worth whatsoever in online learning, educational simulations, tablet computers, or whatever Diane rants against next is patently false.

Whether we like it or not, digital technologies in education are here to stay. As I said in my earlier post,

the issue is not – as [Diane] seems to believe – that [digital tools] never have any value. The issues are 1) Under what circumstances do these new learning tools and spaces have value?, and 2) How do we create learning and policy environments in which that value is most likely to be realized?

I’ll keep wishing that Diane one day recognizes this. I’ll also keep wishing that Diane one day recognizes the irony (hypocrisy?) of decrying students’ use of digital technologies while simultaneously employing those tools herself to great effect to further her goals and increase her visibility.

Your thoughts?

Image credit: What if…, Darren Kuropatwa

Would Dr. King passively submit?

Diane Ravitch says:

the best way to remember Martin Luther King [is] not to think of him as a statue or an icon, but to take to heart his example. He did not bow his head in the face of injustice. He did not comply. He said no. He said it in a spirit of love and non-violence. But he resisted. He said no. He resisted. He said, we will not acquiesce to what we know is wrong. We will not acquiesce. We will not comply. We will not obey unjust laws. How does that apply to the situation of public education today? Public schools are drowning in nonsensical mandates. They are whipsawed by failed ideas coming from D.C. and state capitols that are following D.C.’s lead. They are subject to regulations and programs that no one understands. These mandates are ruining schooling, not making it better. The incessant testing is not making kids smarter, it is making kids bored and turned off by school. Schools are trapped in bureaucratic mazes that make no sense. What would Martin Luther King, Jr., do? Would he passively submit? No. He would resist. He would organize and join with others. He would build coalitions of parents, students, teachers, administrators, school board members, and members of the community who support their public schools. He would demand true education for all children. He would demand equality of educational opportunity, not a Race to some mythical Top or ever higher scores on bubble tests. He would not be silent as our public schools are worn down and torn down by mindless mandates. He would recognize that the victims of this political and bureaucratic malfeasance are our children. He would build a political movement so united and clear in its purpose that it would be heard in every state Capitol and even in Washington, D.C. And that is how we should commemorate his life.

via http://dianeravitch.net/2013/08/30/what-did-martin-luther-king-jr-teach-us

Blame the method, not the kids (or educators)

the definition of ideology is doing the same thing over and over again without regard to evidence or experience.

When your method fails, and fails, and fails, and fails, don’t blame the kids. Blame the method.

Diane Ravitch via http://dianeravitch.net/2012/09/20/some-people-never-learn

Two quotes on ‘value-added’ measures of teacher quality

Here are two quotes from Diane Ravitch’s blog regarding ‘value-added’ measures of teacher quality. The second one would make me laugh if it weren’t also so sadly true…

The crux of the matter isn’t whether to use multiple measures but whether to include erroneous measures and give them undue emphasis that is harmful to teachers and – by connection – students.

via http://dianeravitch.net/2012/08/08/the-gates-foundation-defends-its-agenda

AND

Gates’ – and other reformers’ – dismissal of value-added’s problems with the “it’s just one of multiple measures” line is akin to saying, “Look, the entire ice cream cone isn’t made of cow patties; the manure is just one scoop along with three scoops of real ice cream.” Either way, you’re asking people to eat crap.

via http://dianeravitch.net/2012/08/08/the-gates-foundation-defends-its-agenda/#comment-20028

UPDATE: Just found out that Bill Ferriter made a slide of this quote. Check it out!

See also my Delicious tag VAM.

Is Diane Ravitch anti-technology?

Screaming at computer

I confess that I’m struggling with Diane Ravitch lately (and not for the reasons I struggled back in 2010). I think that she’s a valuable voice in the educational policy landscape and I greatly appreciate her passion and her ability to energize educators and citizens as she speaks up against political and pedagogical abuses of our public schooling system. Heck, I just quoted her three days ago. But, despite her usage and leverage of social media to enhance her own voice and visibility, she’s increasingly appearing very anti-technology:

  1. On July 18 she said, “The demand for virtual schools is a sure indicator of the dumbing down of the American public and the triumph of American capitalism at its greediest.” In a comment to that post, I asked, “Diane, do you not see any role for online learning in P-12 education?” She replied, “Yes, I see a role for virtual learning. I see no useful role for for-profit schools. I see a very limited role for home kind nonprofit virtual schools.”
  2. Also on July 18, she blogged that she is against Bill Gates’ statement that educational gaming can be “an adjunct to a serious curriculum.” In a comment to that post, I asked, “Diane, do you not see any role for gaming and simulations in P-12 education?” She replied, “A limited role. Gaming is fun and kids can learn from gaming. But kids need to learn to concentrate and to persist when they are not having fun. Gaming doesn’t teach that. Nor does gaming teach how to understand theory or philosophy or how to read critically or how to understand the reason for the game.” When Moses Wolfenstein pushed back quite thoughtfully on those statements, she said, “Actually an all-game school is perfect for the training of drones.”
  3. Today she blogged against online education again, stating that she is “old-fashioned.” She went on to say:

there is something having the eye-to-eye contact, the face-to-face contact that is really better for purposes of teaching and learning than sitting alone in front of a computer.

I am not saying this to put down technology. I understand how wonderful it is to see visualizations, dramatizations, to see famous people giving famous speeches instead of reading them, to see events rather than reading about them. All of that can be incorporated into lessons.

My gripe is with the very concept that you can learn just as much sitting alone as  you can in a group with a live teacher. It may work with adults (although the author of this article doesn’t think so). But it strikes me as developmentally inappropriate for children.

So I’m struggling with her absolute, categorical refusal to recognize that SOME online learning options might be good for SOME public school children (who, after all, also have learning needs that sometimes would be better met by online courses, just like homeschooled children). Like Diane, I abhor the abuses of the online schools and companies that she so aptly describes on her blog. But there’s a difference between calling for better education / oversight and unilaterally denying the medium itself. Online learning is NEVER a good thing for public school children, under any circumstances? I disagree.

Since she’s willing to rail against educational gaming, I’m also struggling with her lack of understanding of the potential benefits of learning games (and maybe also simulations?). Her statement that educational games don’t teach children how “to concentrate and persist when they’re not having fun” shows an ignorance of children’s experiences in many of those games. Like Moses said in his comment, I’m sure that scholars like James Paul Gee, Kurt Squire, Chris Dede, Constance Steinkuehler, David Shaffer, and others would be glad to remedy her misunderstandings. And I’m guessing that they also might be able to teach her how learning games can do some of the things that she says they can’t.

Diane’s anti-technology rhetoric matters because she has a voice that people listen to and others look to her for guidance. As such, her language is quite dismaying because educational technologies will only proliferate, not diminish. Online learning is here to stay, learning games are here to stay, computer-adaptive learning systems are here to stay, and a whole host of other learning tools are as well. The issue is not – as she seems to believe – that they never have any value. The issues are 1) Under what circumstances do these new learning tools and spaces have value?, and 2) How do we create learning and policy environments in which that value is most likely to be realized? [side note: Larry Cuban, for all of his wonderfulness, also typically fails to make this distinction]

Perhaps Diane will blog her belief system(s) about learning technologies and clarify any misperceptions that I have about what she thinks. But right now her beliefs are not ones that I wish she was espousing…

[UPDATE: Further proof of my claim that she's anti-technology: http://goo.gl/fxq77]

Image credit: Bigstock, Screaming at the computer [no, the image is NOT of Diane Ravitch!]

Two quotes from Diane Ravitch

Although I don’t know how one would objectively measure this, I think lately Diane Ravitch has been even more vocal on her blog than usual. Here are a couple of quotes that caught my eye today:

[Reformers] say they want “great teachers.” But they demonize and demoralize the teachers we have now.

What plans do they offer to replenish the teaching profession after they have driven away so many who are dedicated to teaching?

Magic.

via http://dianeravitch.net/2012/07/17/another-teacher-beaten-down

AND

[T]he reformers are vulnerable. They are vulnerable to public exposure because the fact is that their harmful ideas have no public support once the public understands what they are up to. There is no public support for handing taxpayer dollars over to corporate interests and calling it “reform.”

The public loves its community schools and doesn’t want to see them impoverished by corporate raiders.

via http://dianeravitch.net/2012/07/17/good-news-from-new-jersey

I am by no means anti-corporation. But I am against killing public schools just to line corporate pockets. There is a role for corporations to play in public schooling. But there needs to be appropriate oversight, checks and balances, and protection of the public interest. Right now that’s not happening near enough…


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