Diane Ravitch Condemns ‘Accountability’, I Dissent, She Responds. So: Let’s All Discuss It.

Eric Zuesse

On August 29th, America’s leading voice on ‘reform’ of k-12 education condemned President Obama for being supportive of ‘accountability’ in our educational system. Headlining “Why Is the Obama Administration Making War on Teachers,” she closed by wondering, “Why did President Obama embrace the Republican agenda of testing, accountability, and choice?” She blanket-condemned there all three of those.

In a reader-comment (as “cettel22”), I responded to another reader’s comment, which seemed to be endorsing Ravitch’s opposition to “accountability.” I pointed out that a falsely-measured ‘accountability’ should not be understood as diminishing the value of truthfully-measured accountability:

“The current formula [for evaluating teachers] calculates the performance of entire classes of students, not the improvement in performance of individual students — the latter isn’t even tracked at all; only the performance of the collective is. Consequently, teachers in rich districts, with well-endowed students, needn’t worry — their jobs are safe. It’s only teachers in poorly-endowed districts who are jeopardized by the existing formula.

The current formula doesn’t measure a given teacher’s actual achievement (the improvement-percentage of his or her students) at all. Only by calculating the improvement in students’ performance can that be tracked — and it’s not tracked; it is not the basis for evaluating teacher ‘performance.’

The current formula is designed to turn the screws on teachers in poor districts. Those are the very same teachers who ought instead to be paid extra, because they face the most difficult and challenging jobs.

Obama is the friend of the rich and comfortable, and the enemy of the poor and uncomfortable.

You’re fooled by his rhetoric.”

A reader then requested clarification, considering that the current education policies are “fully bipartisan,” and I responded with this:

“The teachers’ unions accept the jiggered formula for rating teachers. The reason they do is that the unions’ leadership want to stoke the conflict, not to end it. The conflict would quickly end if management were to change the formula so as to rank performance on the percentage-improvement in each teacher’s students during the course of a year under his instruction, instead of on the sheer performance of that teacher’s students. Of course, the sheer performance will be relatively low in low-income, under-resourced, districts, and relatively high in affluent schools. Changing the formula would transform everything. But none of the elites would gain from that. All of the elites would lose from the change.

There would no longer be any motivation for gaming the system, such as by excluding from a school low-performing students. There would also no longer be faked test-scores, because only a student’s improvement, or test-score-increase (as compared to that student’s prior-year test-score) would count in calculating the given teacher’s ‘performance.’ Everybody except the elites would gain, and everything would be much fairer. But in today’s U.S., only the elites gain. As a result, all of the income-gains are going to the richest 1%. They’re the only ones with power. They crush the lower 99%. So: we stay with ranking teachers on the basis of their students’ test-scores, instead of on the basis of the improvement in their test-scores.”

Then, I directly addressed a comment to Ravitch herself:

“Diane, if you continue to say that “accountability” is bad, then you are supporting Obama’s entire agenda, because his basic agenda is to enforce responsibility (obligations upward in the power-structure, such as of employees to employers, and borrowers to lenders) but not accountability (obligations downward in the power-structure, such as of school-administrators to teachers, management to unions, etc.).

Teachers aren’t opposed to accountability. If teachers are evaluated according to proven-successful criteria for evaluating their individual performance, then teachers will support that. They won’t support criteria that merely blame teachers when the system itself is rotten from top to (even including some teachers) bottom. They certainly won’t support criteria that hold teachers accountable for, basically, teaching in the lowest-income and most-stressed school districts, the very same “hazardous-duty” districts that should instead be paying their teachers extra for teaching there.

Your use of the term “accountability” is sick, and it provides a very false view of the teaching profession. If anything, teachers want fair accountability, rather than the existing ‘accountability’ which is the reverse of that and rewards the teachers who need (and often deserve) it the least: the ones in rich districts — the teachers of the rich.”

Ravitch replied directly to this, by saying,

“I don’t agree. When “reformers” talk about accountability, they mean punishment and reward based on test scores. I oppose carrots and sticks to reward or punish. So is modern cognitive science.”

And I responded to that with:

“I agree with you on the over-emphasis upon test-scores. But that’s not the only, nor even a large part of the, problem.

Both with regard to test-scores and other criteria, there can be no improvement in American education until teachers are measured on the improvement in their students’ performance under their tutelage, instead of (as now) on their students performance under their tutelage.

A student’s performance (especially in the early years) depends more on what the parent, and the neighborhood, has provided to that child in the way of his preparation, than it does on whatever the teacher does with that child.

What a teacher provides (or fails to provide) to benefit that child during the student’s year under his tutelage is that student’s improvement, rather than that student’s sheer performance itself (which depends primarily upon factors other than that teacher).

Diane, I know that you sincerely believe that a system can function well without accountability. But it simply cannot. Accountability is the foundation-stone of justice. No societal system can perform well without justice. People won’t trust such a societal system, nor should they. The problem in our society, and in all societies, is injustice.

It’s unjust that merely because a teacher is teaching in a low-income school district, that teacher is penalized (instead of especially rewarded) as compared to a teacher who teaches in a wealthy one (where the students’ performance is higher — no thanks to the teachers there, who are getting paid more and having more-secure jobs because they’re not teaching in a more-difficult environment). You support that injustice, even without wanting to.”

Then she responded with a comment to which there was no reply-button, so I quoted its entirety in an independent comment of my own:

“Diane, regarding your:

“Cettel22, you echo what I have written so I have no idea what you are talking about. I repeat: NCLB and Race to the Top define accountability as rewards (merit pay for higher test scores) or punishments (you will be fired or your school will be closed) based on test scores. I oppose that. It is not supported by research or experience.”

 —

That’s not true. You oppose accountability in education-policy; you even said here, “Why did President Obama embrace the Republican agenda of testing, accountability, and choice?”

You included “accountability” in with those other two. You have consistently condemned “accountability” as if it were something to be minimized (or vaguely measured) instead of increased (and more clearly defined) throughout our (and any) society.

The basic problem is that there is no accountability (there is only responsibility); that’s the problem throughout America’s body-politic including education. No bankster who defrauded both home buyers and MBS (Mortgage-Backed Securities) investors and crashed the economy in 2008 has gone to prison for it. George W. Bush lied the country into invading Iraq and wasn’t even impeached for it. Barack Obama and our major ‘news’ media are deceiving America into supporting the ethnic-cleansing of ethnic Russians out of southeastern Ukraine, and millions are now going into refugee camps because of it. Where are the bad consequences for these and other criminal malfeasances of our elites?

You mis-locate the problem as “accountability,” instead of as mis-measuring the performance of everyone — including of teachers, and of principals, and of politicians such as Bush and Obama. Everything is being misrepresented, lies are rampant, and there is no justice exacted against such mass-deception. And this is the reason why the dedicated teachers in low-income schools can get fired en-masse while even mediocre or low-quality teachers in upper-income school districts have no need to worry about that happening to them. Instead of teachers in hard districts getting extra pay for that, they get fired for it. This is not ‘too much’ accountability; it is, instead, fraudulent ‘accountability.’

I believe that your focus, Diane, is wrong. The question isn’t whether the performance of everyone should be measured; the question is how to do that in an honest, fair, and just way, so that excellence will be especially rewarded, and mediocrity (in rich schools) no longer will continue to be (as it currently is).

This will help advance improvement of American education in both poor and rich neighborhoods.

The core problem is how to achieve authentic accountability, rather than the fake version that now reigns throughout our society and is really little else than status-affirmation — appropriate only for a feudal or fascist society.

I believe that until you wrestle with that problem, your proposed solutions will be mis-focused, on things that aren’t necessarily even part of the problem, and that might even be essential parts of its solution.”

Inasmuch as I believe that lack of accountability is the chief failure of our society, I invite readers here, and/or at Ravitch’s blog, to contribute to the discussion.

The consequences of changing the rating-system for teachers so that it measures how much a teacher improves a given student’s skills over a year, as opposed to how skilled that student is at the end of the year, would transform education, in a very positive way, and would stop the excessive government funding of the education of the students in rich districts.

A reader there said that until Ronald Reagan, everything in American education was fine. This person said: “Before that the people being held accountable were the students and the people holding them accountable were the teachers.” I replied:

“You confuse accountability with responsibility. A student has a responsibility to the teacher, not an accountability to the teacher.

The teacher has an accountability to the student. The teacher is obligated to improve that student’s performance. By contrast, the student is obligated to obey the teacher.

As long as you and Diane Ravitch and everyone else in education refuse to understand what accountability is, there isn’t even a hope of doing it right.

The only way to get accountability of teachers right is to reward the most the teachers who improve their students’ performance the most (the largest percentage) per year of that teacher’s teaching of that student. In other words: what counts is not how well that student performs at the end of the year (as the current formula does), but instead how much (how big a percentage) that student improves his performance during that year under that teacher’s tutelage. If the improvement-percentage is average, the teacher is average. If the improvement-percentage is sub-average, the teacher is sub-average. If the improvement-percentage is above average, the teacher is above average. The incentive then becomes to teach so as to improve one’s students’ skill (in the given subject-area) the most.”

Ravitch responded:

“You seem to be defending VAM, although truthfully I have no idea what you are saying. Have you read Audrey Amrein-Beardsley on VAM? Or Edward Haertel? Or the joint statement by AERA and the National Academy of Education? Or Linda Darling-Hammond?”

I replied:

“I am speaking clear English, and you are responding with jargon. I know the reality that teachers are struggling with. I am not proposing VAM. I am not proposing any complex formula that incorporates personal information about a student: disability, “gifted” status (which is a crock), race, or anything other than measures of the student’s level of skill in the given field when entering this teacher’s tutelage, and the level of that student’s skill in that field when leaving that teacher’s tutelage at the end of the academic year or beginning of the next academic year. That’s all. If the student is disabled, or else gifted, the percentage-rise in skill over the given year is all that should matter. A low-IQ student might start from, say, a rating of 50 out of 100, and rise to 55. A high-IQ student might start from 80 and rise to 88. the improvement-percentage would be the same. Improving the formula is not complex to do. Evading the issue is to evade the problem that must be addressed.”

Ravitch answered:

“Are you aware that no high-performing nation in the world judges teachers by student test scores?”

I replied:

“I am not proposing that. However, tests or some other quantifiable performance-measures need to be part of the evaluation-process in some subject-areas, such as in language-arts and in math. Furthermore, subjective measures of teacher-performance should be done by strangers who are carefully trained for the purpose in the given subject-area and who are themselves tested and constantly re-evaluated so that those evaluations will be as objective as possible. To the fullest extent possible, personal prejudices and personal relationships should be left out of the process. The whole institution of k-12 education needs to be restructured so as to serve the needs of the children, focused only on that. Of course, it ought to be fully funded via broad-based taxes, and there should be no public subsidization of any education that is not being provided by the government. Privatization is poison. Mussolini introduced it; Hitler then took it up. Then, finally, Reagan championed it. That’s for fascisms, not for democracies.

It needs to be made totally fair, especially because nature itself is the opposite.”

Another reader commented:

“Should American public education have the function of sorting and separating students so that some may receive greater benefits than others, especially considering that the sorting and separating devices, educational standards and standardized testing, are so flawed not only in concept but in execution?

My answer is NO!!!!!”

I replied:

“Mine too, which is the reason why the system that I have proposed removes the existing system’s incentives for teachers to seek and be especially high-paid for employment in rich school districts with few if any disabled or low-functioning kids. Improving from a score of only 25 to a score of 35 is the same 40% increase as is improving from a score of 50 to a score of 70. The disincentive for having low-performing students in your school is thus gone. Suddenly, the most rational response of both the teachers and the administrators becomes to devote equal educational resources to each and every student. Disabled or ‘retarded’ students might qualify for public assistance on other (not specifically ‘educational’) criteria. But the system of education would be incentivized to devote equal expenditures to each student, ‘gifted,’ ‘normal,’ or ‘retarded.’ They are all equally worthy, and all equally served by the educational system, as I have proposed.

You are defending a system that’s anything but equalitarian — that is, in fact, highly prejudiced in favor of star students and rich parents.”

If an educational system is going to move toward a more-quantitative and thus less-prejudiced system for assessing the effectiveness of teachers (and this is the only rational approach to improve teaching), then the only way to do it without making things even worse than they already are in education is to switch from measuring performance, to measuring improvement in performance, because that’s what a teacher is supposed to be conveying to students: improvement. It’s similar to the distinction between speed versus acceleration. Nobody evaluates automobile engines for their speed, but instead they’re rated for their acceleration, such as zero to 60 in five seconds. Thinking about education has still not yet reached the stage of development that Galileo reached for physics: he introduced the concept of acceleration. Theory in the field of education is still that primitive: pre-scientific. This is the reason why the existing measures that are used for determining the performance of teachers are wrong: we have to look at their students’ acceleration not their speed, look at their improvement not their performance. Only then can accountability of teachers be measured truthfully.

Ravitch’s blog is the leading edge of the intellectual school-reform movement. She should be held accountable for any fundamental misrepresentations that she makes there. It can’t happen if the interested public simply ‘behaves properly.’ Martin Luther King ‘misbehaved.’ Sometimes, it’s necessary. The public is invited here to this intellectual protest against the Establishment counter-Establishment regarding K-12 education.

———-

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010,  and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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  • artguerrilla

    1. not too impressed by what appears to be semantic games: a theoretical (‘authentic’ !) Universal Accountability (um, AKA ‘laws’ ?) proposed by the writer which does not exist; and if it DID exist, it would be (in fact, is be) hijacked by authoritarian puppetmasters, as is actually the case… huh…
    2. one wonders where/how this principle is applied to the writer… surely, the writer will volunteer for such Universal Accountability… ahhh, but then, perhaps the writer *has* applied their *own* Universal Accountability principles to spare us the effort… works out very tidily…
    3. i will not go on at length, because i’m not familiar with all the ‘research’, but i don’t think it is *just* the ‘early years’ (?) which are *strongly* influenced by home environment; i am pretty sure that adheres through at least high school, with repercussions far beyond…
    4. this ‘teach to the test’ regimen (which is WHAT IT IS), does EVERYONE a disservice: the kids do NOT benefit (the supposed beneficiaries), on NUMEROUS levels… the most obvious one being, they don’t have the test results conveyed to them in any meaningful fashion in any timely manner than could possibly make any difference… the TEACHERS are not ALLOWED to see any results until the kids are leaving for the year: HOW does that ‘help’ the students ? the TEACHERS are not ALLOWED to view/examine the tests, MUCH LESS discuss them, give feedback, etc… it is bullshit from beginning to end…
    it is ALL about a power elite agenda to DESTROY public education, to not only keep succeeding generations just smart enough to operate an M-16, but too stupid to know they are killing for Empire; but also line the pockets of cronies and profiteers…
    5. we have a corrupted and broken system which is no longer based on the rule of law, but of the rule of greedy men… you can have all the bullshit ‘authentic’ Universal Accountability you want, but as long as something like the present Empire is running the show, it don’t mean SHIT…
    while there may certainly be a slew of ‘bad’ laws that need to be repealed or repaired, it is mostly that existing laws have not been enforced in any meaningful fashion, and/or only enforced against the 99%, never the 1% of psychopaths looting and destroying our society…

    • cettel

      How do you propose to reduce the “1% of psychopaths looting and destroying our society” if those psychopaths continue to receive an outsized share of public education resources as at present (with high-performing districts continuing to have overpaid teachers and low-performing or low-income districts getting all of the cutbacks and having their teachers fired)?
      Aren’t you evading the problem and delivering to it mere blather in your comment, instead of addressing it?
      Isn’t the problem a sick and corrupted ‘accountability’ instead of the true accountability that is needed in order for equality of economic opportunity to emerge?

  • ginko

    This is basically gibberish. Diane Ravitch is trying to stop elite takeover and/or embezzlement from of a public institution that is underfunded. She is trying to stop false accountability movement with a hiden agenda. A discussion on true accountability is a completely different animal, and a very complex issue that can only be determined on a case by case basis that takes into account the student, the student’s environment (parents, neighborhood, diet, sleep etc.) and the school and the principal.

    Besides, what is obviously needed is smaller class sizes. More arts and music and theater. More civics and history. More physical education and hands on learning like electronics and carpentry. Then more free tutoring. More math and science for kids that actually like it. I’ve spent many years in the public school system- both myself and my kids. Poor teachers are about 2 percent f the problem. The accountability for the bad schools is not with the teachers. Leave Diane alone. Stop wasting her time. Advocate for smaller class sizes if you want to see what a teacher can do.

  • Zachery d Taylor

    Without going through all the bickering, some of which seems
    to have gone to far, I suspect that no reasonable person, including Diane
    Ravitch is opposed to reasonable accountability. However one problem which
    Diane and others may have contributed to, at least tacitly, is allowing the
    debate to be limited to two sides that repeat many of the same arguments over
    and over again.

    Mostly what Diane argues against is the corporate version of reform, and
    unfortunately that is the only version that gets much attention in the media.
    She is far better than their attempt to take over education. However there are
    more rational people involved in the debate, some of whom focus on certain
    issues. For example Jonathan Kozol has criticized some of the same bad teachers
    that the corporate reformers use for scapegoats but he doesn’t want to use this
    as an excuse to let in a corporate take over; instead he wants rational
    accountability, although he may not phrase it that way. And both James
    Garbarino and Ellen deLara have also criticized some teachers for not doing
    enough to prevent violence. They have also done more constructive criticism to
    offer solutions that work without promoting corporate take over of education.

    Perhaps the more important thing is who controls the “accountability,”
    if they have an agenda and if they’re peer reviewed by people with different
    views without narrowing it to two limited arguments.

    Frankly saying the ‘use of the term “accountability” is sick’ seems uncalled
    for and only leads to antagonism.

    • cettel

      Re. your “I suspect that no reasonable person, including Diane Ravitch, is opposed to reasonable accountability.”:

      That statement is mush. What is “reasonable”? Who will decide? According to what rules? How will those rules be enforced?

      Don’t get me wrong. It’s not the mush in your comment that disturbs me. It’s the mush in Ravitch’s fake ‘proposals’ for ‘educational reform’ that disturb me. Because when the thinking is still at a pre-Galilean level, and Ravitch is in the forefront of ‘educational reform,’ then the problem here is so extremely serious and deep-rooted, that it isn’t even really being discussed at all. This is how bad the situation really is.

  • Revoke the concept of tenure. Teachers need to be accountable for their work, and should not be able to hide from public scrutiny.

    I fully support undeniable transparency in our education system. Some teachers are leeches, not educators.

    • cettel

      Tenure was introduced so as to provide techers the freedom from arbitrary management. You want teachers to be able to be fired prejudicially. You want school administrators to be dictators over their work-force. That’s a disastrous formula for education. You are ignoring the problems that produced tenure.

      • They should be held to the highest standards. Tenure fosters laziness from the teaching staff, thinking they can be subpar and survive parental oversight.

        If you have to depend on tenure to remain employed, you chose the wrong profession. The highest caliber teachers should welcome evaluations,

        Sorry. You will not change my opinions on this. One of my family members was a teacher. He agrees. I’ve heard plenty of storeys that where told in those teachers break rooms.

        If they are subpar, they should be terminated from employment. Education is that important. Call it whatever you will. I don’t care. If i fall to perform my job duties, i will be terminated.

        Teachers should be no different.

  • Duane Swacker

    Eric,

    If I may post this here as a way of enlightening those who believe that the teaching and learning process is amenable to “measuring”. It’s not, and to understand why read Noel Wilson’s never refuted nor rebutted 1997 dissertation “Educational Standards and
    the Problem of Error” found at: http://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/577/700

    Brief outline of Wilson’s “Educational Standards and the
    Problem of Error” and some comments of mine.
    (updated 6/24/13 per Wilson
    email)

    1. A description of a quality can only be
    partially quantified. Quantity is almost always a very small aspect of quality.
    It is illogical to judge/assess a whole category only by a part of the whole.
    The assessment is, by definition, lacking in the sense that “assessments are
    always of multidimensional qualities. To quantify them as unidimensional
    quantities (numbers or grades) is to perpetuate a fundamental logical error”
    (per Wilson).
    The teaching and learning process falls in the logical realm of
    aesthetics/qualities of human interactions. In attempting to quantify
    educational standards and standardized testing the descriptive information
    about said interactions is inadequate, insufficient and inferior to the point of
    invalidity and unacceptability.

    2. A major epistemological mistake is that we
    attach, with great importance, the “score” of the student, not only onto the
    student but also, by extension, the teacher, school and district. Any
    description of a testing event is only a description of an interaction, that of
    the student and the testing device at a given time and place. The only correct
    logical thing that we can attempt to do is to describe that interaction (how
    accurately or not is a whole other story). That description cannot, by logical
    thought, be “assigned/attached” to the student as it cannot be a description of
    the student but the interaction. And this error is probably one of the most
    egregious “errors” that occur with standardized testing (and even the “grading”
    of students by a teacher).

    3. Wilson identifies four “frames of
    reference” each with distinct assumptions (epistemological basis) about the
    assessment process from which the “assessor” views the interactions of the
    teaching and learning process: the Judge (think college professor who “knows”
    the students capabilities and grades them accordingly), the General Frame-think
    standardized testing that claims to have a “scientific” basis, the Specific
    Frame-think of learning by objective like computer based learning, getting a
    correct answer before moving on to the next screen, and the Responsive
    Frame-think of an apprenticeship in a trade or a medical residency program
    where the learner interacts with the “teacher” with constant feedback. Each
    category has its own sources of error and more error in the process is caused
    when the assessor confuses and conflates the categories.

    4. Wilson
    elucidates the notion of “error”: “Error is predicated on a notion of
    perfection; to allocate error is to imply what is without error; to know error
    it is necessary to determine what is true. And what is true is determined by
    what we define as true, theoretically by the assumptions of our epistemology,
    practically by the events and non-events, the discourses and silences, the
    world of surfaces and their interactions and interpretations; in short, the
    practices that permeate the field. . . Error is the uncertainty dimension of
    the statement; error is the band within which chaos reigns, in which anything
    can happen. Error comprises all of those eventful circumstances which make the
    assessment statement less than perfectly precise, the measure less than
    perfectly accurate, the rank order less than perfectly stable, the standard and
    its measurement less than absolute, and the communication of its truth less
    than impeccable.”

    In other word all the logical errors involved
    in the process render any conclusions invalid.

    5. The test makers/psychometricians, through
    all sorts of mathematical machinations attempt to “prove” that these tests
    (based on standards) are valid-errorless or supposedly at least with minimal
    error [they aren’t]. Wilson
    turns the concept of validity on its head and focuses on just how invalid the
    machinations and the test and results are. He is an advocate for the test taker
    not the test maker. In doing so he identifies thirteen sources of “error”, any
    one of which renders the test making/giving/disseminating of results invalid. And
    a basic logical premise is that once something is shown to be invalid it is
    just that, invalid, and no amount of “fudging” by the psychometricians/test
    makers can alleviate that invalidity.

    6. Having shown the invalidity, and therefore
    the unreliability, of the whole process Wilson
    concludes, rightly so, that any result/information gleaned from the process is
    “vain and illusory”. In other words start with an invalidity, end with an
    invalidity (except by sheer chance every once in a while, like a blind and anosmic
    squirrel who finds the occasional acorn, a result may be “true”) or to put in more
    mundane terms crap in-crap out.

    7. And so what does this all mean? I’ll let Wilson have the second to
    last word: “So what does a test measure in our world? It measures what the
    person with the power to pay for the test says it measures. And the person who
    sets the test will name the test what the person who pays for the test wants
    the test to be named.”

    In other words it attempts to
    measure “’something’ and we can specify some of the ‘errors’ in that
    ‘something’ but still don’t know [precisely] what the ‘something’ is.” The whole process harms many students as the
    social rewards for some are not available to others who “don’t make the grade
    (sic)” Should American public education have the function of sorting and
    separating students so that some may receive greater benefits than others,
    especially considering that the sorting and separating devices, educational
    standards and standardized testing, are so flawed not only in concept but in
    execution?

    My answer is NO!!!!!

    One final note with Wilson channeling Foucault and his concept of
    subjectivization:

    “So the mark [grade/test score] becomes part
    of the story about yourself and with sufficient repetitions becomes true: true
    because those who know, those in authority, say it is true; true because the
    society in which you live legitimates this authority; true because your
    cultural habitus makes it difficult for you to perceive, conceive and integrate
    those aspects of your experience that contradict the story; true because in
    acting out your story, which now includes the mark and its meaning, the social
    truth that created it is confirmed; true because if your mark is high you are
    consistently rewarded, so that your voice becomes a voice of authority in the
    power-knowledge discourses that reproduce the structure that helped to produce
    you; true because if your mark is low your voice becomes muted and confirms
    your lower position in the social hierarchy; true finally because that success
    or failure confirms that mark that implicitly predicted the now self evident
    consequences. And so the circle is complete.”

    In other words students “internalize” what
    those “marks” (grades/test scores) mean, and since the vast majority of the
    students have not developed the mental skills to counteract what the
    “authorities” say, they accept as “natural and normal” that “story/description”
    of them. Although paradoxical in a sense, the “I’m an “A” student” is almost as
    harmful as “I’m an ‘F’ student” in hindering students becoming independent,
    critical and free thinkers. And having independent, critical and free thinkers
    is a threat to the current socio-economic structure of society.

    • cettel

      Thank you for that, Duane. I agree with #1. I disagree with #2 because I believe that it ignores the distinction between a student’s performance and his performance-improvement. So, I stopped reading right there, since what I am propounding is based upon this distinction. It’s similar to the distinction between speed versus acceleration. Thinking about education has still not yet reached the stage of development that Galileo reached for physics: he introduced the concept of acceleration. Theory in the field of education is still that primitive.

  • elizabethhanson

    Thank you for writing your concerns Eric. I’m a teacher- ESL at a community college- and was going to write what Duane did. He beat me to the punch. That said, you are an excellent researcher and journalist. I started looking into Common Core when I saw the new GED test, which has been privatized by Pearson. I took the math portion, (I had taught GED for 3 years early in my career) and couldn’t pass it. Long story short, it seems that Common Core and the federal mandates are all a ploy to get the public school funding into private hands. There is well over $560 billion in play. This is a new ploy… not unlike what we have seen from other cartel moves including mortgage backed securities fraud. If the system- corp+gov’t- really cared about teaching and learning, we wouldn’t see what we are seeing- like the propaganda to be “college and career ready” and the growth of charter schools or online education- This article might be of interest. Thank you for brining up this important topic Eric and we can follow the money to wall street. http://restoregedfairness.org/latest-news/35-the-common-core-train-is-coming-off-the-tracks-the-pearson-vue-ged-caboose-will-too

    • cettel

      I loathe Obama’s education-policy. But rejecting it is not a policy. What’s needed insted is an intellectual framework that’s scientifically sound to replace it. A scientifically defensible alternative to it is needed. That’s what I am trying to come up with.

  • Carl_Herman

    Thanks for addressing this important topic in education, Eric. I’m a public school teacher with 30+ years’ experience. The biggest ideas to understand of what’s happening to education:

    1. We’re being squeezed in funding (as everyone else) and forced to have more students with more families also suffering in this economy. This is stressful, increases our time at work, and decreases our time to reflect on improvements. These are powerful factors to decrease student total performance.

    2. We’re being demonized in the media to push for privatization of schools. The purpose of this is to control the message (and firing teachers like me “at will” rather than being forced to prove poor teaching who point to damning facts in money, war, etc.).

    3. “Accountability” is an Orwellian message when “leaders” war-murder, bankster-loot, GMO poison us, and ~100 other OMFG areas of public damage.

    So what do we do? Turn that table of accountability and demand arrests of such “leaders.” The money issue is also huge: we could be fully funded tomorrow: http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/06/public-banking-conference-good-news-all-solutions-already-here-for-deficits-debt-full-employment.html

    US “leaders” oppose education because it reveals their massive crimes. Whatever moves they make is to keep us all stupid, controlled, and believing in their management. If they want “accountability” it’s only to rig the game to damage real education from exposing their criminal oligarchy.

  • Letem Dangle

    There is plenty of blame to go around, from belligerent parents, to over zealous school unions, to teachers who don’t speak up against militant union decisions and to centralized education reforms. Diane Ravitch is right in that Obama and his administration should get their noses out of education.