Sunday, August 22, 2010

More Voices Crying in the Wilderness, or, "Others with better credentials seem to agree with me"

In July I read Diane Ravitch's recent book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. Ravitch, a former assistant secretary of education, echoes many of the themes from my previous post (April 18, 2010).

Now, obviously, Ravitch didn't get any ideas from me, and even if she did read my blog (as if!), her book was sent to the publisher many months ago. My gratification in reading the book was merely that she had analyzed many of the same issues I had looked at, and she had arrived at the same general conclusion: In our haste to reform education, we will probably make things much, much worse.

In today's newspaper, Ravitch has written short reviews of three new books on education reform. I intend to read at least at least two of these books in the weeks ahead.

Dear reader, if you do not have the time to read the reviews linked above, please allow me to quote a portion of Ravitch's review of Linda Darling-Hammond's new book:

Darling-Hammond does something that the Obama administration has not: She reviews what the top-performing school systems around the world do to get great results. Their highest priorities, she shows, are building a strong, experienced staff and making sure that every school has access to a rich, well-balanced curriculum in the arts and sciences. Finland, the highest-performing nation, has not relied on testing and accountability to achieve its current status. [Washington Post, page B7, Aug. 22, 2010]

Are we Americans so arrogant that we can't take the time to learn from the Finnish success? To be sure, Finland is much more homogeneous than the U.S., and has a completely different culture, but the fact that the Finnish reforms have not been based on market-based approaches (read: bottom-line focus) should give us pause.

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