Ravitch says she was converted because the "facts have changed," but that's not really the case. What has changed is the recent appreciation by her and her colleagues of how incentives to boost basic-skill test scores at the expense of all else inevitably corrupt education. In Death and Life, she describes the familiarity of sociologists, economists, and business theorists with a 1975 observation of Donald T. Campbell that such corruption erupts in any field where simple quantitative measures are substituted for careful evaluation. "Campbell's Law" is expressed when cardiac surgeons, held accountable for raising surgical survival rates, refuse to operate on the sickest patients most in need of intervention; ... or when Wall Street traders take reckless risks because they are rewarded only for short-term, easily measured outcomes.
A reader adds:
I’ve been reading the posts on this topic with extreme interest. You see I live in Texas. That’s right the state that spawned NCLB. I have a son who is a sophomore. I removed him from the Texas public school system between 4th and 5th grade. I now pay more in private school tuition per year than the full load at a local state university. Why? Because while teachers are teaching to the test, NCLB manages at the same time to ensure very few get pushed ahead.
Everyone is so busy teaching for the tests, especially for the students who struggle, that some schools neglect the kids who need to be challenged. I pulled my son out because he was not a quietly bored kid and I was always at the school listening to the latest escapade story. When he finished one of those tests a few hours early the school refused to let him read a book, but made a 9 year old boy sit in a school desk for 2.5 hours with nothing to do. He hated school. Too often this translates to hating learning. Do we really want to do this to our kids? This year he told me he is finally enjoying school. For his junior year in high school he has asked to register for 5 AP courses.
Best decision I ever made, best money I ever spent.
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