cautions against throwing out the baby with the bathwater:
Ravitch sprinkles a range of “to be sures” throughout the book--yes, testing can be useful if it isn’t relied upon for onerous accountability penalties; yes, some charter schools have been remarkably successful--but she still rejects practically the entire enterprise of test-based accountability and choice. Instead, she says she'd like to see “a substantive national curriculum” covering the full range of subjects. But, while “end it, don’t mend it” seems to be Ravitch’s approach to the reform consensus, couldn’t one take the opposite tack and try to improve today’s top-down and bottom-up strategies rather than abandon them altogether?
Like other critics of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), Ravitch overstates the extent to which test prep crowds out all other subjects, even in the troubled urban schools whose students are furthest behind. Even if core skills do receive disproportionate attention at disadvantaged schools, one can make the case that this isn’t crazy: Ravitch herself acknowledges that reading, writing, and math are the building blocks for all other learning. Surely it would be possible to come up with an accountability regime that makes sure kids know the basics, exposes them to a broader range of subjects, and improves on the NCLB model, including removing perverse incentives for states to dumb down their standards.
Ravitch replies to Wildavsky.
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