National Edition

NYU professor blasts 'hoaxes' swamping US education

Published: Wednesday, March 5 2014 4:05 p.m. MST

Education Secretary Arne Duncam speaks to students at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, during a workshop to help students fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Duncan recently came under fire from NYU professor Diane Ravitch, who is arguing successive waves of "hoaxes" are swamping American education.

Susan Walsh, Associated Press

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Teachers are demoralized and parents are ill-served by successive waves of "hoaxes" that have swamped American education, argued New York University education professor Diane Ravitch at a teacher education conference over the weekend.

"In a far-reaching speech in which she lambasted a variety of players on the educational landscape — from self-styled education 'reformers' to Teach for America to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan — Ravitch said American schoolchildren are being shortchanged by an inordinate emphasis on testing," according to a report in Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

“For nearly five years, states and districts have been trying to evaluate teachers by test scores, and it hasn’t worked anywhere,” Ravitch said. “It makes testing too important, promotes teaching to the test, and gaming of the system. We know all know this. But the policymakers don’t. Where’s the evidence? It’s a hoax. By ‘hoax’ I mean a legislative mandate or a program that you must obey that has no evidence behind it,” Ravitch said.

“Testing is a critical component of accountability,” Deborah Delisle, assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education at the Education Department, told the Washington Post last month. “Parents and community members want to know how we can measure student growth and student learning. We hold central to the fact that testing is an essential component.”

Ravitch's campaign against the testing paradigm has struck a chord among teachers, with large-scale pushbacks occurring in New York and several other states.

Ravitch's vigorous attack over the weekend followed visits the last month to Capitol Hill, where she promoted her new book sounding the same theme. "Asked about the latest reform trend — ideas around the importance of developing character traits like ‘grit’ and ‘determination’ in students to help them succeed academically — Ravitch said she didn’t think those traits in children could or should be measured," the Washington Post reported.

Email: eschulzke@desnews.com

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