Thursday, March 29, 2012

Diane's questions

Diane Ravitch has an interesting biography. It is an education researcher who acted as advisor to the Secretary of Education George Bush (father) and then to the Secretary of Education for the administration of Bill Clinton. With the first led efforts to develop more rigorous educational standards. Then, between 1997 and 2004, with George Bush Jr. and the White House, she was director of the National Assessment Governing Board, the equivalent to Chilean SIMCE. In short, he starred in the design and implementation of the American educational model as it stands today.

The 2010 published an interesting book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, which should be required reading for every politician interested in education reform and who believes that the American model deserves to be followed and copying. It basically repent of what worked in previous years, and demonstrates with data, research and arguments, that the policies that were implemented for competing schools and teachers, to standardize the testing of students, targeted on a few materials and lack of resources and prestige of public education (with the parallel deification of private education without her show better results) have finished destroying the possibilities of improving the quality of education. Does this sound familiar?



This weekend, Diane Ravith published 13 questions for politicians interested in education. I find so interesting to the Chilean context, let me translate, copy and adapt them to our reality, for you to judge its relevance, but above all, we turn to ask the mother of all questions: how is the educational system that Chile wants to have?

1. Do the politicians know that studies consistently show that subsidized private schools do not perform better than municipal schools? Despite having fewer regulations and obligations, once corrected for socioeconomic status, the same results obtained in the SIMCE and PSU.

2. Do they realize the danger of putting public money in highly deregulated schools, without adequate supervision or the demand for better results?

3. Do the politicians understand that subsidized schools, based on prejudice of quality and prestige, away from municipal schools the best students, further undermining public education?

4. Do the politicians know that the school subsidization system based on demand has shown no impact on educational outcomes anywhere?

5. Do they have learned that a huge body of research has warned that it is wrong to judge the quality of teachers simply looking at student outcomes on standardized tests? Do you understand that these measurements are not safe or stable and that a teacher may, with them, be classified as effective and as ineffective one year to the next? Do you realize that these measurements are strongly influenced by the composition of the course on which the teacher has no control?

6. Will they know that individual merit pay for teachers based on standardized test scores of their students, has been testing in the world again and again since 1920 and has never worked?

7. Many politicians have argued that the system must remove the bad teachers, those whose students do not show better results on standardized tests. How many do you think good teachers are lining up for classes, especially in the poorest schools and students with the greatest difficulties?

8. What they do not mind criticism permanent, justified and unjustified, increase the demoralization of teachers and continue driving down the prestige of the teaching profession, making it difficult to attract good professionals in the future, to make classes?

9. The further development of Chile has been to the last 20 to 30 years, and throughout that period, we obtained very poor results in all international standardized test in which we participated. Is not it is worth asking if they are measuring what is important to measure, or at least ALL that is important to measure?

10. We look with envy educational outcomes and the Nordic countries Finland, Korea and Singapore. Do you know how it compares social inequality and inequity between Chile and those countries? You know that family income is the most direct predictor of student outcomes on standardized tests like the SIMCE, the PSU, PISA or TIMSS? Students living with educated parents, have more books at home, better vocabulary spoken around them, better healthcare, greater travel opportunities and access to libraries and greater economic security, have better results. Did you know that these things influence?

11. What they do not worry that closing schools with low results in poor areas such communities become even weaker?

12. Why politicians do not read or pay attention to research and studies in education?

13. Finally, do you know any country in the world with high scores on international tests, which has accomplished that privatizing public schools, closing those that perform worse and firing teachers whose students are low scores?

The answer to this question it is delivered by Diane: none.

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