Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Recent Reading

Here are some notes to self about books...(Being of a certain age, I'm having trouble keeping track, I should probably use a social bookmarking tool or something. In fact, I tend to leave browser windows open and then when they get closed by accident, I lose things.)

Just reading about Kris Nielson's  Children of the Core: Our Kids are at Risk.  A strong contrarian blog post. I think I'll order the book and see where he's coming from.

From there, I started reading Diane Ravitch's Blog. Her prose is so extreme that I find her writing less enchanting and less reasoned. Still, I'll follow her for awhile. Specifically, her "TFA award for hubris" post is just the sort of tone that keeps me from being interested in the diatribe crowd who has become so hostile and uninteresting.

BTW, here's the wikipedia write-up on her position: Ravitch critiqued the punitive uses of accountability to fire teachers and close schools, as well as replacing public schools with charter schools and relying on superstar teachers, in The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Undermine Education (2010). The book became a surprise best seller a month after its release. One reviewer wrote "Ravitch exhibits an interesting mix of support for public education and the rights of teachers to bargain collectively with a tough-mindedness that some on the pedagogical left lack."[9]
While she originally supported No Child Left Behind and charter schools, Ravitch later became "disillusioned," and wrote, "I no longer believe that either approach will produce the quantum improvement in American education that we all hope for." In the major national evaluation, 17% of charters got higher scores, 46% were no different, and 37% were significantly worse than public schools, she said. High-stakes testing, "utopian" goals, "draconian" penalties, school closings, privatization, and charter schools didn't work, she concluded. "The best predictor of low academic performance is poverty—not bad teachers."[10]
Ravitch said that the charter school and testing reform movement was started by "right wing think tanks like the Heritage Foundation," for the purpose of destroying public education and teachers' unions.[11]She reviewed the documentary Waiting for Superman, directed by Davis Guggenheim, as "propagandistic" (pro-charter schools and anti-public schools), studded with "myths" and at least one "flatly wrong" claim.[12] Of Education Secretary Arne Duncan's Race to the Top program, Ravitch said in a 2011 interview it "is an extension of No Child Left Behind ...[,] all bad ideas." She concluded "We are destroying our education system, blowing it up by these stupid policies. And handing the schools in low-income neighborhoods over to private entrepreneurs does not, in itself, improve them. There's plenty of evidence by now that the kids in those schools do no better, and it's simply a way of avoiding their - the public responsibility to provide good education."[13]
Her book The Language Police (2003) was a criticism of both left-wing and right-wing attempts to stifle the study and expression of views deemed unworthy by those groups. The review summarizes Ravitch's thesis as "pressure groups from the political right and left have wrested control of the language and content of textbooks and standardized exams, often at the expense of the truth (in the case of history), of literary quality (in the case of literature), and of education in general."[14] Publishers Weekly wrote: "Ravitch contends that these sanitized materials sacrifice literary quality and historical accuracy in order to escape controversy."[15]
Ravitch's writings on racial and cultural diversity were summarized by sociologist Vincent N. Parrillo:
[Ravitch] emphasized a common culture but one that incorporated the contributions of all racial and ethnic groups so that they can believe in their full membership in America’s past, present, and future. She envisioned elimination of allegiance to any specific racial and/or ethnic group, with emphasis instead on our common humanity, our shared national identity, and our individual accomplishments.
—Vincent N. Parrillo, Diversity in America[16]

I also just like reading teacher blogs. I spent an hour or so tonight just going from teacher to teacher blog...Listening to their daily thoughts...It's almost comforting that despite all the big thinking policy-makers, the inertia of the system prevents us from doing that much to change education.

For instance, for no particular reason, I just read: J'aime Holderbaum's blog (what a great pun she makes of her name).  Plus one about homeschooling online. And three more: homeschooling parents discussion forum, a non-religious homeschooling forum, and a high school homeschool resources site.

Making Word Study FUN!

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