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Diane Ravitch in Sacramento, Continued

January 31, 2012

In a prior post, I shared two video clips from Diane Ravitch’s speech at the Sacramento Convention Center on January 20th.  I managed to record two other portions of the speech, and have embedded those clips below.

In the first clip, I picked up in the middle of a larger segment of the speech in which Ravitch points out that union detractors might have more credibility if they had greater success in areas where they have more influence.  Yet, Washington D.C. showed no gains from Michelle Rhee’s brief superintendency, nor do charter schools outperform traditional public schools – especially when student selectivity and attrition are figured into the equation.

In the second clip, Ravitch offers extended remarks about the misuses of standardized tests.  In the opening moments, she is addressing the idea of merit pay.  It is an idea grounded in 19th and 20th century thinking about how incentivize workers to do low-skilled repetitive work.  Teaching is neither, and research studies show consistently that attaching simplistic merit pay to work like teaching has a variety of negative effects, including decreased rather than increased motivation.  The idea of basing teacher evaluation on standardized test scores further taints the tests and the profession.  Even with “value-added” measures (VAM) applied, the scores are unstable, unreliable, and invalid for evaluative purposes.  Some economists have gone yet another step in the wrong direction by using studies of VAM to argue in favor of firing more teachers; such an approach, even if it were conceptually sound, would ignore basic realities about the labor supply.

For additional posts about this event, see blog posts by Alice Mercer, Larry Ferlazzo, and Anthony Cody.  I’ll add video clips from Linda Darling-Hammond’s speech in the near future.

UPDATE: Audio only versions of the speech: Part One; Part Two.

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