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Diane Ravitch

Ravitch Misleads (Again) on the Federal Role in Education

As a Research Professor of Education, self-described historian and recipient of numerous honorary degrees, it’s particularly surprising how often Diane Ravitch gets her facts just plain wrong (when she bothers to cite any evidence for her claims) and builds her rhetoric on a foundation of mistruths and misconceptions. For example, in her EdSource piece, How to Fix No Child Left Behind, Ravitch manages to misconstrue or misguide her readers on almost every element of her argument. Let’s start with just the first five paragraphs:
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s commentary for EdSource last month, called “How Not to Fix No Child Left Behind,” consisted for the most part of mushy platitudes that must be measured against the realities of his actions over the past six years. During that time, Duncan has aggregated an unprecedented power to tell states and districts how to operate. The administration’s Race to the Top program was not passed into law by Congress, It was definitely approved by Congress. yet it was funded with $5 billion awarded by Congress as part of the economic stimulus plan following the 2008 recession.
Actually, the State Incentives Grants (aka Race to the Top)  were authorized and funded by Congress through the appropriate process (The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009)—as Ravitch well knows. Additionally, the $5 billion she referenced was split between the Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) and Race to the Top.
Duncan used that huge financial largesse to make himself the nation’s education czar. Quite a bit of hyperbole here. When states were most economically distressed, he dangled billions of dollars before them in a competition.
Let’s put this into context: Race to the Top was 1 percent of all education spending, and less than 5 percent of the total education funds in ARRA.
They were not eligible to enter the competition unless they agreed to lift caps on opening more privately managed charter schools, to rely on test scores to a significant degree when evaluating teachers, The whole premise of this paragraph is misleading. to adopt "college-and-career-ready standards" ( aka the Common Core standards, which had not even been completed in 2009 when the competition was announced) and to take dramatic action to "turn around" schools with low test scores (such as closing the school or firing most of the staff).
First of all, none of these were eligibility requirements. As someone who worked in the federal government, Ravitch well knows the difference between eligibility requirements and selection criteria, so this is misleading. For example, states that won the grants, like Massachusetts and Rhode Island, still had and continue to have charter school caps. Also, “college and career ready standards” does not necessarily equal “Common Core.” It was not a required component by any means. And test scores were only one of many measures to evaluate teachers, including lack of progress, graduation rates, observation scores, portfolios, student and parent surveys, and more.
Almost every state applied for a share of the billions that Duncan controlled, and almost every state changed its laws to conform to his wishes, yet only 18 states and the District of Columbia won awards. Duncan added the same conditions to state waivers This is false. from NCLB's unrealistic target of 100% proficiency in reading and math for all children in grades 3-8.
They were not the same criteria. For example, waivers did not reference charter schools, teacher prep organization, or data systems. Friendly reminder, Diane: it's always helpful to check your facts before publishing.

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