Teaching to the Test and Charter Schools Won't Help Kids: Expert

The Obama administrations plans won't help improve education

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Federal officials have placed New York 15th on a list of 16 states eligible to receive an education grant known as Race to the Top.

    For being second to last, New York is out of the money. But the decision to put this state in that position has caused an uproar among politicians and educators, even as New York prepares to seek money in a second round of Race to the Top in June.

    As people point fingers and play the blame game, no one seems to be speaking out for the people most affected: the children.

    No one except Diane Ravitch, the great scholar and historian of American education. She is blunt:

    "The Obama administration wants states to evaluate teachers by their students’ test scores, a truly bad idea. The tests that students take are intended to gauge student progress, not to judge teacher quality," she wrote in her book "The Death and Life of the Great American School System."

    "This approach will mean more teaching to the test, more narrowing of the curriculum.

    "This will undermine public education."

    Ms. Ravitch says the Obama administration wants states to create more charter schools but she insists the evidence to date doesn’t show they do any better than regular public schools.

    And, she warned me that the creation of more charter schools could be "an invitation to corruption."

    Back in the days when community school boards had a strong hand in education, there were many instances of corruption involving school board members. Ms. Ravitch thinks that, with federal money flowing into New York City, there would be a great opportunity for rogues to plunder some charter school funds.

    The state tests for reading and math, she says, have been "dumbed down" to make it appear that progress is being made. "It’s a Ponzi scheme."

    She adds: "We are lying to the children." Every year, she says, the state announces "dramatic gains on state tests and every year state officials lie to our children."

    "This routine won’t make us more competitive in the world," Ms. Ravitch declared to NBCNewYork. "It’s a bad state of affairs."

    It’s sad indeed that the children are pawns in the political games that are being played by both politicians and educators. The education system needs help. But pouring more federal money into this city and other cities is not a panacea.

    Good teaching, meaningful education can’t be measured by mathematical formulas, by multiple choice or true and false tests.

    The best teachers now -- and throughout history -- have been those who inspired their students with a reverence and love of learning. Somehow, we have to find a way to establish such teachers as guardians of our educational system and our young people.