"That political economy... which busies itself about capital and labor, supply and demand, interests and rents, favorable and unfavorable balances of trade, but leaves out of account the elements of a wide-spread mental development, is naught but stupendous folly.Louis Cooper in today's PNJ has an intriguing front page news story about the latest plans for a new elementary school in Pensacola.
The school will incorporate eco-friendly building materials, design and energy use. The curriculum will focus on giving children an early exposure to foreign cultures and language.The architectural design (by Quina Grundhoefer of Pensacola) looks enticing and the foreign language program sounds great, right? Let's hope it all will be so.
But the core of a good school isn't in the bricks and mortar. Exhibit A for this is Pensacola Beach Elementary. That school has worked out of disreputable, cramped, and flimsy trailers and temporary buildings for nearly two decades, yet by every meaningful measure -- and some not meaningful -- it's among the very best elementary schools in all of Florida.
Good education starts with good teachers and persistent parental involvement at home and with the school. It certainly doesn't spring from mandated testing programs, as Diane Ravitch explains today on NPR. The politically conservative, one-time advocate of "No Child Left Behind" has grown up to realize that the real-world data shows what most thinking parents have known from the get-go: the "No Child Left Behind" program -- which in Florida translates into a heavy emphasis on FCAT -- essentially means "we are lying to our kids."
"The basic strategy is measuring and punishing," Ravitch says of No Child Left Behind. "And it turns out as a result of putting so much emphasis on the test scores, there's a lot of cheating going on, there's a lot of gaming the system. Instead of raising standards it's actually lowered standards because many states have 'dumbed down' their tests or changed the scoring of their tests to say that more kids are passing than actually are."She also has some important things to say about the catastrophically destructive idea of 'privatizing' schools and applying "marketplace" strategies:
Some states contend that 80 to 90 percent of their children are proficient readers and have math proficiency as well, Ravitch notes. But in the same states, only 25 to 30 of the children test at a proficient level on national tests such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
"The fundamental principle by which education proceeds is collaboration. Teachers are supposed to share what works; schools are supposed to get together and talk about what's [been successful] for them. They're not supposed to hide their trade secrets and have a survival of the fittest competition with the school down the block.If you missed the radio interview this morning, you can hear a podcast of it and read the transcript here. Ravitch also has new book out, "The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How testing and Choice are Undermining Education."