There are no knock-out punches in this fight, but David Brooks comes close with a perspective-setting essay about school reformers and their adversaries. Appropriately, he takes out after Diane Ravitch, the reform movement’s loudest and most visible critic (see Dana Goldstein’s recent profile and Liam’s caveat) who, says Brooks, “has come to adopt the party-line view of the most change-averse elements of the teachers’ unions: There is no education crisis. Poverty is the real issue, not bad schools. We don’t need fundamental reform; we mainly need to give teachers more money and job security.”
I wish Brooks had spent more time exploring the difficulty these change-averse educators have in trying to argue that they should be paid more for doing something they claim is impossible to do (i.e., improve schools), but I’ll settle for Brooks’ wonderful exposition of why testing is such a bogus issue.
The only schools that are “distorted by testing,” Brooks argues, are bad schools, “the schools the reformers haven’t touched.”
Brooks manages to work in references to a host of change agents and academics – Whitney Tilson, KIPP, E.D. Hirsch, Caroline Hoxby – to make his case. And he concludes with this simple truth: “If your school teaches to the test, it’s not the test’s fault. It’s the leaders of your school.”