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Education Historian Rails Against Standardized Tests In Westchester

Diane Ravitch was assistant secretary of education and counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander in the George H.W. Bush administration.
Diane Ravitch was assistant secretary of education and counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander in the George H.W. Bush administration. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Diane Ravitch was a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federal testing program.
Diane Ravitch was a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federal testing program. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Diane Ravitch was appointed by Bill Clinton's Secretary of Education Richard Riley in 1997 and reappointed by him in 2001.
Diane Ravitch was appointed by Bill Clinton's Secretary of Education Richard Riley in 1997 and reappointed by him in 2001. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
More than 100 parents, teachers and community members  from the Bedford area attended the lecture.
More than 100 parents, teachers and community members from the Bedford area attended the lecture. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
A question and answer period was held after the lecture.
A question and answer period was held after the lecture. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
 Before entering government service, Diane Ravitch was an adjunct history and education professor at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Before entering government service, Diane Ravitch was an adjunct history and education professor at Teachers College, Columbia University. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Diane Ravitch signed copies of her book, "Reign of Error" after the lecture and Q&A.
Diane Ravitch signed copies of her book, "Reign of Error" after the lecture and Q&A. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Diane Ravitch's blogs, at dianeravitch.net, has had nearly 8.3 million page views in less than a year.
Diane Ravitch's blogs, at dianeravitch.net, has had nearly 8.3 million page views in less than a year. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly

BEDFORD, N.Y. – Diane Ravitch doesn’t care if her third-grade grandson is college and career ready. She said she just wants him to have a childhood that isn’t defined by a score on a “high-risk” test.

The author of “Reign of Error,” Ravitch told parents and educators at Fox Lane High School Thursday night that students are being rated and ranked by their scores on the new standardized tests. While she said the “winners” get to go to the good colleges, the “losers” feel like society’s rejects.

“Testing is not teaching,” said Ravitch, an education professor and historian, who oversaw the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Research and Improvement from 1991 to 1993.

Not only are students in the U.S. tested more than in any other country in the world to meet the proficiency standards set by No Child Let Behind, she said now those tests are made longer and harder to align with the Common Core. She said there is no evidence to support the idea that more tests and harder tests means students will perform better.

The new state tests were unveiled last spring for grades three through eight, and 69 percent of students failed to meet proficiency. She said the new state English language arts test for fifth graders aligned most closely with the old test given to eighth graders.

“Changing our standards and changing our tests, making them harder do not address the root causes of low test scores and may in fact shoot the gaps far wider than they are today,” she said.

The root of low test scores is poverty and racial segregation and the increased and more difficult testing is distracting from that underlying problem, Ravitch said.

There are 43 states participating in the common core learning standards, which is a requirement to qualify for federal Race To The Top funds – states were also required to adopt the new teacher evaluation system, APPR. New York adopted the common core in 2010 and received $700 million to allocate to its public schools.

In the last year, dozens of Hudson Valley school districts have opted out of Race To The Top. Some did it to protest the implementation of common core, while others objected to the requirement to collect massive amounts of student data. Districts were concerned about how the data was going to be used when the state sent it to InBloom, a private company, to be stored in an online digital dashboard.

“The public must understand what is happening to their schools,” Ravitch said. “I wanted to talk with you tonight… because I’ve given up trying to talk to policymakers in Albany and Washington. They don’t listen. They’re determined on a course that’s bad for children. They’re determined on a course that’s ruinous for teachers. They’re determined on a course that’s bad for principals, bad for schools and bad for public education.”

Ravitch encouraged the 100-plus in attendance to contact their state legislators to let them know how they feel about common core, APPR and standardized testing.

Ravitch writes a blog, which has received 8.3 million page views in one year and can be found here .