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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 07/10/2011

An educator on the Brooks-Ravitch debate

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This was written by educator Anthony Cody, who taught science for 18 years in inner-city Oakland and now works with a team of science teacher-coaches that supports novice teachers. He is a National Board-certified teacher and an active member of the Teacher Leaders Network. Cody is also one of the organizers of the Save Our Schools March scheduled for July 28-31 in Washington D.C. A version of this post appeared on his Education Week Teacher blog, Living in Dialogue.

By Anthony Cody

New York Times columnist David Brooks recently launched a broadside against Diane Ravitch. This was rather reminiscent of the recent attack by Jonathan Alter. These pieces generally lack substance, but seem designed to reassure those inside the policymaking circle that their assumptions are safe, in spite of the relentless waves of evidence that have emerged, and the sharp critique offered by the nation’s leading education historian.

The New York Times ran a short rebuttal from Dr. Ravitch, and has invited readers to contribute to the dialogue.

The focus on Dr. Ravitch is suspicious. Her views are devastating, but she is hardly alone. She is speaking for many of us, and her expertise is backed up by the reality so many of us who work in schools are familiar with.

Here is my letter:

The trouble that armchair education experts like David Brooks have is that the evidence keeps lining up against them. As Dr. Ravitch has pointed out in her devastating critiques, this effort has not only failed, high stakes tests are corrupting our school system.

Witness the latest cheating scandal in Atlanta. We have leaders intent on proving that poverty is no obstacle to student success. After 24 years of teaching in Oakland, I can tell you that it is. Poverty and the social and environmental phenomena that are its companions: hunger, violence, PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], chemical pollution, lack of access high quality daycare in early years, lack of access to vision, dental and medical care, and lack of access to books. Addressing ANY of these would yield better results than the policies underway that attach ever higher stakes to standardized tests, and continually expand the variety and frequency of tests.

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