Sunday, March 13, 2011

A short conversation with...Diane Ravitch @DianeRavitch

I would like to thank Dr. Diane Ravitch for taking the time to answer my questions for this interview series. Dr. Ravitch's work has not only influenced me as an educator, but countless other educators as well.

Diane Ravitch

1. The idea that the government can “incentivize” teachers to do a better job by paying more money is held by many. Can you share a few thoughts on Merit Pay, paying teachers based on the performance of their students?

Merit pay has never worked. According to W. Edwards Deming, it doesn't work in the business world either. It destroys teamwork and collaboration. It encourages people to think only of themselves, not of the goals of the organization. It promotes short-term thinking (me!), rather than what's best for everyone. The most rigorous evaluation of merit pay was conducted by the National Center for Performance Incentives and published last fall. It found that merit pay did not produce any effect on student scores. Is it odd, isn't it, to think that students will work harder if their teachers get bonuses? This is the idea that never works and never dies.

2. Given the emphasis on standardized testing for students, can a teacher still conduct a class where creativity can flourish?

Certainly the No Child Left Behind law has put an emphasis on standardized test scores, to the exclusion of everything else. Now, states are passing laws stating that teachers will be evaluated by their students' test scores, and their tenure and salary and job will depend on those scores. Under these circumstances, there is no support or encouragement for creativity, innovation, or imagination. Students who exhibit these characteristics will likely choose the wrong bubble on the test.

3. In some places I’ve noticed that student course choice is becoming more restrictive in order to meet high school graduation requirements. What are your thoughts on further limiting student course selection choice?

My view is that all students should have a rich and balanced curriculum, one that includes the arts, science, history, mathematics, geography, civics, foreign language, and physical education. Any graduation requirements that get in the way of this kind of education should be changed.

Diane Ravitch Blogs here.

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