Frankly, we don’t get it: Over Christmas, we were surprised by several statements from leading “educational experts.”
One such expert was Professor Linda Darling-Hammond, who guested on Morning Edition. Early on, tape was played in which she said this:
GREENE (12/26/13): This is Morning Edition from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.Why would Darling-Hammond say that? Granted, Greene was playing tape from an earlier interview, and tape can be taken out of context.
The United States has spent a decade trying to improve the standing of its schools compared to the rest of the world. Education researcher Linda Darling-Hammond says the result is disappointing.
DARLING-HAMMOND: We're actually not doing any better than we were doing a decade ago. In fact, the PISA tests, the international assessments, just came out a couple of weeks ago, and basically the story for the United States over the last decade or more is flat-line.
That said, Diane Ravitch made a similar gloomy statement when the new PISA scores emerged. Why would progressives say that?
With respect to Darling-Hammond, we became even more puzzled later in the Morning Edition segment. Steve Inskeep had done the interview which Greene introduced:
INSKEEP: You know, there's a lot of fear in this country some years ago that schools—particularly public schools—were failing. That's why a lot of education reforms have been passed.Those statements are much more upbeat than anything we would say. So why would she take the gloomy “flat-line” approach to the new PISA scores?
You have now raised concerns about the reforms themselves. I wonder if you feel, at this moment, that schools are failing.
DARLING-HAMMOND: Well, you know, in general, our schools do better with the challenges they have to face than I think is true of most high-achieving nations around the world. We have the highest rate of childhood poverty, mortality, lack of health care, homelessness of any developed country in the world at this point. And we have unequal funding, so that we give more money to the education of rich kids than poor kids.
So our affluent districts in schools do quite well, and are still the envy of many in the world. Our low-income schools and districts are struggling with all these responsibilities and challenges and very little and inadequate public support. And yet, they perform extraordinarily well, given the circumstances they have to meet.
In that quote from the top of the show, she seemed to say “we’re not doing any better than a decade ago” as an absolute statement. We don’t get why she would say that.
On balance, our most reliable test scores show substantial improvement in the past “decade or more.” As with Ravitch, so with Darling-Hammond:
We were puzzled by the way she adopted the “flat-line” script.
Tomorrow: What Randi Weingarten said