In her recent New York Times op-ed, “The Common Core Costs Billions and Hurts Students”, Diane Ravitch describes the effects of Common Core as compared to its promise. I do agree with much of what she says there, about the way Common Core was a rush job funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation money — and, incidentally, written by ill-qualified authors — and the way it was sold as a panacea that will “improve achievement and reduce the gaps between rich and poor, and black and white.” And I do agree with her when she attributes the recent sharp drop on NAEP achievement to Common Core — after all, it is difficult to see any other national level educational change in recent years that could have produced such a broad and sharp dip in achievement across the nation.
Yet her unqualified attribution of “poverty and racial segregation” as “the main causes” of poor student achievement caught me short. Surely she must be wrong. If poverty and racial segregation were the causes of, rather than correlated with, poor achievement, then we would never see racially segregated but academically successful schools, or successful schools with largely poor kids. A few successful and disadvantaged kids? Sure. But there is no way schools with hundreds of such kids can beat statistical odds against success if poverty — or segregation — are the causes of poor achievement.
Yet such schools do exist! We have numerous examples of effectively segregated schools, and of high-poverty schools, that bring their students to high achievement, and they typically do this without significantly different expenditure per student. Continue Reading