THE BLOG
12/06/2007 05:48 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Diane Does Rush

Looking at Diane Ravitch's 1991 article, "U. S. Schools: The Bad News is Right," and her contemporary defense on the Huffington Post of her actions concerning the Sandia Report, it is clear that Ravitch missed her true calling: conservative talk show host. In delivering self-serving distortions, simplistic generalizations, and outright lies, she can out-Rush Rush and out-Bill Bill. She lacks the ball-biting blood lust of Ann, but maybe that would have come in time.

She writes that the report claimed "that the scores really were not falling." That it said "Just take out the black and Hispanic and inner-city kids, they suggest, and the picture was rosy." What horse hockey. The report showed (page 273) that NAEP math scores had been steady for whites and rising for blacks and Hispanics although both groups trailed whites substantially. An analysis by community type (rural, advantaged metro, disadvantaged metro) showed NAEP performance steady or rising. We're talking NAEP here, not some dinky test the Sandia engineers made up.

The report noted that blacks and Hispanics were becoming an ever larger proportion of the overall population. The engineers wrote, "these data reinforce the dropout findings indicating that the performance of racial/ethnic minorities continues to lag behind the performance of whites." They said nothing about "taking out" the black and Hispanic scores. These are engineers for God's sake. Systems engineers, in fact. Engineers, more than any other professional group in the world would know that you don't ignore a substantial part of the system you're working with.

"If anything, today's students are performing better than previous students. We are not implying that these performance levels are adequate for today's or tomorrow's society or that these levels are comparable to those in other countries." Does that sound like painting a rosy picture to you?

As for the suppression, she writes, "David Kearns knew, as did all the senators in that room, that there is no way that a report, an opinion, an essay, or any other expression of one's views can be suppressed." Lord, lord, Diane, have you learned nothing from the seven years of thought control by the Bush administration? If it wasn't suppressed, why does former Sandia vice president, Lee Bray, insist it was?

"The report was not published by the government, but it was published and received far broader attention and a far larger audience than most of the reports published by the government." What chutzpah! Maybe most reports, but not reports about public schools. She then goes on to discuss the PISA results, which if what she said about government reports were true, she wouldn't even know about. But PISA results, along with PIRLS results were published by virtually every newspaper in the country. The publication of the Sandia Report in the Journal of Educational Research received zero media attention.

Actually, the Sandia Report was first published a few months before it appeared in the Journal of Educational Research as an appendix to a book Exploding the Myths by Paul Houston, then superintendent in Riverside, CA and Joe Schneider, then with the Southwest Regional Lab. Joe had presented the report at a SWRL board meeting and Paul invited him to present it at back-to-school meeting for administrators and parent leaders.

Within hours of sending a note advising people of the opportunity to see a government-suppressed report, Houston received a call from Peggy Dufour, Secretary Watkins' chief education adviser blasting him for presenting it and saying he had lied about it by calling it suppressed. Houston asked when the report would be released. Dufour said "we haven't and we aren't going to let it be released." Houston suggested she check the definition of "suppress." She called Schneider and implied that SWRL risked losing some of its federal funding if he made the presentation. Exploding the Myths is not the kind of book Ravitch reads.

Ravitch claims I have "achieved certain notoriety for his insistence over many years that American schools are better than ever and that anyone who dares to criticize them is wrong, misguided, and/or part of an evil cabal to destroy public education." This sentence clearly proves one thing: Ms. Ravitch-Limbaugh-O'Reilly hasn't read a word I've written.