Dear Diane, I’ve been pondering your letter. The grading system is so absurd as to be intriguing. How could it have happened? It suggests a disconnect between the people making decisions “downtown” and reality of humongous proportions. Its source though puzzles me—since these are not dumb men. How could they have been led so far astray? Ordinary common sense should have led Jim Liebman (the author of the NYC grading scheme) to have junked it before going public. For just the absurdities you pointed to. But ordinary common sense doesn’t work when you hire people to make...

Editor's note: Bridging Differences returns today from its holiday break with this entry from Diane Ravitch. Dear Deb, Let's talk about grading schools and about when it is appropriate to close schools. It seems that the accountability idea has become the overrriding passion in American education: Everyone must be held accountable, everyone must have their feet held to the fire on a regular basis, and every decision will be based on test scores. Students better raise their scores or they fail; teachers better raise their students' scores, or they will not get a bonus and might get some sort of ...

Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch are taking a short break from their blog for the holidays. Bridging Differences will return in January 2008. Happy holidays to all, and we'll see you in the new year....

Dear Diane, It's hard to resist making one more stab at it—but there's something beyond logic that pulls us apart on this one! Do send me the California standards you refer to so I can see what you mean by "consensus". Of who? What "compromises" were made along the way? Were they worth it? And: Are the California standards without "stakes"—just a source of voluntary information—for faculty, students, school boards and the public? But I fear that our correspondent Paul Hoss—who favors such national standards is more realistic in how he sees them being used—as...

Dear Debbie, I don't agree with your judgment—and the judgment of some (but not all) of our readers—about whether it is feasible to craft useful standards. It is difficult, but not impossible. I'll explain why I think this is so. First, I served on a committee charged with developing history standards for the state of California in the mid-1980s. The committee included historians; knowledgeable teachers and administrators from elementary schools, junior high schools, and high schools; geographers; child-development specialists; and people from various disciplinary organizations. We wrangled, we discussed, we debated. We talked about concepts and details....

The opinions expressed in Bridging Differences are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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