PolitFact gives Diane Ravitch a “mostly false” grade on her claims about test scores. Of all the false claims she’s lobbed out over the past few years, I’m not sure why they chose to go after her on that one where she’s more or less right. She overstates the case and the specifics but is correct on the larger point. The data on test scores and indicators like graduation rates are generally more complicated than the political debate allows and there has been progress and it’s too often not acknowledged (and cherry picking of NAEP data is a pandemic in the ed world to make various points). All that said, the outcomes for too many kids are still deplorable so the idea that the progress obviates the need for reform is laughable on its face.
More generally, part of the confusion about school performance stems from the intellectual inconsistency of at once trying to say the last twenty years of reform were wasted while also saying schools are making progress. It used to be public school critics (including Ravitch) who were always grabbing onto bad news to make their case and public school defenders griping that no one every wrote about the good news. Now it’s as often the defenders highlighting every time something fails to work while at the same time saying policymakers should ease up on the schools. That’s a reflection of the changing political alignments around education and different points of view influencing the agenda. But it’s a confused position so it’s not surprising there is a lot of confusion.