The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education

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9780465025572: The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education

A passionate plea to preserve and renew public education, The Death and Life of the Great American School System is a radical change of heart from one of America’s best-known education experts.

Diane Ravitch—former assistant secretary of education and a leader in the drive to create a national curriculum—examines her career in education reform and repudiates positions that she once staunchly advocated. Drawing on over forty years of research and experience, Ravitch critiques today’s most popular ideas for restructuring schools, including privatization, standardized testing, punitive accountability, and the feckless multiplication of charter schools. She shows conclusively why the business model is not an appropriate way to improve schools. Using examples from major cities like New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, and San Diego, Ravitch makes the case that public education today is in peril.

Ravitch includes clear prescriptions for improving America’s schools:

  • leave decisions about schools to educators, not politicians or businessmen
  • devise a truly national curriculum that sets out what children in every grade should be learning
  • expect charter schools to educate the kids who need help the most, not to compete with public schools
  • pay teachers a fair wage for their work, not “merit pay” based on deeply flawed and unreliable test scores
  • encourage family involvement in education from an early age

The Death and Life of the Great American School System is more than just an analysis of the state of play of the American education system. It is a must-read for any stakeholder in the future of American schooling.

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About the Author:

Diane Ravitch is Research Professor of Education at New York University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. From 1991 to 1993, she was Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander in the administration of President George H.W. Bush. President Clinton appointed her to the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees federal testing. She is the author or editor of over twenty books, including The Language Police and Left Back, and her articles have appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines. A native of Houston, Ravitch graduated from the Houston public schools, Wellesley College, and Columbia University. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Review:

E. D. Hirsch, Jr., author of Cultural Literacy, The Schools We Need, and The Making of Americans
No citizen can afford to ignore this brave book by our premier historian of education. Diane Ravitch shines a bright, corrective light on the exaggerated claims of school reformers on both the left and the right, and offers an utterly convincing case for abandoning quick fixes in favor of nurturing the minds and hearts of our students from the earliest years with enabling knowledge and values.”

New York Times
Ms. Ravitch writes with enormous authority and common sense.”

The Nation
In an age when almost everybody has an opinion about schools, Ravitch's name must be somewhere near the top of the Rolodex of every serious education journalist in this country.”

Wall Street Journal
Ms. Ravitch [is] the country's soberest, most history-minded education expert.”

Christian Science Monitor
Ravitch's hopeful vision is of a national curriculum she's had enough of fly-by-night methods and unchallenging requirements. She's impatient with education that is not personally transformative. She believes there is experience and knowledge of art, literature, history, science, and math that every public school graduate should have.”
Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Diane Ravitch is the rarest of scholars one who reports her findings and conclusions, even when they go against conventional wisdom and even when they counter her earlier, publicly espoused positions. A must' read for all who truly care about American education.”

Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommon Professor of Education, Stanford University, and Founding Executive Director, National Commission for Teaching & America's Future
Diane Ravitch is one of the most important public intellectuals of our time. In this powerful and deftly written book, she takes on the big issues of American education today, fearlessly articulating both the central importance of strong public education and the central elements for strengthening our schools. Anyone who cares about public education should read this book.”
NYSun.com
Public education is a tough enterprise. It won't be fixed overnight. But if we stick with a back to basics approach, saturated with the solid American democratic values that Ms. Ravitch advocates, we won't be so prone to fall for the silver bullets that never seem to find their mark.”

Los Angeles Times
The Death and Life of the Great American School System may yet inspire a lot of high-level rethinking.”

Valerie Strauss, Washington Post
Her credibility with conservatives is exactly why it would be particularly instructive for everyone--whether you have kids in school or not--to read The Death and Life of the Great American School System.”

Booklist, starred
For readers on all sides of the school-reform debate, this is a very important book.”

Library Journal, starred
[A]n important and highly readable examination of the educational system, how it fails to prepare students for life after graduation, and how we can put it back on track Anyone interested in education should definitely read this accessible, riveting book.”

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