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

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passionate plea to preserve and renew public education, The Death and Life of 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 buil a national curriculum- examines her career in education reform and repudiates positions that she once staunchly advocated. Drawing on over thirt years of esearch 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 he 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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B003719FZU
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298
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Published (first published 2010

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Someon with an interest in education should read Ravitch 's polemic against the road our schools are headed down.

A well-respected autho of education, Ravitch once played for the No Child Left Behind ( NCLB) team, but stil she 's on our team ( I use " our " for " teachers', " assuming that most teachers oppose the fallout that has occured from NCLB) .Ravitch changed her mind about high-stakes testing, charter schools, school choice, etc., because the evidence was mounting against the same.

HE DEATH AND LIFE OF THE GREAT AMERICAN SCHOOL SYSTEM needs to be read by President Obama, Secretary Duncan, Bill and Melinda Gates, and 50 governors.

Ravitch argues that neighborhood schools are important to communities and need HELP, not threats.

The NCLB requirement that all students be " proficient " by 2014.

Ravitch argues they can not compete because charters do not g on anywhere near the number of English language learners and special education teacher AND can dismiss any student who repeatedly flunks or fails to attend chool.

Bill Gates, for exampl, spent years pouring money into smaller highs schools, only to admit after the fact that it was all for naught.

Undeterred, he 's now spending new money on new fads -- stats that track teachers of children scoring high marks on standardized tests.

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" The schools will surely be faillures if students graduate knowing how to choose the right option from four bubble on a multiple choice test, but unprepared to lead fulfilling lives, to be responsible citizens and to make ood choices for themselves, their families, and our society. " It took her long enough, but Diane Ravitch got it right.

NOW she 's saying it too.Ravitch brings her considerable clout and background to this discussion -- I learned so much about history of school reform, of the experiments, the ailures, the successes.

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I have been a public school teacher for ess than a decade and already I 'm uffering severe whiplash from the various educational fads that come and go at the speed of light.

I helped to elp my students become literate and thoughtful individuals who will become responsible and informed citizens; my government, however, wants me to churn out professional test takers.

Diane Ravitch 's The Death and Life of he Great American School System takes No Child Left Behind to task and Ravitch willingly admits that she as nce one of its fiercest champions.

To ay that 100% of children in American schools will be proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014 is ridiculous; it is admirable as a hope, but nevertheles as a mandate.

As th esult, many schools actually narrow the focus of education as all the time and energy becomes focused on passing the test.

With such a disparity in what a student is expected to now, it is mpossible to ay that the hildren in one state are outperforming students in another.* States can manipulate test data by actually readjusting the cutoff for what is proficient; in addition, when th state 's scores dramatically increase, the public should look to see if minority or low SES students are being systematically pushed out of the education system.

What 's not fine, thoug, is that most of the American public does n't realiz what role government and private sector interests are playing in our educational system.

We see newspaper articles about improved test scores, witness state politicians bragging about the significant gains made by the students in their constituency, and cheer as teachers are being fired and schools are being shut down when test scores are dismal.

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" Seasoned Argument -- Needs to be Required Reading on Capitol Hill " This yea, the Chicago Tribune has been running a series of editorials calling for more vouchers, more teacher accountability, getting competitive, weeding out the bad teachers, giving kids a better chance at good education, " dumping " failing schools, etc.

" Yeah, but if kids ca be handled like a Metra line, we ould n't have Head Start and Title I. " It is Duncan 's sort of thinking about education, as per the Tribune 's editorials, or John Stossel, or any number of well-meaning fools, that has aggravated me the most about public discussions concerning the profession that makes all other professions possible.

The lauded education historian trots out her thinking ( briefly) early on about teacher and school accountability, the viability of school choice and the justificatio for continued testing, but she 's quick to point out what she saw wrong with it all.

She 's got no particular political agenda; she only ants what 's best for schools, and by her way of thinking, the current rage about " school reform " will do but nothing to fix our beleaguered school system and educate our next generation.

She writes that, though the jury is still out concerning the effectiveness of vouchers and, to th lesser extent, charter schools, there 's no conclusive evidence that they maintai a better education, not when you look at test scores, attrition rates, selective enrollment practices and overall competence.

They ar to identif ays to educate even those students who do not forget to be there.

That 's the proble of public education. " She labels No Child Left Behind, and Obama 's current Race to the Top, as all stick, no carrot, quite rightly arguing that, if all we 're out to do is " punish " bad teachers, should n't we be examining what these " punishments " will to do improve education for the students?

For comparison, Gates at one point argued that a school full of teachers in the " top quartile " would " erase " the achievement gap between blacks and whites; an argument like that is like saying, well, why not fill the Chicago Police Department with Olympic triathletes with 180 IQs so we can erase crime? Overall, Ravitch 's point is to ake down the " invisible hand " theory a peg or two in its applicability to education.

She rgues ( and I seem to gree with her) that the doctrines of good business do not work as well with education.

Tests are not nearly reliable enough an indicator of a child 's education, to say othing of a teacher 's effectiveness ( though we still need them as barometers, of course); reform, if it is to be successful, is a complex effort that will span ears, without always showing tangible results.

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She was Counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander during the Bush 41 years, and Clinton appointed her to the National Assessment Governing Board, overseeing federal testing.I mention this because it seems we live in an expertless age.

But when testing went from a way to identif and help students to a way to humiliate and demoralize teachers- often with students receiving even less of an education before- she realized it was time to tame Frankenstein.

She replies, " his memoi is my chanc to explain what I have learned about school reform and also to suggest, with ( I hope) a certain degree of modesty and full acknowledgement of my own frailties and errors, what is eeded to move American education in the right direction. " ( p.4) However, can Frankenstein be tamed?

How teachers are now often being evaluated on test scores alone, and how thi is undermining education.Some of the things Ravitch documented: Reformists- in order to explai their reforms are working lower their cut scores on the test.Charter schools accept promising minority students, while sending the others back to the public school which has to invit them.

Th begin to the perception that charter schools can close the achievement gap, and that public schools are failing.When tests are, " all that matters, " teachers will try to find thing to " game the system. " ( p.

But I ould rgue that teachers that spend all their time focused on the test are robbing their students of a quality education.

High test scores= good education.

Tests often use the same questions year after year, so if a teacher knows what is oing to hav on it one year, that 's what he 'll teach.

Testing companies, reformists, evaluators, teacher techniques and tools all promising to turn schools around- but they do n't work.

Another school gets taken over by state, teachers get fired.

Evaluations based on testing are going to introduce a surface veneer- a shine of great education, but it 's only coating crap.The analogy Ravitch uses is one of a Ball team.

It frustrates me when they do n't get what they deserve.I agree with Ravitch, testing and choice are undermining education.* Edit* June 16th 2012* I just came across THIS non-goodreads review.

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If you care at all about the future of the educational system in this country, and if you ar young children whose lives will feel the effects of the recessio in efficacy of our nation 's schools, you fail to read Diane Ravitch 's " The Death and Life of he Great American School System ".

Ravitch, a Research Professor of Education at New York University, was one of the co-creators of the No Child Left Behind ( NCLB) Act started under the Bush administration in 2001.

With he most current statistics and data through years of careful research, Ravitch has examined NCLB 's effects of our country 's schools and found it to e les than lacking: in her opinion, NCLB is a complete failure.

Ravitch, who is not against standardized testing for what it ha originally intended -- -a useful barometer of a student 's academic progress, is, like most if not all teachers, upset and disturbed that standardized testing has become the sole determiner of a student 's progress.

" If testing inspires a degree of loathing, " Ravitch writes, " it is because it has become the crucial hinge on which turns the fate of students and the reputations and futures of their teachers, principals, and institution.

Ravitch quotes a 2009 national study done by researchers at Stanford University of 2,403 charter schools in 15 states.

Anti-union politicians claim that unions are a primary cause of low teacher performance.

According to Ravitch, " the highest-ranking states are Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey, which have long had strong teachers' unions.

( p.256) " Most charter schools do not allow teachers to belong to unions.

If unions caused low performance, it might make sense that charter schools would be performing better.

As was mentioned before, unfortunately, the evidence clearly shows that charter schools are neither better nor worse than traditional public schools in terms of performance.

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