Eric Benzel's Reviews > The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education

The Death and Life of the Great American School System by Diane Ravitch
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's review
Jul 07, 10

bookshelves: education
Read in July, 2010

This is a really powerful analysis of the school reforms of the last thirty years. I would agree with many others in saying that this is a must read for anyone who is interested in public education right now.

I especially appreciated the elucidation of assessment and accountability reforms. Ravitch reveals the a side of testing we don't often hear in the political scene. I do think she was a little too vague and critical of merit pay, however, which is trying to go past simple test score gains. I do think that we need to take her arguments seriously (especially those about corruption, cheating, and invisible improvement). The market driven mentality of education, she says, reduces student learning to the bottom line.

Also fascinating was her exposition of the control of a few philanthropic nonprofits in controlling the direction of reform. This was an eerie section considering the powerful impact of funding in education right now.

Most of all, I appreciate her exhortation that reform must be slow and must be focused on the classroom. I think she focuses unduly on curriculum though, and not enough on developing quality ways to evaluate and improve instruction.

You must read this book if you are in public education. The section on New York reform was the best concise history I have found.
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