Dominic'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
Jan 30, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: teaching
Read from March 15 to 28, 2010

I didn't know too much about Diane Ravitch when I picked up this book. My like-minded liberal friends told me she was a conservative, anti-teacher, pro-NCLB pundit, but in 2007, she had an epiphany. She realized what most teachers already knew: NCLB was completely misdirected and a complete and utter failure. Ravitch opens her book admitting her mistake in championing George W. Bush's NCLB policy that has ended up being a death sentence for so many schools and so many teachers (and thus so many students) across the country. I admire her willingness to call out her own mistake and to do something to "make up" for the mess it created.

Ravitch's book is a fine summarization of the past 10 years in public education (and a pretty quick read)--particularly the obsession with standardized tests and scores, school choice and vouchers, and the arrival of the charter school. Since I've been teaching for 10 years, it was nice to step back and put together all the pieces I've been fed (sometimes forcibly) over that time. I feel I now have a really clear perspective on just how messed up things are right now instead of just fighting for reform in the middle of chaos as before an ongoing onslaught of breaking waves.

Don't pick up Ravitch's book looking for "answers," but books on education rarely provide them. Her most compelling argument, though, is that schools (and the policies that determine how they are run) are problematically being lead by non-educators. She calls for a strong curriculum and treating teachers as professionals. Hopefully the book will spur you to DO something with the information she provides. It gave language to a lot of the things I've been feeling for a long time as a proud public school education. We teachers need to stop letting non-educators and good intentioned politicians tell us how to teach or how to measure our success and the success of our students. We have a surprising new ally in Diane Ravitch.

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