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The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education | [Diane Ravitch]

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

In this best-selling expose of national policy gone wrong, America's foremost historian of education, Diane Ravitch, renounces her support for reform policies implemented over the past decade that she says are wrecking America's cherished tradition of public education.
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Publisher's Summary

In this best-selling expose of national policy gone wrong, America's foremost historian of education, Diane Ravitch, renounces her support for reform policies implemented over the past decade that she says are wrecking America's cherished tradition of public education. Strategies like accountability schemes based on questionable standardized tests, merit pay for teachers based on gains on the same unreliable tests, vouchers, and charter schools have been oversold as solutions for our educational problems. Policymakers pushing a market model of reform and charter schools are on the wrong track, ignoring classroom realities. The more they push these policies, Ravitch says, the more they will harm our nation's school system and undermine the quality of education.

The bipartisan No Child Left Behind program ("NCLB") implemented with a heavy political hand nationwide, has failed to improve education. It has turned our schools into testing factories to train children how to take standardized tests instead of giving them the knowledge and skills that are necessary components of a good education. The federal "sanctions" and "remedies" now mandated nationwide have unfairly stigmatized thousands of schools, putting them at risk of being closed and privatized.

The "miracles" touted by districts under the new policies vanish on close examination. Test scores in many states and districts are inflated by statistical game-playing and lowered standards. The over-emphasis on testing has all but eliminated the essential elements of a solid education, including history, civics, science, the arts, geography, literature, physical education, health education, and foreign languages. Privatization and deregulation has led predictably to some good and some bad but, on average, charters do not get better results than regular public schools-just new federal subsidies. Teacher evaluation by student test scores is a deeply flawed approach to hiring and job tenure that is driving good teachers out of public education.

The future of public education is at stake. A democratic society needs a healthy, vibrant public education system with good public schools in every neighborhood. On our current course, the schools will be privatized, deregulated, and turned over to entrepreneurs. Based on a careful review of the evidence, Ravitch says that this course of action is unlikely to improve American education.

©2011 Diane Ravitch (P)2012 Diane Ravitch

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  •  
    Mark GENESEO, NEW YORK, United States 12-12-12
    Mark GENESEO, NEW YORK, United States 12-12-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Finally, a reality check on teaching and learning"
    If you could sum up The Death and Life of the Great American School System in three words, what would they be?

    Realistic, Refreshing, Thought-provoking


    What did you like best about this story?

    Exposing the politics of education, sharing the important role that demographics play in learning, describing the real-life challenges that educators face, the sequence of the story.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The chapters on District 1 in NYC and the part about the failure of the San Diego public schools that recruited the business person to be their superintendent.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The author's admission that she was caught up in the accountability movement associated with NCLB and her revelation that the system is flawed and that it disadvantages low-wealth schools.


    Any additional comments?

    Great book for policy makers and educators!

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Reader USA 05-14-12
    Reader USA 05-14-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Good content excellent narrator"

    I originally read this in hardcover and found Ravitch gives a detailed, well-thought-out and valuable critique of new "educational initiative." However, the highest credit goes to Eliza Foss who is superb at narrating a relatively dry text, filled with facts, statistics, etc. I am impressed at how well she aries her voice and holds the listeners interest in the fact based non-fiction work.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrea Eureka, CA, United States 08-15-12
    Andrea Eureka, CA, United States 08-15-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Useful information: What's Education For?"
    If you could sum up The Death and Life of the Great American School System in three words, what would they be?

    thought-provoking, statistical, research-based


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    The description of a business model for education, as though learning were a market commodity, and the damage that model does to useful learning in our schools.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The description of the New York educational "reform", and the flawed statistics that supported the results as effective.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No! Way too dense. One disadvantage of audiobooks is that a report like this, with reference to many statistics in the narrative, is difficult to follow--hard to remember what numbers were cited a few paragraphs ago. In printed books, you can just flip back.


    Any additional comments?

    I appreciated the fact-based investigation and arguments Ravitch offered, and will be watching our own schools to see if they can move away from "teaching to the test", a move that both of my daughters, both schoolteachers, find is an impediment to their ability to educate their students, especially in critical thinking and problem-solving.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rebecca FRIENDSWOOD, TEXAS, United States 08-11-13
    Rebecca FRIENDSWOOD, TEXAS, United States 08-11-13

    College professor, feminist, educational reformer, policy analyst,foodie, and artist.

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    "A must read for anyone involved in School Reform"
    If you could sum up The Death and Life of the Great American School System in three words, what would they be?

    Revealing, Provacative, Insightful


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Death and Life of the Great American School System?

    Understanding the corporate influence in policy making


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    The narrator needed to speak clearly, and louder, at times she drifted into a soft whisper, and talked too sensual for the topic.


    If you could give The Death and Life of the Great American School System a new subtitle, what would it be?

    An expose into the forces shaping educational policy.


    Any additional comments?

    You must read this book, if you are in anyway involved with education. If you are concerned about the state of students today, and want to understand why and how the problems of K-12 are now fully entrenched into Higher Education, you need to be aware of the history of decentralization of school. This book is brilliant and enlightening.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joshua Annapolis, MD, United States 09-25-12
    Joshua Annapolis, MD, United States 09-25-12
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    "Interesting read for every teacher"
    If you could sum up The Death and Life of the Great American School System in three words, what would they be?

    A short history of the American educational system, including an honest look at the causes and consequences of the current trends.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dave Hedley San Mateo, CA United States 05-13-14
    Dave Hedley San Mateo, CA United States 05-13-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Powerful indictment of the current reform movement"

    There is a lot here. A lot seemed repetitive. I appreciated the additions in the Revised Edition. I've seen complaints elsewhere that we're talking to folks about "reforming" schools who are neither education professionals nor scholars in the field of Education. What special knowledge or experience does Bill Gates have that qualifies him to be treated as an expert. The old Ravitch still show through was some very traditional notions of what should be taught. I agree that her essential position hasn't changed. This book is an indictment about how we've gone about the very laudable goal of providing a good education to all Americans. Having worked in the system, I agree with most of what she presents. The system of high stakes testing isn't the right focus. We don't need kids good at taking fill in the bubble tests, we need kids who know how to learn, can write clearly, are mathematically literate, and have a desire for learning. It's a bit long, but worth reading.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Ms. Ivey Texas 08-22-12
    Ms. Ivey Texas 08-22-12 Member Since 2011

    Ms. Ivey

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    "Decent"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    The woman who read the book was irritating. I think it took twice as long than if I had read the text myself. Too many long pauses.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    The fact that the author seemed genuinely less concerned about party politics and more concerned about the welfare of the American student.


    Would you be willing to try another one of Eliza Foss’s performances?

    No


    Did The Death and Life of the Great American School System inspire you to do anything?

    No


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Zach Cody, WY 08-04-12
    Zach Cody, WY 08-04-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Fails to Reconize Successful US University Syste"

    While I admire Diane Ravitch's public service and her ability to admit to errors when she's wrong, I think she is missing the point about what has been successful in education. I agree with her that standardized tests and strict critiquing of teachers is not the solution (and probably more of the problem), she goes in the exact opposite direction as she wishes to inject more Federal oversight and legislation into a system that is rotten with it.

    One need look no further than the university system in America to see the way a successful system should be run at every level. More choice, less legislation. That said, I think the University system is on the wrong path with interest free student loans flooding the system with loan bearing students that would otherwise be productive members of the economy. Just my two cents.

    3 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ginkgo Seattle, WA, US 10-29-12
    Ginkgo Seattle, WA, US 10-29-12 Member Since 2003
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    "So repetitive!"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    If you really want to learn about this topic, get the book from the library and skim it. The information is great, but this effort needs a better editor!


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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