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

In 2002, President George W. Bush signed the bill that made No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. It was a culmination of sorts of tides that had been growing for years, through both the Clinton and Bush administrations, toward sweeping reform in US schools. Standards would now be higher, market forces would operate to force weak schools, districts, and teachers to either meet the mark or be replaced. Every child would be learning more, and by the 2013-14 school year, one hundred percent of the children in American public schools would be proficient in reading and mathematics. We have only about three years to go, and it is absolutely clear that not just a few troubled, poor schools will fall short of that bar, but it may be difficult to find any that will surmount it. The failure isn't just that the federal resources that were supposed to lubricate the reform never materialized, but that the supposed data-driven business model for education is flawed. Diane Ravitch was involved in both the design and the implementation of NCLB, and she has the perspective of an insider. She worked hard to bring about the changes that NCLB demanded, but by about 2007, it had become clear to her that the train was off the rails. In this book, she provides the wisdom of a gifted teacher, the analytical skills of a CPA, and the writing skills of a journalist to make the compelling argument that the Obama administration's apparent willingness to try to rescue the NCLB vision by doing even more of the same is not likely to be good for our children and, ultimately, our country. I was surprised at how well this story was told. Ms. Ravitch uses both statistics and anecdotes to lead the reader to the same conclusions that can be obtained by talking with any public school teacher you know.

Publication information
Pick Attribution: 

Diane Ravitch

Publication Date: 
Friday, January 1, 2010