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The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Educationby Diane Ravitch
Synopses & Reviews
Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Christie, and Cory Booker were ready to reform our failing schools. What they got instead was an education.
When Mark Zuckerberg announced in front of a cheering Oprah audience his $100 million pledge to transform the Newark Schools — and to solve the education crisis in every city in America — it looked like a huge win for then-mayor Cory Booker and governor Chris Christie. But their plans soon ran into a constituency not so easily moved — Newark’s key education players, fiercely protective of their billion-dollar-per-annum system. It’s a prize that, for generations, has enriched seemingly everyone, except Newark’s students.
Expert journalist Dale Russakoff delivers a story of high ideals and hubris, good intentions and greed, celebrity and street smarts — as reformers face off against entrenched unions, skeptical parents, and bewildered students. The growth of charters forces the hand of Newark’s superintendent Cami Anderson, who closes, consolidates, or redesigns more than a third of the city’s schools — a scenario on the horizon for many urban districts across America. Most moving are Russakoff’s portraits from inside the district’s schools, of home-grown principals and teachers, long stuck in a hopeless system — and often the only real hope for the children of Newark.
The Prize is a portrait of a titanic struggle over the future of education for the poorest kids, and a cautionary tale for those who care about the shape of America’s schools.
Book News Annotation:
Ravitch (a professor of education at New York U. and a former Assistant Secretary of Education and member of the National Assessment Board) reverses her previous support of educational policies of testing, accountability, choice, charter schools, and markets as panaceas for the failures of the American educational system. Addressing a general audience, she reviews the recent experience with these policies at various levels, from the national on down, and details their failures, often echoing the arguments of longstanding critics of such policies. In her conclusion, she argues that the most important area of schooling that requires attention is the improvement of curricula, pointing to Japan and Finland as examples of excellence in this area (she remains critical of what she sees as left-wing and right-wing attempts to limit curricula for political reasons). Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Award-winning author, public intellectual, and former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch critiques a lifetimes worth of school reforms and reveals the simple—yet difficult—truth about how we can create actual change in public schools
As serialized in the New Yorker, a roiling, behind-the-scenes look at the high-pressure race to turn around Newark’s failing schools, with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Governor Chris Christie, and Senator Cory Booker in eyebrow-raising leading roles
A passionate plea to preserve and renew public education, The Death and Life of the 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 create a national curriculum—examines her career in education reform and repudiates positions that she once staunchly advocated. Drawing on over forty years of research 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:
The Death and Life of the 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.
About the Author
Diane Ravitch is Research Professor of Education at New York University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. From 1991 to 1993, she was Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander in the administration of President George H.W. Bush. President Clinton appointed her to the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees federal testing. She is the author or editor of over twenty books, including The Language Police and Left Back, and her articles have appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines. A native of Houston, Ravitch graduated from the Houston public schools, Wellesley College, and Columbia University. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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