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Death and Life of Great American School System (10 Edition)


Death and Life of Great American School System (10 Edition) Cover

ISBN13: 9780465014910
ISBN10: 0465014917
Condition: Student Owned
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Synopses & Reviews

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Publisher Comments:

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:

  • leave decisions about schools to educators, not politicians or businessmen
  • devise a truly national curriculum that sets out what children in every grade should be learning
  • expect charter schools to educate the kids who need help the most, not to compete with public schools
  • pay teachers a fair wage for their work, not “merit pay” based on deeply flawed and unreliable test scores
  • encourage family involvement in education from an early age

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.

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 (


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

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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Erik Wiitanen, February 21, 2011 (view all comments by Erik Wiitanen)
In the wake of the recent hysteria of our "broken" school systems and the increasing reliance upon standardized test scores to determine the fates of students, teachers, principals, and schools in our nation, Ms. Ravitch offers a welcome counter-argument. Instead of jumping on the bandwagon of quick-fix reforms that may or may not benefit childrens' overall education in the long-term, Ravitch points out the shortcomings of these reforms, and offers possible solutions to repair and bolster our public school system, instead of demonizing and discarding them in favor of as yet unproven reforms. Ravitch draws upon nearly 40 years of expertise in the field, and points out that the over-reliance of standardized testing may actually be harmful to students' overall education, and that the absence of a strong and coherent wide-ranging curriculum in our school districts is the greatest problem. A must-read for all educators, as well as those concerned with the quality of education in America.
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Robert J. Rasmussen, January 3, 2011 (view all comments by Robert J. Rasmussen)
From the author who was brave enough to expose the political correctness run amok in our children's textbooks with "The Language Police" comes a reassessment of No Child Left Behind and the unintended consequences of the School Choice movement.

A broad, liberal arts curriculum is what matters, but apparently it is nowhere to be found because it is too controversial in these contentious times. Instead we teach to the tests, reprimand teachers by means of bureaucratic, inconsistent standards, and use the public schools as a dumping ground for those who are left behind, skewing the statistics of charter schools.

Instead of a boxing match of ideas that motivate students to think clearly and critically, Diane Ravitch paints a picture akin to profession wrestling where it's the the children who take the fall. A real mugs game that would be humorous if it weren't so bloody serious, for we are failing or children and limiting their future.

Read the book and see what Miss Ratliff would have done; why this teacher is still so beloved by the author years later. You'll love the last chapter where Miss Ravitch's ideas for improving our schools is both commonsensical and remarkably traditional while embracing the needs of a modern world.
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Stephen York, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by Stephen York)
Diane Ravitch's academic credentials, publications, and years of public service at the Federal level of the Department of Education, serve her well in the writing of this scathing critique of public education in the United States. Her courage is beyond words and admirable. This title is a New York Times bestseller and the proverbial "shot heard around the world" of education. Ravitch continues to look at the research and data, and when her public positions are wrong, steps up to correct the public record.

Barack Obama would be well-served to appoint Dr. Ravitch as a Special Counselor to the President for Education. And while he is making changes in his administration, Education Secretary Arne Duncan should be replaced with Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford, Obama's former educational advisor during the campaign and transition into the presidency.

For anyone concerned with the direction of public education, this book is a "must-read."

Stephen York, Dean
The American Institute for Creative Education
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Product Details

How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education
Ravitch, Diane
Basic Books
Educational Policy & Reform
Decision Making & Problem Solving
Educational Reform
Education-School Reform & Controversy
Edition Description:
First Trade Paper Edition, Revised and Expanded
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 9
8.25 x 5.5 in 12 oz
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

Education » Administration
Education » Conflict Resolution
Education » General
Education » School Reform and Controversy

Death and Life of Great American School System (10 Edition) Used Hardcover
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Product details 352 pages Basic Books - English 9780465014910 Reviews:
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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
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