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Why Diane Ravitch Abandoned No Child Left Behind

Up until recently, Diane Ravitch, an education historian at NYU, was considered one of the nation's foremost conservative...


Up until recently, Diane Ravitch, an education historian at NYU, was considered one of the nation's foremost conservative education scholars-a big fan of school choice and of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). She'd served as an assistant secretary of education under George H. W. Bush and, while serving as a visiting fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution, she penned a newspaper Op-Ed that effusively praised his son, George W. Bush for passing NCLB, writing: "All this attention and focus is paying off for younger students, who are reading and solving mathematics problems better than their parents' generation."

Last week, Ravitch published a book called The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, which chronicles her falling out of love with proficiency tests and the entire culture surrounding NCLB. (NPR has an excerpt from the book.) Today, she summarizes her about-face on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal:
In short, accountability turned into a nightmare for American schools, producing graduates who were drilled regularly on the basic skills but were often ignorant about almost everything else. Colleges continued to complain about the poor preparation of entering students, who not only had meager knowledge of the world but still required remediation in basic skills. This was not my vision of good education.

She goes on to criticize the Obama administration's endorsement of quality control methods, like firing teachers and shuttering schools, adding that teachers aren't the problem, poverty is.
On our present course, we are disrupting communities, dumbing down our schools, giving students false reports of their progress, and creating a private sector that will undermine public education without improving it. Most significantly, we are not producing a generation of students who are more knowledgable, and better prepared for the responsibilities of citizenship. That is why I changed my mind about the current direction of school reform.

Photo courtesy of Basic Books.

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