Monday, March 8, 2010

Book Review: Diane Ravitch’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System

This book is bound to make angry some of the data-crunchers who believe school improvement is all about testing data. As for those who think that schools can be run like businesses, they are not going to like what Diane Ravitch has to say either. I personally think her book has the potential to start serious discussions about what all this emphasis on testing is really doing to our educational system. It’s just darn difficult to walk away from this book and not feel just a bit of anger at how the people we have recently elected have chosen policies they claim as research-based, but when you start looking for that research, it does not exist. These policies are even undermining our public schools.

Diane Ravitch makes a strong case in this book that the accountability-testing movement is destroying our schools. The philosophy that schools can be operated like businesses is wrong-headed and though she did not put it this way, “Just plain dumb!” Test scores are not increasing real student achievement because teachers are just teaching to the test. And to be honest, after President Obama and Secretary Duncan’s cheerleading the firing of an entire school of teachers, you can bet your pants, if I were in the classroom, I would have the best bubblers there are too. This testing culture has become insane. Ravitch does a much better job pointing out its flaws than I, but when you start blaming teachers on an entire school’s failure, that is absurd.

The honest truth after reading this book, I am just a bit angry. I certainly hope to have more to say about this book when I have had the opportunity to digest it more. I would highly recommend that everyone who is an educator whether teacher, principal, or superintendent read this book. As a 21st Century administrator who loves public schools, I believe in their promise not their destruction.

The Death and Life of the Great American School System by Diane Ravitch: Book Cover

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