Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Turn This Ship Around

My good friend, Fr. Joe Zimmerman, chimes in this week with his own review of Diane Ravitch's new book, Reign of Error. Zimmerman blogs at

Diane Ravitch has bitten off a lot to chew. She aims to change the direction of ten years of national education policy. She attacks No Child Left Behind, the Bush administration program which she originally promoted. But she attacks with equal vigor the Race to the Top program of Barack Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.

Author of fourteen books on education, she has been awarded the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize sponsored by the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and like Moynihan, takes opinions from both sides of the political spectrum seriously.

Reign of Error will surely distress wealthy backers of charter schools and vouchers, starting with with Bill Gates. Today (October 2, 2013USA Today has an article (p. 8a) by Laura Vanderkam titled “Focus on Teacher Performance: Tougher Common Core highlights importance of well-trained teachers.” Since Ravitch’s book was just published last week, I would have expected comment on her book on this opinion page. Maybe her opponents have chosen to ignore her as the best strategy to defeat her.

Anyone who wants to see evidence for her position that the testing strategy of NCLB and RTT is failing need only follow up the abundance of sources she cites. Extreme testing and charter school enthusiasts will likely not be moved by evidence, but multitudes of educators will read her carefully. She has a remarkable ability to state her message clearly and forcefully. No one can mistake the message: TURN THIS SHIP AROUND.  

Reign of Error is opening a national debate that is long overdue. I hope that the outcome of that debate will free public school teachers to enrich the lives of their students with art, music, drama, and history and other social studies. Test-test-test is no way to prepare children for the world in which they will soon be leaders. Continuous testing followed by firing teachers and closing schools is a throwback to the nineteenth century.

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