National Standards in American Education: A Citizen's Guide

Brookings Institution Press
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Updating her highly acclaimed book, Diane Ravitch presents the latest information on the debate over national standards and assessments.

"Ensuring a rigorous liberal education for all is asking a lot in a contentious democracy like ours. Is it possible to educate every child to the same high standards? Is it politically feasible? Will raising standards help or hinder poor minority children? Ravitch sees where these land mines are buried and her book provides an indispensable diagram for getting around them."—The Wall Street Journal

"A simple message lies at the heart of Diane Ravitch's new book.... If clear and consistent goals of learning could be set for all American children, rich and poor, gifted and ordinary, then all of these children would end up better educated than they now are likely to be."—The New York Times

"No one could be more qualified to write a book about national standards in education than Diane Ravitch."—The Washington Times

"The ongoing debate about national education standards and assessment in the U.S. has created as much confusion as it has solutions. What has been needed is an examination of the educational, historical, political, and social issues related to the development of such standards. Ravitch provides such a foundation."—Choice

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About the author

Diane Ravitch, former Assistant Secretary of Educational Research and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education, is the author of numerous books, including The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn (Knop

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Additional Information

Publisher
Brookings Institution Press
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Published on
May 1, 2011
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Pages
242
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ISBN
9780815718840
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Language
English
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Genres
Education / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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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 businessmendevise a truly national curriculum that sets out what children in every grade should be learningexpect charter schools to educate the kids who need help the most, not to compete with public schoolspay teachers a fair wage for their work, not "merit pay" based on deeply flawed and unreliable test scoresencourage 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.
From one of the foremost authorities on education in the United States, former U.S. assistant secretary of education, “whistle-blower extraordinaire” (The Wall Street Journal), author of the best-selling The Death and Life of the Great American School System (“Important and riveting”—Library Journal), The Language Police (“Impassioned . . . Fiercely argued . . . Every bit as alarming as it is illuminating”—The New York Times), and other notable books on education history and policy—an incisive, comprehensive look at today’s American school system that argues against those who claim it is broken and beyond repair; an impassioned but reasoned call to stop the privatization movement that is draining students and funding from our public schools.
​In Reign of Error, Diane Ravitch argues that the crisis in American education is not a crisis of academic achievement but a concerted effort to destroy public schools in this country. She makes clear that, contrary to the claims being made, public school test scores and graduation rates are the highest they’ve ever been, and dropout rates are at their lowest point.

​She argues that federal programs such as George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Barack Obama’s Race to the Top set unreasonable targets for American students, punish schools, and result in teachers being fired if their students underperform, unfairly branding those educators as failures. She warns that major foundations, individual billionaires, and Wall Street hedge fund managers are encouraging the privatization of public education, some for idealistic reasons, others for profit. Many who work with equity funds are eyeing public education as an emerging market for investors.
​Reign of Error begins where The Death and Life of the Great American School System left off, providing a deeper argument against privatization and for public education, and in a chapter-by-chapter breakdown, putting forth a plan for what can be done to preserve and improve it. She makes clear what is right about U.S. education, how policy makers are failing to address the root causes of educational failure, and how we can fix it.

​For Ravitch, public school education is about knowledge, about learning, about developing character, and about creating citizens for our society. It’s about helping to inspire independent thinkers, not just honing job skills or preparing people for college. Public school education is essential to our democracy, and its aim, since the founding of this country, has been to educate citizens who will help carry democracy into the future.
What is the outlook for educational reform in the United States? One of the most striking proposals has been to establish a system of national standards, which has raised many complex questions: Is it possible for the United States, with its history of extreme decentralization, to establish and enforce national standards for what students should know? Who will create these standards? What would be the role of the federal, state, and local governments?

While the idea of national standards has been widely supported, many respected educators doubt their value from fear that such standards will institutionalize the lowest common denominator. Others cite the poor performance of U.S. students on international tests and insist that the U.S. will suffer because of this poor performance. The debate becomes even more intense when the question of assessment is posed. Is it possible to develop a national examination system tied to new standards? Should such tests be used to influence entry to colleges and jobs? Would the motivation of students to learn be increased if they knew that their performance would be reviewed by colleges and employers? Is it fair to set standards for students without setting standards for schools?

To address these and other questions, this book, the result of a Brookings conference, brings together representatives of various viewpoints on the utility and equity of increasing the use of tests for students, teachers, and schools.

The contributors are Chester Finn, Jr., the Edison Project; Daniel Koretz, RAND; Andrew Porter, Wisconsin Center for Education Research; Lauren Resnick, University of Pittsburgh; Roy Romer, Governor of Colorado; Albert Shanker, American Federation of Teachers; Theodore R. Sizer, Brown University; Marshall C. Smith, U.S. Department of Education; and Donald M. Stewart, The College Board.

Brookings Dialogues on Public Policy

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