Have you ever believed in something whole-heartedly, only to change your mind when presented with evidence? This month I examine a book whose author has become a prominent speaker against the school reform and school testing movements. Diane Ravitch, the former Assistant Secretary of Education under George H W Bush and a former proponent of school choice and high-stakes testing, wrote The Death and Life of the Great American School System to explain why she has so drastically altered her views.

Ravitch opposes attempts to apply a business framework to schools, namely school choice and high-stakes testing.  Though she initially was compelled by the arguments used by proponents of these methods, she now believes them to be counter-productive. She was initially compelled by the idea of charter schools as laboratories for new models of education, but asserts that they in fact created a tiered system of education. In this system, excelling students are siphoned off into charter schools, whose success then became impossible for public schools, with a more challenging student population, to replicate. And whereas she was initially attracted to the idea of high stakes testing as motivation for teachers and schools to improve student learning, she found numerous examples of cases where it in fact caused districts to boost test-taking skills while spending less time teaching content, a strategy which provides higher test scores and lower levels of learning.

To read about Ravitch’s suggestions, and to participate in the conversation, visit our blog.

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