Diane Ravitch's book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, is fantastic. It puts very bluntly and without fanfare many of the problems our teachers, students, parents, and communities are facing as they try to educate America's children. After seeing Ravitch speak in D.C., it did not disappoint.
In my (biased) opinion as an educator, she gives a rather unbiased portrayal of the effects of standardized exams on our kids. While many people call her a flip-flopper (a term that bothers me considerably), she points out that her one eighty on school policy from pro-testing and NCLB to the opposite was not based on her desire to remain popular, but on her real observations of our school system and the people in it.
I'll not take up a bunch of time summarizing it, but the following were take-aways for me:
- Community schools are the best option for communities. They provide continuity, permanence, and a place to practice democracy.
- Consolidating to one person the power to control an entire school system is extremely undemocratic.
- Charter schools do not perform better than regular public schools.
- Test scores have decreased as the occurrence of 2-parent households decreased and the average hours kids are plugged in has increased.
- There is no evidence tying unions to poor performance of public schools.
- Legislators are not competent in making decisions affecting entire public education systems.
I highly recommend people read it- especially non-educators.