In The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, Diane Ravitch provides a historical account of education reform in the United States of America during the latter half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century. Ravitch explains why she contributed to the George W. Bush administration’s education legislation, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), as well as why she later became convinced that NCLB ultimately failed. She goes on to criticize other reforms, particularly those associated with charter schools and “corporate” or “market-based” reform.
It is difficult to reform American education since it is supposed to be run by the state government rather than the federal government. After the education report, A Nation at Risk (ANAR), was released in 1983, politicians decided to prioritize the creation of a standard curriculum. Broadly, the report was a response to the reforms of the 1960s and 1970s, which were primarily focused on racial desegregation, cultural diversity, and overthrowing tradition. These reforms, for example, encouraged teachers to deprioritize the literary canon. Specifically, A Nation at Risk responded to concerns about dropping SAT scores. The commission that responded to these alarming scores suggested that they were the result of increased minority students taking the SAT, changing social forces such as the increased level of divorce and the spread of television viewing, and political upheavals like the Vietnam War. Finally, the commission suggested that school practices did not require sufficient rigor from students.
By the end of George H.W. Bush’s presidency, Ravitch and her political allies had decided to encourage states to voluntarily adopt national standards. However, controversy arose over the proposed historical standards, which focused too much on America’s failings and not enough on its “great men.” The standards became politically unpopular, so the states were encouraged to create their own standards. In place of standards came a focus on testing and accountability, both of which became the central focus of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind program. In retrospect, Ravitch prefers ANAR’s recommendations and its implementation to NCLB. Unlike ANAR, NCLB proposed simple solutions to complex problems, set unattainable goals, and had the potential to harm public education....
(The entire section is 1924 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!