Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools by Diane Ravitch

Claims and Realities

  • Chapters five through twenty offer 16 claims that reformers make along with the reality that Diane demonstrates with abundant evidence and convincing rational. I won’t summarize her support of the realities for the sake of space here, but when you get the book you can read her backup for any or all that interest you. Just having this book on your shelf will be handy whenever you need to make a case that reformer’s claims are bogus.
  • Claim: Test scores (NAEP) are falling, and the educational system is broken and obsolete. Reality: Test scores are at their highest point ever recorded.
  • Claim: The achievement gaps are large and getting worse. Reality: We have made genuine progress in narrowing the achievement gaps, but they will remain large if we do nothing about the causes of the gaps (mostly poverty).
  • Claim: The nation has a dropout crisis, and high school graduation rates are falling. Reality: High school dropouts are at an all-time low, and high school graduation rates are at an all-time high.
  • Claim: Our economy will suffer unless we have the highest college graduation rate in the world. Reality: There is no evidence for this claim.
  • Claim: Poverty is an excuse for ineffective teaching and failing schools. Reality: Poverty is highly correlated with low academic achievement and the evidence for causation is very strong.
  • Claim: Teachers determine student test scores, and test scores may be used to identify and reward effective teachers and to fire those who are not effective. Reality: Test scores are not the best way to identify the best teachers. The best test scores usually come from the wealthiest neighborhoods.
  • Claim: Merit pay will improve achievement. Reality: Merit pay has never improved achievement.
  • Claim: Schools will improve if tenure and seniority are abolished. Reality: There is no evidence for this claim.
  • Claim: Teach for America recruits teachers and leaders whose high expectations will one day ensure that every child has an excellent education. Reality: Teach for America sends bright young people into tough classrooms where they get about the same results as others in similar classrooms but they usually leave the profession sooner.
  • Claim: Charter schools will revolutionize American education by their freedom to innovate and produce dramatically better results. Reality: Charter schools run the gamut from excellent to awful and are, on average, no more innovative or successful than public schools.
  • Claim: Virtual schools will bring the promise of personalized customized learning to every student and usher in an age of educational excellence for all. Reality: Virtual schools are cash cows for their owners but poor substitutes for real teachers and real schools.
  • Claim: If parents seize control of their school, they can make it better. Reality: There is no evidence to support this claim.
  • Claim: Students who receive vouchers for private and religious schools will experience dramatic success. Reality: There is no evidence for this claim.
  • Claim: Schools can be dramatically improved by firing the principal, firing half or all of the teachers, or closing the school and starting fresh. Reality: There is no evidence to support this claim.
  • There is also a chapter on the impact Michelle Rhee has had on education and her current efforts to support a lot of what Diane sees as negative.
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