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Mon Oct 7, 2013, 08:31 AM

The Apostate: An Interview With Diane Ravitch

by Lauren Streib Oct 7, 2013 5:45 AM EDT

After leading education reform for many years as a public official, education historian and blogger Diane Ravitch has emerged as one of the leading opponents of the movement. Ravitch, author of the new book Reign of Error, talks to Lauren Streib about how reform has become a cover for privatization.

In 1991, Diane Ravitch was appointed an assistant secretary of education by president George H. W. Bush, becoming a leader in the education reform movement for the next decade, when she championed the No Child Left Behind Act that was signed into law by George W. Bush in 2002. But when N.C.L.B. failed to produce the results she had hoped for, and assessment tests began dominating policy, Ravitch made a 180-degree turn, and has spent the last half-decade fighting an apostateís battle. She has become one of the most vocal supporters of public education, thanks to her many books on education history and her influential blog, where she crusades against the rise of charter schools, vouchers, privatization in education, and standardized testing. Her latest book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools, argues that the American school system is not broken, and that the reform movement will destroy our schools. She also outlines a plan for improvement, including prenatal care for mothers, early education that stresses creativity, balanced curriculums, and more resources for schools. We spoke to the leading opponent of reform about the role of charter schools, which cities are doing things right, and her Twitter proficiency.

In Reign of Error, you call the education of the poor and minority students a scandal. Do you think more Americans should be scandalized by the discrepancy in American educational system?

I think that people should be scandalized by the amount of poverty in this nation. I think they should be scandalized that we have the highest percentage of children living in poverty of any advanced nation in the world. And I think that they should be scandalized that thereís such a difference between the suburban schools where children have such wonderful advantages and the urban schools like Philadelphia where they are closing libraries, letting go of guidance counselors.

Iíve come to think that a lot of the conversation about school reform today is what I think of as The Great Distraction. Itís a way of not talking about the core issues, the causes, If youíre not talking about the causes of poor performance in schools then you really are distracting people from genuine solutions.

Thereís no other country in the world that tests every child every year.

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