Foundation for School Reform: A Critical Reading of Reign of Error

377 words | 2 page(s)

In Reign of Error, Diane Ravitch advances a critique of the neoliberal movement in primary and secondary education and the prevailing myth that our public school system is failing. Pundits and politicians would have us believe that public schools are inadequate and that achievement levels are at an all-time low. Ravitch dispels these fictions by citing the National Assessment of Education Progress, a database containing data on reading and math test scores dating back to 1970, and demonstrates that achievement levels have actually been steadily rising over the past four decades. At the time of her writing in 2013, reading and math test scores were actually at the highest levels ever recorded. Contrary to the assertion that the public school system is failing to prepare kids for the next phase of life, both graduation rates and university matriculation rates are also at an all-time high.

Ravitch interprets this concerted and unfounded attack on public education as a sign that neoliberal reforms, in which more and more public services are being de-funded and privatized, are finally beginning to infiltrated pre-collegiate education. She describes this development as a deliberate effort to replace our school system with a competitive array of charter schools. Indications that pre-collegiate education is increasingly governed by market logics include a narrowing of curricula to only testable subjects in which achievement can be measured numerically, at the expense of courses focusing on arts and culture. This focus on achievement metrics has encouraged a gaming of the system via “teaching to the test”, which has become common practice and a requirement for any educator wishing to remain employed. According to Ravitch, the Federal government has “abandoned equity” as a principle in resource allocation for public education and now, in order to receive new funding, states must open new charter schools while outsourcing functions of their public schools to corporations.

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Ravitch cites Finland’s education system as what the U.S. should strive to emulate. In Finland, primary and secondary education are considered prestigious career fields—prospective teachers must compete for admission to prestigious schools of education where they receive superior training. Teachers in Finland are able to exercise broad autonomy throughout their careers and are not judged by test scores. Most importantly, there are no charter schools in Finland.

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