What is the biggest hoax about America’s education system? Ask Diane Ravitch. A former assistant secretary of education, she was a leading advocate of school reform and standardized testing, but recently changed her mind after reading the data. After learning more about the effects of standardized testing, she has become a leading critic of charter schools and privatized schools. The debate continues, but here are some answers.
The big “hoax” about America’s education system is “reform” as the new catchphrase. School reformers have been using schools as punching bags in the public debate. Progressives complained that American schools were backward, mindless, and rigid. The anti-progressives complained that standards were slipping, curriculum was deteriorating, and students weren’t learning as much as they once did.
The reasons for educational failure are complicated. The vast majority of teachers are unprepared and ignorant, absenteeism is high, and students are hungry and malnourished. Education-related corruption is rampant, and a huge percentage of national education budgets never reach their intended recipients. It’s no wonder the educational system in the United States is suffering. We must do better.
The value of an American education system is equality of opportunity. Federal funds are used for low-income schools and are rewarded based on student test scores. Meanwhile, the Race to the Top program rewards states that adopt high standards and assessments to ensure students’ readiness for college, the workplace, and the global economy. But what Ravitch says is that ‘children are not global competitors.’ And it’s time to change the system.