This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
by Holly Otterbein for NewsWorks
Diane Ravitch, a New York University education professor, was once a passionate champion of charter schools and standardized testing. She has since done a 180-degree turn, becoming a nationally known critic of pro-competition reform.
Ravitch spoke Tuesday night at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Parkway Central Library about her new book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.
The book attempts to bust the "myth" that America’s public school system is in decline. Overall, Ravitch said the country’s schools have never been better, with historically low dropout rates and historically high test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
In U.S. cities where schools are struggling, she said, poverty and segregation are the root causes.
Ravitch said the public has been "sold a bill of goods," including the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative, and other policies that have attempted to improve schools through the "overuse" of test scores, she said.
The crowd at the Free Library, which included many teachers, enthusiastically applauded Ravitch several times.
Her characteristically blunt lines were especially popular, such as, "This idea that you can find teachers who are bad based on the test scores of their students, this is a very stupid idea." They also cheered when she said: "Pennsylvania is the state that has more cyber charters than any other state in the country. They are a sham. They are a scam!"