Customer Reviews: Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools
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on September 17, 2013
Dr. Ravitch shatters one corporate reform myth after another with clarity providing excellent background information in the Notes and Appendix of this book.

Because of her courageousness and direct approach, expect the corporate media to attack her because no one is left standing in this book, at least on the reform side, from President Obama's support of school privatization to the machinations of Michelle Rhee.

This book is a perfect reference guide to all things ed reform. Don't understand much about test scores? Check out the chapters "The Facts About Test Scores" and "The Facts About International Test Scores". Don't know the history of Michelle Rhee? Go to "The Mystery of Michele Rhee". How about the Parent Trigger? Read the chapter "Parent Trigger or Parent Tricker". (Love the title).

The best part is that after Dr. Ravitch explains all things corporate reform, she provides real solutions to the challenges of public education. The answers aren't easy, there is no silver bullet as she explains, but the solutions are based on a wide range and depth of knowledge, history, experience and good old-fashion common sense.

And the cover? You can't miss it. A marketing ploy? Possibly. This book will stand out in bookstores and in history as a go-to guide on public education in this decade.

Now for some specifics.

In the Introduction, Dr. Ravitch states:

"The purpose of this book is to answer four questions.

First, is American education in crisis?

Second, is American education failing and declining?

Third, what is the evidence for the reforms now being promoted by the federal government
and adopted in many states?

Fourth, what should we do to improve our schools and the lives of children?"

A tall order but Dr. Ravitch accomplishes this by the end of the book and beyond with a comprehensive set of book notes and an appendix with all of the graphs and charts that any statistician would love.

Each chapter is detailed with information that makes this book an excellent reference guide.

In her chapter, "Our Schools Are at Risk", Dr. Ravitch states:

"Public education is not broken. It is not failing or declining. The diagnosis is wrong, and the solutions of the corporate reformers are wrong. Our urban schools are in trouble because of concentrated poverty and racial segregation. But public education is not "broken". Public education is in a crisis only so far as society is and only so far as this new narrative of crisis has destabilized it."

Dr. Ravitch continues further in the chapter:

"As a society, we must establish goals, strategies, and programs to reduce poverty and racial segregation. Only by eliminating opportunity gaps can we eliminate achievement gaps. Poor and immigrant children need the same sorts of schools that wealthy children have, only more so. Those who start life with the fewest advantages need even smaller class sizes, even more art, science and music to engage them, to spark their creativity, and to fulfill their potential."

In the chapter "The Context for Corporate Reform", Dr. Ravitch describes the hidden cost of the Common Core Standards, the part that the US Department of Education does not explain to the states or school districts. The estimate is $16 billion.

She then goes into more detail about the Common Core Standards, how it has not been field tested and yet has been embraced by edupreneurs thanks to the efforts of the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, and his Chief of Staff, Joanne Weiss, formerly with the New Schools Venture Fund.

Dr. Ravitch has done her homework.

On the subject of test scores, Dr. Ravitch in the chapter titled "The Facts About Test Scores", describes in detail the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reporting on student test scores in the US and abroad, how they should be interpreted and points out that Guggenheim, in his movie "Waiting for Superman", misinterpreted the test scores.

In her chapter titled "The Facts About the Achievement Gap", Ravitch responds to the claim that the corporate reform movement is the "civil rights issue of our time". Dr. Ravitch writes:

"It defies reason to believe that Martin Luther King, Jr. would march arm in arm with Wall Street hedge fund managers and members of ALEC to lead a struggle for the privatization of public education, the crippling of unions, and the establishment of for-profit schools. Privatization inevitably means deregulation, greater segregation, and less equity, with minimal oversight by public authorities. Privatization has typically not been a friend to powerless groups."

Then Dr. Ravitch continues with a thorough evaluation of what is termed "The Achievement Gap".

In her chapter "The Contradictions of Charter Schools", Dr. Ravitch writes:

"Reasonable people may reach different conclusions on the question of whether charter schools are truly public schools. Charter school operators have asked the courts and the National Labor Relations Board to rule that they are private entities, private employers and private contractors. This seems reason enough to conclude that they are private actors and that their expansion represents privatization."

Later in the chapter, Dr. Ravitch breaks down the amount of money spent on students in charter schools as opposed to students in public schools. Charter schools spend significantly less on their pupils than their public school counterparts and instead spend more money on administration, not teachers.

Next, Charter Management Organizations (CMO's) and Educational Management Organizations (EMO's). Diane Ravitch describes how they drain school districts of money. She also describes online learning with a focus on the financial enterprise, Rocketship, and how that style of education compares to students attending a private school. It doesn't.

In the "Parent Trigger, Parent Tricker" chapter, Dr. Ravitch describes the involvement of the Parent Revolution with the Adelanto and McKinley schools in California. If you are not familiar with these schools and what happened, read the book. Again, Ravitch goes into detail on the subject of the Parent Trigger and the Parent Revolution.

There is a chapter titled "Schools Don't Improve if They Are Closed". The title says it all in terms of the goals of ed reformers, to close schools if they are "failing"...and then turn them into charter schools. This chapter exposes the fact there is no evidence that closing schools aids the students or their community and in fact hinders the educational process.

Chapter 21 starts with solutions to the issue of public education and how to reach the goals that most of us share, an educated citizenry that has a solid knowledge base and is capable of critical and creative thought.

I'm not going to describe the solutions. You'll need to read the book for that critical piece.

What I will say is buy two copies of this book, one for you and another for a friend, parent, teacher, an administrator or anyone else who wants to gain insight into where we are, where we need to be and how to get there.

Read Reign of Error.

Dora Taylor
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on September 17, 2013
It was a foreshadowing event in 2011 when Diane Ravitch received the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize from the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Moynihan believed that ”Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Diane Ravitch expounds on that philosophy in her new book, Reign of Error. Within the first few pages of her book, Ravitch artfully unmasks the agenda of the ‘education reformers’. She states,

Recognizing that most Americans have a strong attachment to their community schools, the corporate reformers have taken care to describe their aims in psuedo-populist terms. While trying to scare us with warnings of dire peril, they mask their agenda with rhetoric that is soothing and deceptive.

In Reign of Error, Ravitch provides proof, back by solid research, that the corporate reformers have presented their opinions as facts. She addresses every single claim these corporate reforms use as a pretext to attack our nation’s public school structure, our nation’s teachers, and our nation’s unions. She includes the research, charts, tables, and empirical studies that form the strong foundation of her work.

Ravitch provides the proof, that our schools are not failing, the achievement gap is closing, we are not falling behind other nations, high school and graduation rates are at all time highs, poverty is being ignored, test scores are not the way to evaluate teachers, merit pay is a failure, and the importance of tenure. Ravitch exposes the audacity of Michelle Rhee, charter schools, parent trigger and virtual schools. Ravitch also lays out a clear concise course of action towards the essentials of a good education. Challenging our nation to reverse the reformists aims towards destruction.

The reformers are already attacking Ravitch’s masterpiece with rhetoric fueled by ad hominem attacks. That’s the first clue, Ravitch has it right. Opinion does not stand up to facts.

The thousand of educators that follow Ravitch’s blog, will realize that Ravitch has only fed us a daily appetizer with her multiple postings. Reign of Error is the much anticipated main course, served up on a silver platter with all the trimmings.

This is a must read for all those who value our nation’s most valuable assets, our children and their public schools. Arm yourself with the facts.. Moynihan was right.
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on September 17, 2013
While the title smacks of sensationalism, Reign of Error is actually a methodical dismantling of the many myths degrading public education and a detailed historical account of the privatization movement fueling the myths. Ravitch was soul searching in The Death and Life of the Great American School System. In Reign of Error, Ravitch has found her voice. She is unapologetic in her defense of public schools and takes on the reformers intent on injecting their free market ideology into public education.

While Ravitch is a superhero to many discouraged public educators, she rejects superhero solutions to public education problems. "I have no silver bullets--because none exist--but I have proposals based on evidence and experience," writes Ravitch. A life lived looking at schools certainly affords her this perspective. Reign of Error spells out the comprehensive, community-wide solutions required to support public schools plagued with socioeconomic problems larger than what public educators can handle by themselves.

For those of us who have regularly followed Ravitch's recent work, we do not find anything in her new book shocking. Many of my own blog postings have piggy-backed off Ravitch's thoughtful work. Ravitch calls for tried-and-true reforms focusing on equity, improving early childhood care, ending high-stakes testing, expanding middle class-like enrichment to needy students, developing and respecting educators, reducing class sizes, fully funding public education, and more.

Reign of Error will hopefully serve as an antithesis to the 1983 Nation at Risk, which was the catalyst for thirty years of misplaced blame put on public schools for what in reality are problems caused by trends. Ravitch calls for a re-do on school reform. As Ravitch stated, "You can't do the right things until you stop doing the wrong things."

Public education advocates will also not be surprised to see the free market reformers lash out with well-funded, emotional messages attacking Ravitch. Reign of Error outs the reformers trying to raze public education. Their typical defense is to speak loudly and attack the messenger. This is, after all, just part of the free market process. For market-focused reformers to get ahead, government-run education must not succeed. Free marketeers pretend to be reforming when they are actually focused on destroying. Sadly, America's neediest kids get pinned under the rubble.

To more fully understand the attacks on public education in Wisconsin, more public education supporters must understand the bigger game.

Be a player. Be informed. Read Reign of Error.
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on September 20, 2013
I have read her daily blogs now for quite some time and I can tell you she truly gets it. It feels like she is the only voice out there that does. This book perfectly lays out the problems and motives behind the education 'reform' movement. Diane speaks the truth, as a 16 year educator I have seen the negative effects of the reform movement. My fellow educators are hoping that Diane's tireless efforts are the beginning of the shift of momentum back to sanity. Its what is right for America's children. I highly recommend this book and also I highly recommend her blog.
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on September 19, 2013
Ravitch outlines the problems with education "reform" in a clear and detailed way. She points out the flaws in the ironically untested Commmon Core curriculum, draws attention to how an overemphasis on testing is killing real learning, and sheds light on the fact that educational policy is being driven by corporations that want to earn profits off reform and billionaires with money to burn, who feel they know more about education than the teachers who work with students every day. I'm considering donating a copy to the White House, as I wonder if the president I voted for has any idea what Education Secretary Arne Duncan has done to public education.
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on September 18, 2013
I've been teaching for almost thirty years, and I don't know precisely when my colleagues and I became public enemy number one. But after reading Reign of Error by Diane Ravitch I'm getting a pretty good handle on why.

Corporate reformers like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and the Walton family seem to believe teachers have done a disservice to kindergarteners by allowing them to blow bubbles in their milk and push trucks around on the floor. Why weren't we training them to take valuable multiple-choice exams? Why did an entire generation of Americans, including public school teachers, misdirect its energies by trying to eradicate poverty? Couldn't we just fervently ignore it, as corporate reformers have done so successfully?

In Reign of Error, Ravitch demonstrates how, by ignoring poverty, America has managed to shift blame to public schools for its consequences. That's clear when the Governor of New York declares schools with poor test scores deserve the "death penalty," and the mayor of Chicago closes 50 schools in one fell swoop. The fact that all so-called failing schools have high percentages of high-needs kids is either attributed to coincidence or ignored completely. Standard practice is to replace them with privately run schools that generally perform either no better or much worse. Still, no one can argue they don't place more tax money into the pockets of investors.

Reign of Error shows us corporate reform is largely about where the money goes. Americans are led to believe teachers earn too much, and entrepreneurs like Rupert Murdoch and the Walmart family earn too little. To correct this inequity, corporate reformers work to erase collective bargaining, unionism, teacher tenure, and other outrages that have left middle-class people able to make a living. This, of course, is all done in the name of helping children.

The most trendy way to redirect public money into private hands is via charter schools. If charters don't have unions, they don't have to worry about collective bargaining. If they largely exclude learning disabled and ESL students, they not only improve their test scores, but also save a ton of money on mandated services. Charter trailblazer Geoffrey Canada, who pays himself a half-million per year, turned away an entire student cohort rather than deal with their impending scores.

Ravitch points out in detail the excellent investment opportunities charters can provide. People who have enough money to really appreciate it can get more of it before it's frittered away on the education of impoverished children. They save even more money for needy rich people by hiring less-qualified instructors, thereby cutting teacher salaries. And wealthy foreigners have literally bought green cards via investing in charters

Charters are all about choice. They therefore choose whether they're public or private depending on the circumstances. Their reps go to court to prevent audits, because in those cases they're private schools. But they happily accept government support because in those cases they're public schools. And even if they fail on test scores, the sole criterion by which corporate reformers judge schools, it makes no difference. They're still, evidently, providing the all-important choice of where our still-needy children will fail these tests.

Reign of Error shines a bright light on cyber charters, which save quite a bit of cash for eager investors. Unlike brick and mortar charters, cybers cannot jack up rents 900% for profit. But they make up for it in other ways. Cyber charters divert many millions that might otherwise be wasted on live teachers and human interaction with children. While graduation rates are abysmal, and a CREDO study found 100% of them perform worse than public schools, there is no denying their immense profitability.

On every page of Reign of Error, Diane Ravitch paints a portrait that's conspicuously absent from mainstream media. She shows us a tangled web, and paints every thread with an arrow pointing to where our tax dollars are really headed. Anyone who's interested in the true meaning of corporate reform needs to read this book. If you're already focused on what moves and motivates our educational system, it will surely sharpen that focus. If not, it will be an eye-opener.

And for the naysayers, Ravitch goes into detail about what America would do if it really wanted to help children, rather than simply test them and redirect public money. Here's hoping that school boards and mayors everywhere read this book.
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on September 17, 2013
WARNING: Do not attempt to underline the important parts of Diane Ravitch's new book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools.
Why? All that she has written in this book is important.
Now, seriously, reviewing a book that is so superbly organized and intelligently presented is daunting. The book has plentiful scientific and academically supported research and data yet is introduced and illuminated in the straightforward manner of a great storyteller whose gift allows her to be easily understood by many people of various backgrounds. A wizened academic education researcher as well as an inexperienced young mom who is just now trying to figure out what is causing the stress and depression of her much-tested son will learn a great deal from Reign of Error. Yes, it is a page-turner that proves hard to put down. Yes, it is also a wake-up call.
Here are a few selected examples and my personal commentary.
"`Reform' is really a misnomer, because the advocates for this cause seek not to reform public education but to transform it into an entrepreneurial sector of the economy."
The entire purpose of starting and naming my blog, Reclaim Reform, is based on this. The appropriation of the word "reform" was done intentionally by a well planned, well funded branch of the corporate education reform propaganda machine (think tanks). We must become aware of this, and we must reclaim reform.
We all know that the chemical poisons used as food preservatives and flavor enhancers are destructive to children but profitable to prepared food manufacturers, yet Americans are coerced into feeding their children this corporate education reform junk food if they expect to have their children take part in today's American childhood pop-culture diet. High stakes testing has become the much advertised not-so-secret ingredient in the educational junk food that poisons our children. Parents and children sense this is not good for them.
Who is it good for? The billionaire vulture philanthropists and tax free villainthropist foundations who give hundreds of millions of dollars to their self proclaimed crusade to change the education of our children - as they continue to profit by billions of dollars. No matter how it is worded or spun, they have monetized children and depersonalized education - for profit.
"But there is nothing conservative about replacing a beloved and traditional community institution - the public school - with a marketplace of privately run schools and for-profit vendors. This is a radical project, not conservative at all."
As much as most people wish to believe that corporate educational reform is solely an extremist right-wing Republican ideology driven movement, this is simply not entirely true. Elected and appointed Democratic officials have supported giving public education tax dollars to whichever campaign donors pay up. Greed and the masks of ideology are bipartisan corruptors. "In order to save the schools we have to destroy the schools" has become the oxymoron mantra of political cant. Even the conservative Forbes magazine delivers a damning article regarding the rewarding of political cronies with juicy government contracts via charters and other corporate education reform tax schemes. Read the Forbes article.
The vast amounts of money and the names of the players are listed and displayed in Reign of Error. The immensity of money, power and influence of the individuals and euphemistically titled private organizations costumed as governmental entities or philanthropies will arouse the ire of the meekest among us.
"Early childhood education programs have abundant research to support them, unlike the currently fashionable `reforms' which have little or no research or experience to back them up."
Personally, having served my career teaching at the high school level, I have spent countless hours, days and years working with students who needed much help (remediation?) which would never have been required had they received the types of early childhood education programs described in Reign of Error. Even affluent families miss a great deal of what is necessary for their children as they enthusiastically provide the media hyped "solution of the year" as sold by whoever was pushing whatever at the time. Diet fads are apt comparisons. Make a mental list of all the sure-fire weight loss programs you believed would be beneficial to your life, well being and happiness. Pathetic, isn't it? Well then, don't allow the corporate education reform fads to fool you and your child. Those folks are in it for the money. Experience has shown me that years of remediation work are needed to even partially make up for what could have been provided with quality (not expensive) early childhood education programs.
"The Mystery of Michelle Rhee."
After you read this chapter which is aptly focused on Rhee's celebrity as "the face of the corporate reform movement," the mystery will be exposed for what it is. By the way, this is not some nasty personal attack; quite the contrary, it is a close examination of what happened and why it had the national impact it has had.
I still cannot fully understand why other people were fired, convicted and fined for following Rhee's orders while she herself remains free from accountability to justice. Ravitch herself leaves us with many more questions which deepen our suspicions surrounding the scope of the Rhee phenomenon and its corrosive influences.
There is much, much more, but that is for you to discover. Reign of Error is not meant to be read once; as a reference book for actual school reform it is invaluable.
To return to the original premise, all that Diane Ravitch has to say in this book is important. Read the book and share it. Become involved.
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on September 20, 2013
For people who have been following education policy debates long enough and already know that they tend to agree with Diane Ravitch on most of the issues, there will not be any surprise revelations in the book; such readers might appreciate, as I did, Ravitch’s ability to pull together a combination of historical information, more recent studies, international comparisons, and various other sources that argue against the current direction of (supposed) education reform.

For those who tend to disagree with Ravitch on the issues, I would encourage them to take a look anyways, for two main reasons. First, even if you dislike her proposals or her conclusions, the evidence of the problems is compelling, and you won't advance your own cause if you pretend the problems don't exist. If you want to advocate for more charter schools, for example, you'd better show some awareness of how many charters are shams, how many engage in profiteering and nepotism, how many give no-bid contracts to their board members' companies, etc.

Ravitch states early on that much of her initial motivation to write the book was to answer a friend who wanted to hear some suggestions for improving education, rather than a litany of criticisms of education reform. These solutions constitute the second reason I’d recommend the book even to potential detractors. Though Ravitch spends more than half of the book exposing “the hoax,” the latter chapters arrives at concrete suggestions that would not only improve schools, but also others that would support children’s overall health and wellbeing in ways that would foster greater learning. Anyone who wants to knock Ravitch for not advocating solutions can’t really do that anymore.
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on September 17, 2013
You don't need to be an expert on education policy to enjoy and learn from Diane Ravitch's new book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools, published tomorrow, September 17, by Alfred A. Knopf. Packed with details and surprises, the book will answer just the questions you may have after trying to sort through the rhetoric of the education policy wars.

And if you know quite a bit about this issue already, you'll also be engrossed. My personal favorite chapter on first-reading the book is "Trouble in E-Land," an exploration of the history of for-profit virtual charter schools and their growth in particular states at the expense of the public education budget. While I already knew a lot about this topic, the chapter connected the dots for me in new ways.

This book should feel threatening to supporters of today's school "reform." Ravitch has built and documented a formidable critique of their movement and a deeply principled defense of public education.

You'll learn who is pushing hard for school "reform" and privatization--Americans for Children, American Legislative Exchange Council, Better Education for Kids, Black Alliance for Educational Options, Center for Education Reform, Chiefs for Change, ConCANN along with 50CAN and other state affiliates, Democrats for Education Reform, the Education Equality Project, Education Reform Now, Educators 4 Excellence, EdVoice, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, the National Council on Teacher Quality, New Leaders for New Schools, NewSchools Venture Fund, Parent Revolution, Stand for Children, Students for Education Reform, StudentsFirst, Teach for America, Teach Plus. The list goes on and on.

You will also learn something about the lexicon of these reformers--that they really mean "deregulation and privatization" when they say "reform" and that "personalized instruction" means sitting children in front of computers. Writes Ravitch, "The reformers define the purpose of education as preparation for global competitiveness, higher education, or the workforce. They view students as `human capital' or `assets.'"

Ravitch, a well-known historian of education, was formerly a supporter of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and many pieces of the current education "reform" movement until she underwent an apostasy that was the subject of the book she published in 2010, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. In that book Ravitch registered her own shock and dismay as she watched the policy failures of NCLB and as she realized that the public education policies of the Obama Administration replicated the strategies of the Bush Administration.

More than three years have passed since Ravitch's last book, and the evidence has begun to pile up: "When I wrote The Death and Life of the Great American School System, I thought that two very different reform movements just happened to converge in some sort of unanticipated and unfortunate accident. There was the testing and accountability movement, which started in the 1980s and officially became federal policy in 2002 as part of the No Child Left Behind law. Then there was the choice movement which had been simmering on the back burner of education politics for half a century, not making much headway... NCLB breathed new life into the choice movement by decreeing that schools persistently unable to meet its impossible goal of 100 percent proficiency be handed over to private management, undergo drastic staff firings, or be closed... Now the two movements are no longer separate. They have merged and are acting in concert."

Ravitch sorts out the acrimonious debate about students' standardized test scores. For seven years during the Clinton Administration, she served on the National Assessment Governing Board, an independent oversight agency that manages the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), a national test given without high stakes or any rankings or ratings of students or teachers or schools. Its purpose is simply to measure student achievement across the United States over time. One form of the NAEP goes back to the early 1970s. Without jargon or heavy psychometrics, Ravitch explains that all demographic groups of children continue to improve academic performance on the NAEP. Unfortunately children isolated in impoverished communities remain far behind.

The first half of the book is organized around myths vs. facts--about test scores, the achievement gap, international test scores, high school graduation rates, college graduation rates, the impact of poverty on school achievement, teachers and test scores, the problems with merit pay, and the role of tenure and seniority. These chapters are short, easy to read, and filled with facts. This section is followed by chapters on how privatization is damaging public schools today--the role of charters, the horrors (academically and financially) of the virtual e-schools, the unworkability of the parent trigger, and the failure of vouchers.
Ravitch condemns the crisis being created by federal policy for public education in America's poorest communities: "Given unrealistic goals, a school can easily fail. When a school is labeled a `failing school' under NCLB or a `priority' or `focus' school according to the metrics of the Obama administration's program, it must double down on test preparation to attempt to recover its reputation, but the odds of success are small, especially after the most ambitious parents and student flee the school. The federal regulations are like quicksand: the more schools struggle, the deeper they sink into the morass of test-based accountability. As worried families abandon these schools, they increasingly enroll disproportionate numbers of the most disadvantaged students... In time, the neighborhood school becomes the school of last resort, not the community school. When the neighborhood school is finally closed, there is no longer any choice."

Ravitch devotes the last third of the book to social reforms along with public school reforms that will improve opportunity for our nation's most vulnerable children, the over 22 percent of our children living in poverty, the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world. There is no mystery here. Our society needs to ensure that all pregnant women get medical care; children need pre-kindergarten; elementary school children in small classes should be provided a rich, not basic, curriculum; children should be tested sparingly; the curriculum in middle and high school should be balanced with sciences, literature, history, geography, civics, foreign languages and the arts; teachers should be well-credentialed and provided ongoing training and mentoring; students should have access to supervised after-school and summer programs; families need wrap-around social and health services; and our society must build the political will to overcome poverty and segregation by race and family income.

Our current school reform fad has been a reign of error; the future is up to all of us. This book is essential for helping us realize what's happening and what needs to change.
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on September 17, 2013
As facilitator of an online graduate course in teacher leadership, I strongly recommend that participants read lots of education policy blogs, across a range of political convictions. In the course syllabus, there are a dozen suggestions, but students--all practicing K-12 educators--are free to find and share others, posting their thoughts about the discourse they find.

The first discussion board question: Who is this blog for?

One teacher-participant compared a widely read policy blog to the "cool kids' table" in the school cafeteria: a place where other students are intentionally left behind, where the conversation often centers around a handful of people, clubs and shifting loyalties--who said what and how should we spin it?

Teachers often come away from their tour of Ed Policy World dismayed by the things policy "experts" are saying. Angry, sometimes. Frustrated at being left out of a dialogue where their hard-won practice expertise is undervalued, even scorned.

Good news. Diane Ravitch has written a book for them. While many of the early reviews of "Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools" came from the "cool kids," the audience that will find "Reign of Error" indispensible is teachers, school leaders and parents.

For them, it's a sourcebook of key issues, solid evidence and confirmation that yes, there's been a media-fed, policy-driven, politically instigated sea change in public perspectives around education. Plus--there's a template for the kinds of smart investment that could make our public education system sound and vigorous for decades. A rough guide to getting back on track, preserving America's best idea: a free, high-quality public education for every child, rich or poor.

There are a number of well-written blog reviews of "Reign of Error." Peg Robertson calls it her new activist handbook. Jan Resseger says it helped her connect the dots (and Jan has connected a lot of dots for me, so that's saying something). Peter DeWitt, David Cohen, Anthony Cody and Ken Bernstein all have fine pieces--Ken's is especially detailed, should you want a comprehensive overview. No need for me to reiterate or quote.

I will mention my favorite chapter-- "The Language of Corporate Reform"--where Ravitch's roots as historian emerge through her explanation of how modern media and business interests have reframed the story of the "failing" public education, critical to our national security and global economic dominance.

For every would-be reformer who blanches at assertive terms like "privatization" and "corporate reform," hoping to make common cause with entrepreneurial go-getters, Ravitch provides a cautionary lesson in the real roots of our traditional system: frequently inequitable, serving a constantly changing student population, and usually the target of disparagement from some quarters. There was no golden age in American education, Ravitch says. We can only look forward. And it would help to have some coherent national education goals, perhaps even this chestnut: democratic citizenship.

In building a textbook-length case for shifting our educational priorities, what Ravitch has done is leave the cool kids to their ongoing game of "my research is better than your research--here, let me buy another study." The appendix alone are filled with graphs, charts and references that will be invaluable to the nascent movement to reclaim a vibrant, fully public education system.
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