search contact EPI US Canada

EPI Webinars


EPI Book Club

EPI Recommended Reading


Contact Us


October 21, 2010 - 1:00pm EST, EPI Book Club presents: Diane Ravitch, The Death and Life of the Great American School System (Public Welcome)

Diane Ravitch, The Death and Life of the Great American School System

(Purchase Book Here)


To Download the Webinar, CLICK HERE (WMV file; 37MB)

To Download the EPI Transcript, CLICK HERE (pdf file: 1.6MB)


About the book:

Diane Ravitch, the nation’s foremost historian of education, warns that national education policy is on a path to wrecking our cherished tradition of public education.  In this remarkable book, she describes how such strategies as accountability schemes based on questionable standardized tests, merit pay for teachers based on gains on the same unreliable tests, vouchers, and charter schools have been oversold as solutions for our educational problems. Ravitch explains why she became persuaded by accumulating evidence that policymakers are on the wrong track in pushing a market model of reform that ignores the realities of the classroom. The more they push these policies, she writes, the more they will harm our nation’s school system and undermine the quality of education.

Ravitch shows how President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind program has failed to improve education. The main result of NCLB has been to turn our schools into testing factories. While children are trained to take standardized tests, they do not gain the knowledge and skills that are necessary components of a good education.  The federal “sanctions” and “remedies” now mandated across the nation have unfairly stigmatized thousands of schools and put them at risk of being closed and privatized. The Obama administration has now adopted the same approach as the George W. Bush administration, despite the lack of evidence that these “reforms” will improve the quality of education.

About the author:

Diane Ravitch is Research Professor of Education at New York University and a historian of education. In addition, she is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

She shares a blog called Bridging Differences with Deborah Meier, hosted by Education Week. She also blogs for and Her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines.

From 1991 to 1993, she was Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander in the administration of President George H.W. Bush. She was responsible for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement in the U.S. Department of Education. As Assistant Secretary, she led the federal effort to promote the creation of voluntary state and national academic standards.

From 1997 to 2004, she was a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federal testing program. She was appointed by the Clinton administration's Secretary of Education Richard Riley in 1997 and reappointed by him in 2001. From 1995 until 2005, she held the Brown Chair in Education Studies at the Brookings Institution and edited Brookings Papers on Education Policy. Before entering government service, she was Adjunct Professor of History and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

She is the author of:

*The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education (2010)
*Edspeak: A Glossary of Education Terms, Phrases, Buzzwords, and Jargon (2007)
*The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn (2003)
*Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform (2000)
*National Standards in American Education: A Citizen's Guide (1995)
*What Do Our 17-Year-Olds Know? (with Chester Finn, Jr.) [1987]
*The Schools We Deserve (1985)
*The Troubled Crusade: American Education, 1945-1980 (1983)
*The Revisionists Revised (1978)
*The Great School Wars: New York City, 1805-1973 (1974)

In addition, she has edited fourteen books, including The American Reader (1991); The English Reader (with Michael Ravitch) [2006]; The Democracy Reader (with Abigail Thernstrom) [1992]; Forgotten Heroes of American Education (with Wesley Null) [2007]; Learning from the Past (with Maris Vinovskis) [1995]; and New Schools for a New Century (with Joseph Viteritti) [1997]. She has written more than 500 articles and reviews for scholarly and popular publications.

She has lectured in Poland, the former Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic, Romania, the former Soviet Union, Hungary, the former Yugoslavia, Germany, Japan, Nicaragua, and throughout the United States. Her lectures on democracy and civic education have been translated by the USIA into many languages, including Polish, Spanish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Russian, Belarussian, and Ukrainian. Her books have been translated into many languages,

including Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, Swedish, and Japanese.

She serves on the board of the Core Knowledge Foundation; Common Core; the Albert Shanker Institute of the American Federation of Teachers; and Common Good. She is an honorary life trustee of the New York Public Library and a former Guggenheim Fellow.

She was a member of the Koret Task Force at the Hoover Institution (Stanford University) from 1999 to 2009. She was a member of the board of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation from 1996 to 2009.

In 1989, she advised Teachers Solidarity and the Ministry of Education in Poland. In 1991, the Polish Government awarded her a medal for her work on behalf of Solidarity.

She was elected to membership in the National Academy of Education (1979); the Society of American Historians (1984); the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1985); and as the Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences (2002). She was selected as a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar in 1984-85, the first person chosen from the field of education studies. She was awarded the Henry Allen Moe prize in the humanities by the American Philosophical Society in 1986. In 1988, she was designated an "honorary citizen of the state of California" by the State Legislature in recognition of her contributions to the state's history curriculum and its human rights curriculum. In 1989, she received the Wellesley College Alumnae Achievement Award. She was honored as a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library in 1992. The Library of Congress invited her to deliver lectures in 1993 in honor of the 250th birthday of Thomas Jefferson. She received the Leadership Award of the Klingenstein Institute at Teachers College in 1994 and the Horace Kidger Award of the New England History Teachers Association in 1998.

In 2004, she received the Leadership Award of the New York City Council of Supervisors and Administrators. In 2005, she received the John Dewey award from the United Federation of Teachers of New York City; the Gaudium Award of the Breukelein Institute; and the Uncommon Book Award from the Hoover Institution. In 2006, the Kenneth J. Bialkin/Citigroup Public Service Award was conferred on her.

She was awarded an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, by the following institutions: Williams College; Reed College; Amherst College; the State University of New York; Ramapo College; St. Joseph's College of New York; Middlebury College Language Schools; and Union College.

A native of Houston, she is a graduate of the Houston public schools. She received a B.A. from Wellesley College in 1960 and a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 1975.