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 Politico.com/arena and the Huffington Post. 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, most recently, of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education (2010).
In addition, she has edited fourteen books, including The American Reader (1991); The English Reader (with Michael Ravitch) ; The Democracy Reader (with Abigail Thernstrom) ;Forgotten Heroes of American Education (with Wesley Null) ; Learning from the Past (with Maris Vinovskis) ; and New Schools for a New Century (with Joseph Viteritti) . 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 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.
In 2010, the National Education Association selected her as its “Friend of Education” for the year, and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges conferred its Charles W. Eliot Award on Dr. Ravitch. In 2011, she has been honored with the Outstanding Friend of Education Award from the Horace Mann League; the American Education Award from the American Association of School Administrators; the National Association of Secondary School Principals’ Distinguished Service Award; and the Distinguished Alumni Award from Teachers College at Columbia University. In June of 2011, she received the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.
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.
Diane Ravitch: The rise of the testing movement can be traced through the twentieth century. But what we’re living now with is not just the rise of the testing movement but the overwhelming dominance of testing. It has become almost like the monster that ate American education. And we are so test-obsessed that schools are being closed based on test scores, even when those test scores reflect that the schools have a heavy enrollment of very poor kids or heavy enrollment of children with disabilities and children with all kinds of other needs. We don't look at the needs. We don't evaluate the problems that need to be solved in that school. We just say "These are low scores. We have to close the school."
I am very deeply concerned about what years and years of standardized testing does to children’s brains. I think it actually becomes destructive. If we think about what our needs are for the twenty-first century, and not just how do we compete in the world but how do we live in the world, how do we survive in the world, we need a generation of people who will succeed us who are thoughtful, who can reflect, who can think. You know, the expression is "think critically," and that's certainly important, but also who have imagination.
None of the characteristics that are important for thriving in the world of the twenty-first century are encouraged by standardized testing. In fact, they’re all squashed. So we’re doing something that is, actually, long term, harmful to children’s brains. We’re saying to them, year after year, "You will be judged by whether you can select the right answer, whether you can put your X in the right bubble." That's wrong. Whether we do it on a computer or do it with a number two pencil, it’s wrong, because we’re teaching children that every question has four possible answers, one of which is right and three of which are wrong.
Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd