Education historian Diane Ravitch once supported education reform, but now she sees it as a series of “mistaken policies” that have corrupted public schools.
Ravitch, a New York University research professor of education, has won the 2014 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Education for her 2010 book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education.”
The work chronicles her decades-long journey from reform advocate to critic and encourages a return to school curriculums that value art, literature, creativity and problem solving.
Ravitch, who served in the U.S. Department of Education in both the George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations, formerly was a strong advocate for reforms such as standardized testing, teacher accountability and school choice. In 2010, however, she concluded that those policies were flawed and did something rarely seen in public life—she admitted she was wrong.
Her change of heart came about gradually as she saw more American students fall behind their international peers and fail to grasp a big picture understanding of historical events, political issues and scientific phenomena.
“This book gives us an important historical perspective,” said award administrator Melissa Andris. “Ravitch marshals an impressive body of evidence to show how, on the whole, these reforms are not working as promised and are leaving many schools in the same or even worse shape than before.”
UofL presents four Grawemeyer Awards each year for outstanding works in music, composition, world order, psychology and education. The university and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary jointly give a fifth award in religion. This year’s awards are $100,000 each.
Two previous winners are Linda Darling-Hammond (2012) and Pasi Sahlberg (2013).