Education Historian Rails Against Standardized Tests In Westchester

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Diane Ravitch was assistant secretary of education and counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander in the George H.W. Bush administration. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Diane Ravitch was a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federal testing program. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Diane Ravitch was appointed by Bill Clinton's Secretary of Education Richard Riley in 1997 and reappointed by him in 2001. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
More than 100 parents, teachers and community members from the Bedford area attended the lecture. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
A question and answer period was held after the lecture. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Before entering government service, Diane Ravitch was an adjunct history and education professor at Teachers College, Columbia University. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Diane Ravitch signed copies of her book, "Reign of Error" after the lecture and Q&A. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Diane Ravitch's blogs, at, has had nearly 8.3 million page views in less than a year. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly

BEDFORD, N.Y. – Diane Ravitch doesn’t care if her third-grade grandson is college and career ready. She said she just wants him to have a childhood that isn’t defined by a score on a “high-risk” test.

The author of “Reign of Error,” Ravitch told parents and educators at Fox Lane High School Thursday night that students are being rated and ranked by their scores on the new standardized tests. While she said the “winners” get to go to the good colleges, the “losers” feel like society’s rejects.

“Testing is not teaching,” said Ravitch, an education professor and historian, who oversaw the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Research and Improvement from 1991 to 1993.

Not only are students in the U.S. tested more than in any other country in the world to meet the proficiency standards set by No Child Let Behind, she said now those tests are made longer and harder to align with the Common Core. She said there is no evidence to support the idea that more tests and harder tests means students will perform better.

The new state tests were unveiled last spring for grades three through eight, and 69 percent of students failed to meet proficiency. She said the new state English language arts test for fifth graders aligned most closely with the old test given to eighth graders.

“Changing our standards and changing our tests, making them harder do not address the root causes of low test scores and may in fact shoot the gaps far wider than they are today,” she said.

The root of low test scores is poverty and racial segregation and the increased and more difficult testing is distracting from that underlying problem, Ravitch said.

There are 43 states participating in the common core learning standards, which is a requirement to qualify for federal Race To The Top funds – states were also required to adopt the new teacher evaluation system, APPR. New York adopted the common core in 2010 and received $700 million to allocate to its public schools.

In the last year, dozens of Hudson Valley school districts have opted out of Race To The Top. Some did it to protest the implementation of common core, while others objected to the requirement to collect massive amounts of student data. Districts were concerned about how the data was going to be used when the state sent it to InBloom, a private company, to be stored in an online digital dashboard.

“The public must understand what is happening to their schools,” Ravitch said. “I wanted to talk with you tonight… because I’ve given up trying to talk to policymakers in Albany and Washington. They don’t listen. They’re determined on a course that’s bad for children. They’re determined on a course that’s ruinous for teachers. They’re determined on a course that’s bad for principals, bad for schools and bad for public education.”

Ravitch encouraged the 100-plus in attendance to contact their state legislators to let them know how they feel about common core, APPR and standardized testing.

Ravitch writes a blog, which has received 8.3 million page views in one year and can be found here

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Comments (8)


Who should be running "the show?" The NYSUT? Not quite.
The PTA should be calling the shots. That 'P' in PTA is what matters most. These are our kids.


I loved seeing Diane speak. It gave me an opportunity to hear the opposing side. The NYSED, the PTA and a myriad of organizations rife with money and cronyism are running the show--making Diane the "opposing view point." It's good to see the school board standing up for the other side! The side where parents and children are taken into account. May I remind all the naysayers that between the testing and the focus on the testing many school districts have had to shut down all but the most basic of the arts, recess, languages, science have been reduced to once a week if at all. This is the current climate at the ed department. So when someone asks about "the other side," or why did she change her mind, remember this is the other side. (BTW, Joel Klein was only a the NYC Department of Ed to bust the teacher's union and everyone with a conscience should have changed their minds at that point....)

Benedict D:

Barbara - are you an educator, or a parent of a public school student, or both perhaps? I am a parent in the BCSD school system. I think charter schools are a great idea and option for parents.


Barbara, it's parents that want the choices with respect to schools. Charter schools were brought on by what parents and students wanted. Watch the movie "Won't Back Down."

The NY State Teacher's Union is not a Union protecting students, parents and taxpayers. It has the teachers' interests in mind --that's it. You know this, right?

Diane Ravitch is now the defender of the status quo. The defender of tenure after 3 years. The defender of retirement in your late 50s. The defender of salary/benefit/pension plans that are destroying this state (she wants more $ spent!). She is the defender of the union stranglehold on our schools.

There needs to be testing. As much as we have? Probably not. But, we need more reading, writing and arithmetic. There will still be plenty of time for the arts and recess. I can't believe how much "fun" my kids have at school sometimes. (movies, parties, this or that country day/week/festival... enough)

Worst of all, Dr. Ravitch (in her infinite wisdom) suggested to parents in that forum that we just have our kids opt-out and not take the state tests. Wildly irresponsible because if we have too high a percentage of kids doing this, our schools could lose funding from the state. Our school board did not do us a service here.

Benedict D:

She has no right being at a publicly funded BCSD school humping her books and railing against charter schools. Charter schools are the best thing to happen to public schools in a long time, especially in the inner city. Why do people wait in lines in hopes that their children get into these schools? Because they have a choice and the education is better in these charters (public school charters, to be clear) than in most current public schools. There is some accountability for results – great idea. Why is she so against them? Maybe she is just protecting the union position, I guess? In addition, she is insincere about them not accepting handicapped children – as it is a lottery system. Question for BCSD: Can we expect that a speaker with an opposing view will be invited to speak at Fox Lane soon? It would be nice to understand both sides, no?


If Diane is indeed a historian of any kind, she should kick off each speech by quoting herself from 1970 to 2006 because she's literally changed every position she's had. Her credibility is non-existent.
She was for No Child Left Behind, until she wasn't. She was a proponent of Charter Schools, until she was against them. She was in favor of national standards, until she opposed them. She believed in teacher accountability, until she didn't. She gave speeches and wrote books about the deterioration of our public schools and the "rising tide of mediocrity," but now claims that there is nothing wrong with the American educational system and no reforms are needed. (reformers = "profiteers")
She wants the federal government out of the classroom... but then talks about how we need more funding for education FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

Lest we forget, she sent HER KIDS to private schools.

So what happened in 2007? Well... that's when Joel Klein turned down Diane's girlfriend Mary Butz (a longtime school principal) for a job heading up NYC's principals-training program. After that, she began publicly and incessantly attacking Klein and did a complete about-face on many of her life-long positions. As Klein cleared the way for more charter schools, Dr. Ravitch vilified these schools (and those who run them and teach in them) more and more.

She is trying to sell books.
She should write under a pseudonym at this point...

principally speaking:

I agree with her whole heartedly! Let kids be has taken so much time away from the arts, physical activities, assemblies,multi-cultural activities and so many other learning opportunities. Children have lost their happiness and motivation to attend school when all they are pressured to do is learn for the test.There are many success stories of traditional teaching before the "teach to the test",Enough is Enough!


There are plenty of multi-cultural activities and assemblies in the BCSD. I assure you.
Children have lost their happiness b/c too many parents are trying to compete with one another, so they're over-scheduled every day... after school. I agree with letting kids be kids. Parents have to be in charge of that, though.

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