Magazine March 22, 2010, Issue

Teach for America

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The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, by Diane Ravitch (Basic, 296 pp., $26.95)

In recent years, two conservative ideas about education have gone mainstream, capturing the imaginations of reformers across the political spectrum. The first is “accountability” for raising students’ test scores, enforced at the level of either the school or the teacher. The second is “choice,” in the form of charter schools.

These reforms are often presented as panaceas for the nation’s educational ills. Serious researchers have claimed that high-quality teachers (hired according to their ability to raise test scores) and charter schools can close gaps between income and racial groups in as little as three to five years. In a National Review

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