Classrooms Are Not Businesses

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Today on Morning Edition, Steve Inskeep interviewed Diane Ravitch, former Assistant Secretary of Education under the first Bush administration and a once ardent supporter of No child Left Behind, on why she now believes the program to be deeply flawed.

An interview with Ravitch followed a story about Central Falls High in Rhode Island which recently fired its entire staff of teachers because of low achieving students.

An emphasis on test scores can make it hard for teachers in poorer schools to get ahead. When their entire performance is based on the tests and they are rewarded or punished accordingly it can seem like the system gives wealthier schools an automatic advantage. As a result, Ravitch says that the testing encourages schools desperate for funding to game the system.

When asked whether it was healthy to have some competition in the education marketplace, Ravitch countered that "there should be no education marketplace," emphasizing that education for children is not meant to be run like a business.

"Schools operate fundamentally -- or should operate -- like families. The fundamental principle by which education proceeds is collaboration. Teachers are supposed to share what works; schools are supposed to get together and talk about what's [been successful] for them. They're not supposed to hide their trade secrets and have a survival of the fittest competition with the school down the block." 


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Jessica Olien is a journalist based in Washington, D.C. She has previously worked as a reporter in Asia and the Middle East.

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