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Advice for Duncan

The Professor

Diane Ravitch, historian of education at New York University and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Diane Ravitch, historian of education at New York University and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

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Monday, January 12, 2009; 12:00 AM

Chicago public schools chief Arne Duncan goes before a Senate committee on Tuesday for a confirmation hearing. To help him set priorities, Post reporter Valerie Strauss asked folks in the education world to provide their best advice on key issues. Here is a response from Diane Ravitch, professor of education at New York University, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

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You have a chance to make a historic difference by abolishing the No Child Left Behind legislation. Signed into law in 2002, this law has turned our schools into testing factories, narrowed the curriculum to the detriment of everything other than reading and math, and prompted states to claim phony test score gains.

The law's remedies don't work. The law's sanctions don't work. The goal of 100 percent proficiency by 2014 is ludicrous; no nation or state has ever reached it.

Achievement gains have been meager. Test scores improved more on federal tests in the five years preceding NCLB than in the years since it was implemented.

What Washington does best is write checks, collect honest information, and call attention to problems.

Mr. Secretary, use your bully pulpit to scrap this ineffective set of mandates. And when the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is reauthorized, as it must be, insist that schools are accountable not only for educating their students in history, science, literature, civics, and the arts, but for safeguarding their health and development.


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