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.
About Diane Ravitch
For decades, U.S. public school education has been marked with controversy, and Diane Ravitch has been a part of it all.
In the 1990s, Ravitch, a professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, was an outspoken supporter of charter schools, testing and standards. In 2010, however, she reversed herself, saying she had become convinced that those policies would never lead to a good education for all children.
Ravitch was assistant education secretary under George H. W. Bush and was appointed by Bill Clinton to the National Assessment Governing Board. Between those posts, she held the Brown chair in education studies at the Brookings Institution. Before that, she was an adjunct history and education professor at Teachers College, Columbia University
She has written nine books besides her Grawemeyer Award-winning book, including “The Great School Wars: New York City, 1905-1973,” “The Troubled Crusade” and “Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform.”
Her most recent book, “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools,” became a best seller soon after it was published in September.
Among Ravitch’s honors are awards from the National Education Association, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the American Association of School Administrators and the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences.
She also has received honorary degrees from Williams College, Reed College, Amherst College, State University of New York, Ramapo College, St. Joseph’s College of New York, Middlebury College Language Schools and Union College.
A Houston, Texas, public school graduate, she has a bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College and a doctor of philosophy degree from Columbia University.