“Black and Hispanic children, nonetheless, continue to lag behind. The black-white gap, as Diane Ravitch documents in her book Reign of Error, narrowed greatly in the era of desegregation, but progress has slowed as the hyper-segregation of our schools and neighborhoods along both racial and economic lines has come to be accepted once again as the normal order of the day. Market competition has not reduced the gap. Charter schools — Ravitch says we ought to ban those that operate for profit — have an uneven record. They “run the gamut from excellent to awful” and, on average, do no better than their public counterparts. Those that claim impressive gains are often openly or subtly selective in the children they enroll. Most do not serve children with severe disabilities. Others are known to counsel out or expel problematic students whose performance might depress the scores.
What passes for reform today, Ravitch writes, is “a deliberate effort” to replace public schools with a market system. The “unnatural focus on testing” has produced “perverse but predictable results.” It has narrowed curriculums to testable subjects, to the exclusion of the arts and the full capaciousness of culture. And it has encouraged the manipulation of scores on state exams. “Teaching to the test, once considered unprofessional and unethical,” is now “common.”
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