Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch
Diane Silvers Ravitch
Born Diane Silvers
July 1, 1938 (1938-07-01) (age 73)
Houston, Texas
Residence Brooklyn, New York
Nationality United States
Education Wellesley College, B.A., 1960
Columbia University, Ph.D., 1975
Employer research professor of education, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development (NYU)
senior fellow, Brookings Institution
Board member of Albert Shanker Institute, director
Developmental Studies Center advisory board
Religion Jewish
Parents Walter Cracker Silvers (businessperson)
Ann Celia (Katz) Silvers
Awards See awards section

Diane Silvers Ravitch (born July 1, 1938) is an historian of education, an educational policy analyst, and a research professor at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Previously, she was a U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education



Ravitch began her career as an editorial assistant at the New Leader magazine, a small journal devoted to democratic ideas. In 1975, she became a historian of education with a Ph.D. from Columbia University. At that time she worked closely with Teachers College president Lawrence A. Cremin, who was her mentor.

She was appointed to public office by both President of the United States George H. W. Bush and his successor Bill Clinton. Secretary of Education Richard Riley appointed her to serve as a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which supervises the National Assessment of Educational Progress; she was a member of NAGB from 1997 to 2004.

She has participated in a "blog debate" called "Bridging Differences" with Steinhardt School colleague Deborah Meier on the website of Education Week since February 26, 2007.[6]

Writings and statements on education

Ravitch critiqued the punitive uses of accountability to fire teachers and close schools, as well as replacing public schools with charter schools and relying on superstar teachers, in The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Undermine Education (2010). The book became a surprise best seller a month after its release. One reviewer wrote "Ravitch exhibits an interesting mix of support for public education and the rights of teachers to bargain collectively with a tough-mindedness that some on the pedagogical left lack."[7]

While she originally supported No Child Left Behind and charter schools, Ravitch later became "disillusioned," and wrote, "I no longer believe that either approach will produce the quantum improvement in American education that we all hope for." In the major national evaluation, 17% of charters got higher scores, 46% were no different, and 37% were significantly worse than public schools, she said. High-stakes testing, "utopian" goals, "draconian" penalties, school closings, privatization, and charter schools didn't work, she concluded. "The best predictor of low academic performance is poverty—not bad teachers."[8]

Ravitch said that the charter school and testing reform movement was started by "right wing think tanks like the Heritage Foundation," for the purpose of destroying public education and teachers' unions.[9] She reviewed the documentary Waiting for Superman, directed by Davis Guggenheim, as "propagandistic" (pro-charter schools and anti-public schools), studded with "myths" and at least one "flatly wrong" claim.[10] Of Education Secretary Arne Duncan's Race to the Top program, Ravitch said in a 2011 interview it "is an extension of No Child Left Behind ...[,] all bad ideas." She concluded "We are destroying our education system, blowing it up by these stupid policies. And handing the schools in low-income neighborhoods over to private entrepreneurs does not, in itself, improve them. There's plenty of evidence by now that the kids in those schools do no better, and it's simply a way of avoiding their - the public responsibility to provide good education."[11]

Her book The Language Police (2003) was a criticism of both left-wing and right-wing attempts to stifle the study and expression of views deemed unworthy by those groups. (See political correctness and multiculturalism). The Amazon.com review summarizes Ravitch's thesis as "pressure groups from the political right and left have wrested control of the language and content of textbooks and standardized exams, often at the expense of the truth (in the case of history), of literary quality (in the case of literature), and of education in general."[12] Publishers Weekly wrote: "Ravitch contends that these sanitized materials sacrifice literary quality and historical accuracy in order to escape controversy."[13]

Ravitch's writings on racial and cultural diversity were summarized by sociologist Vincent N. Parrillo:

[Ravitch] emphasized a common culture but one that incorporated the contributions of all racial and ethnic groups so that they can believe in their full membership in America’s past, present, and future. She envisioned elimination of allegiance to any specific racial and/or ethnic group, with emphasis instead on our common humanity, our shared national identity, and our individual accomplishments.
—Vincent N. Parrillo, Diversity in America[14]

Personal life

Ravitch was born in 1938 in Houston, Texas, where she went to public schools. She is one of eight children. She is a graduate of Wellesley College, has a Ph.D. from Columbia University, and lives in Brooklyn, New York City. She married Richard Ravitch (who later served as Lieutenant Governor of New York) in 1960 and they divorced in 1986. They have two sons; a third son died of leukemia at the age of 2.[citation needed]

Ravitch lives in Brooklyn Heights, New York. Her longtime companion is Mary Butz,[15] a New York City public school principal who founded a small, highly-rated non-selective public high school and subsequently administered a progressive principal-training program until her retirement in 2003.


Published works


Ravitch has published more than 500 articles in scholarly and popular journals.


Delta Kappa Gamma Educators' Award
1975, for The Great School Wars, New York City, 1805-1973
1984, for The Troubled Crusade: American Education, 1945- 1980
Ambassador of Honor Award, English-Speaking Union,
1984, for The Troubled Crusade
1985, for The Schools We Deserve: Reflections on the Educational Crises of Our Times


  • Phi Beta Kappa visiting scholar, 1984–85
  • Henry Allen Moe Prize, American Philosophical Society, 1986
  • designated honorary citizen, State of California Senate Rules Committee, 1988, for work on state curriculum
  • Alumnae Achievement Award, Wellesley College, 1989
  • Medal of Distinction, Polish National Council of Education, 1991
  • Literary Lion, New York Public Library, 1992
  • Award for Distinguished Service, New York Academy of Public Education, 1994
  • Horace Kidger Award, New England History Teachers Association, 1998
  • Award of Excellence, St. John's University School of Education, 1998
  • John Dewey Education Award, United Federation of Teachers, 2005
  • Guggenheim fellowship, 1977 http://www.gf.org/fellows/12014-diane-s-ravitch
  • Honorary Life Trustee, New York Public Library
  • John Dewey Award, United Federation of Teachers, New York City, 2005
  • Gaudium Award from the Breukelein Institute, 2005
  • Uncommon Book Award, Hoover Institution, 2005
  • NEA Friend of Education, 2010
  • American Association of School Administrators, American Education Award, 2011
  • Outstanding Friend of Education Award, Horace Mann League, 2011
  • Distinguished Service Award, National Association of Secondary School Principals, 2011
  • Daniel Patrick Moynihan Award, American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, 2011
  • Honorary degrees from
Williams College
Reed College
Amherst College
State University of New York
Ramapo College
Saint Joseph's College (New York)
Middlebury College Language Schools
Union College
Siena College


  1. ^ Contemporary Authors Online. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Michigan: Gale, 2009. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC. Fee via Fairfax County Public Library, accessed 2009-05-16. Document Number: H1000081288.
  2. ^ Topek, Joseph S. (November 11, 1991). "Reflections on CUNY's Jeffries and the Jews" (PDF). Statesman (Stony Brook, New York) 35 (20): p. 13. http://dspace.sunyconnect.suny.edu/bitstream/1951/25421/1/Statesman%20V.%2035,%20n.%2020.pdf. Retrieved 2009-05-16. 
  3. ^ Green, Elizabeth (1 July 2008). "Happy Birthday Diane Ravitch". New York Sun. http://www.nysun.com/blogs/out-and-about/2008/07/happy-birthday-diane-ravitch.html. Retrieved 2009-05-16. "...only Jew in Brooklyn to have her own priest" 
  4. ^ "The Albert Shanker Institute - Board of Directors". http://www.ashankerinst.org/shankerboard.html#ravitch. Retrieved 2009-05-16. 
  5. ^ "Gaudium Award 2005 - The Breukelein Institute". http://www.breukelein.org/gaudium2005.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-16. "Gaudium Award 2005" 
  6. ^ Bridging Differences Ravitch also blogs at politico.com/arena and the Huffington Post.
  7. ^ Kahlenberg, Richard (March–April, 2010). "Re-education: Conservative education scholar Diane Ravitch returns to her liberal roots". The Washington Monthly. http://www.washingtonmonthly.com//features/2010/1003.kahlenberg.html. Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  8. ^ Ravitch, Diane (9 March 2010). "Why I Changed My Mind About School Reform". Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704869304575109443305343962.html. Retrieved 2010-06-24. 
  9. ^ WNYC, The Leonard Lopate Show, State of Education, interview with Diane Ravitch, May 25, 2010
  10. ^ Ravitch, Diane, "The Myth of Charter Schools", The New York Review of Books, November 11, 2010. Retrieved 2011-04-28.
  11. ^ Interview] with Terry Gross, Fresh Air, NPR, April 28, 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-28.
  12. ^ Tropea, Silvana. "Amazon.com Review: The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn: Diane Ravitch:". http://www.amazon.com/Language-Police-Pressure-Restrict-Students/dp/0375414827. Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  13. ^ "The Language Police, Vintage Ser., Diane Ravitch, Book - Barnes & Noble". http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&endeca=1&isbn=1400030641&itm=3. Retrieved 2009-05-16. ??
  14. ^ Parrillo, Vincent N. (2009). "Chapter 9: Is Multiculturalism a threat". Diversity in America (3 ed.). Pine Forge Press. ISBN 9781412956376. http://www.ou.edu/cls/online/lstd2333/pdfs/unit2_multiculturalism_threat.pdf. 
  15. ^ Goldstein, Dana (June 24, 2011). "Diane Ravitch, the Anti-Rhee". Washington City Paper. http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/articles/41083/diane-ravitch-the-anti-rhee/full/. Retrieved August 01, 2011. 

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