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Is Education on the Wrong Track?

A TNR Symposium.

Last week, several top U.S. education policy wonks battled in our online debate about the state of school reform. Among the most contentious issues were testing, accountability, school choice, and the treatment of teachers. (You can read the first four installments here, here, here, and here.) In this fifth round, Diane Ravitch, author of the new best-seller The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, answers criticisms from Andrew Rotherham of Bellwether Education and argues that the country can’t focus on models of reform that will only help some children. Meanwhile, Kevin Carey, the policy director of Education Sector, says there are no perfect conditions under which to execute reform; rather, there is an urgent need to work with given factors and offer students a chance at a better education. And Nelson Smith, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, joins the discussion to defend charters and the roles they play in communities.

By Diane Ravitch: We need to improve our education system--not tinker with models that affect tiny numbers of kids and can’t be replicated.

By Kevin Carey: School reform has to happen now, not at some magic moment when the conditions are just right. Also, surely we can find common ground on charter schools.

By Nelson Smith: Public charter schools are community schools, providing a model of success that we know can work. They deserve more credit than Ravitch gives them.