A Marketplace Which Includes Virtual Schools or a Good School in Every Neighborhood?

Over at Eduwonk, Andy Rotherham is hosting a debate between Ed Next’s Paul Peterson and Diane Ravitch. Peterson (Saving Schools) and Ravitch (The Death and Life of the Great American School System) both have new books out that diagnose the problems with America’s schools and offer a way forward.

The opening statements by Peterson and Ravitch are long. Here’s a summary:

Peterson: Since John Dewey, school reformers have tried to customize education to the needs of each child, but each step towards customization has required a big step toward centralization (bigger schools, larger school districts, state certification for teachers, federal dollars and regulations, etc.) School systems are no longer embedded in the small politics of local communities and this has dramatically changed the way accountability works. Centralization produced neither customized education nor educational progress. However, today the potential for real customization is at hand, and the best place to see how this might work is Florida Virtual School.

Ravitch: NCLB-style accountability is not working, and is producing a nightmare for American schools. Deregulation and charters are not working either. We are turning education into a vast marketplace of choices all judged by scores on tests, which disrupts communities and dumbs down schools. We need to instead provide a good school in every neighborhood.

So, which is the way forward, a marketplace which includes virtual schools or a good school in every neighborhood? Join the debate!

For more from Paul Peterson, you can listen to this podcast, where he discusses Saving Schools with Ed Next’s Mike Petrilli, or watch this video, in which he discusses the book and the promise of virtual schooling with Nathan Glazer of Harvard University.

An excerpt from Saving Schools appears in the Spring 2010 issue of Ed Next: “A Courageous Look at the Future of the American High School

P.S. Chester Finn answers eight questions about school reform–including whether he agrees with Diane Ravitch– over at the Economist’s Democracy in America blog.

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