Blogger David Chura, who blogs at Kids in the System here reviews Reign of Error. This is what David does and has done: “For the last 40 years I’ve worked with at-risk kids, kids “in the system”–foster care, group homes, homeless shelters; psych hospitals, drug rehab; special education, alternative high schools.”

When he picked up the book, he expected to hear more bad news.

But this book is not a lament. Instead, in lean, measured prose Diane Ravitch addresses the many erroneous claims made by the “education reform” movement and then presents a realistic and humane plan for true educational improvement.

Ravitch doesn’t, however, just say that the reformers’ claims are wrong. That’s too easy, and Ravitch refuses the easy way out. She recognizes that the public is confused. For over a decade, it has been told by the government that our children’s schools are in a dangerously sorry state. The Bush Administration’s major tactic in presenting education reform (among other issues) was to repeatedly insist that something was “fact” despite solid contrary evidence until the public believed it. Unfortunately the Obama Administration has continued this same tactic in its education agenda.

In an effort to clear up some of the public’s confusion and to address the reformers’ accusations and claims, Reign of Error examines a wide variety of topics such as who constitutes what Ravitch calls “the corporate reformers,” the validity of high-stakes testing, the expanding achievement gap, charter schools and vouchers, and local school control. For each topic the book presents an exhaustive overview of studies, graphs and statistics that demonstrates why the reformers’ statements are false, oversimplified and in some cases, downright wrong thinking.

Yet behind all the statistics and the arguments laid out point by counterpoint, demonstrating the best of academic writing—no point left unsubstantiated—is a passionate and compassionate advocate for teachers, students and our public school system. Although the tone of Ravitch’s writing is professional, it is refreshing to see her own exasperation occasionally break through her usual cool demeanor when, for example, in writing about value-added assessment of schools and teachers she comments, “Stated as politely as possible, value-added assessment is bad science. It may even be junk science.” Having worked with at risk students my whole teaching career I couldn’t help but cheer that “dukes up,” “let’s take it to the parking lot” slam, and wonder if “bad science” was as close to “bullshit” as she (or her editor) could allow.