Last updated on: 6/7/2012 | Author:

Diane Ravitch, PhD Biography

Research Professor of Education at New York University
to the question "Do Standardized Tests Improve Education in America?"

“[W]hat we’re living now with is not just the rise of the testing movement but the overwhelming dominance of testing. It has become almost like the monster that ate American education. And we are so test-obsessed that schools are being closed based on test scores, even when those test scores reflect that the schools have a heavy enrollment of very poor kids or heavy enrollment of children with disabilities and children with all kinds of other needs. We don’t look at the needs. We don’t evaluate the problems that need to be solved in that school. We just say ‘These are low scores. We have to close the school.’

…None of the characteristics that are important for thriving in the world of the twenty-first century are encouraged by standardized testing. In fact, they’re all squashed. So we’re doing something that is, actually, long term, harmful to children’s brains. We’re saying to them, year after year, ‘You will be judged by whether you can select the right answer, whether you can put your X in the right bubble.’ That’s wrong. Whether we do it on a computer or do it with a number two pencil, it’s wrong, because we’re teaching children that every question has four possible answers, one of which is right and three of which are wrong.”

“Standardized Testing: The Monster That Ate American Education,”, Feb. 6, 2012

[Editor’s Note: Prior to Diane Ravitch’s 2012 Con position statement made above, her position was Pro standardized tests as indicated in her 2000 TIME magazine article below.]

“No one wants to be tested. We would all like to get a driver’s license without answering questions about right of way or showing that we can parallel park a car. Many future lawyers and doctors probably wish they could join their profession without taking an exam.

But tests and standards are a necessary fact of life. They protect us–most of the time–from inept drivers, hazardous products and shoddy professionals. In schools too, exams play a constructive role. They tell public officials whether new school programs are making a difference and where new investments are likely to pay off. They tell teachers what their students have learned–and have not. They tell parents how their children are doing compared with others their age. They encourage students to exert more effort…

In the past few years, we have seen the enormous benefits that flow to disadvantaged students because of the information provided by state tests. Those who fall behind are now getting extra instruction in after-school classes and summer programs.”

“In Defense of Testing,” TIME magazine, Sep. 11, 2000

Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Research Professor of Education at New York University
  • Nonresident Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution, DC
  • Blogger,,
  • Named National Education Association’s “Friend of Education,” 2010
  • Member, Koret Task Force at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, 1999-2009
  • Board Member, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, 1996-2009
  • Brown Chair in Education Studies, Brookings Institution, DC, 1995-2005
  • Editor, Brookings Papers on Education Policy, 1995-2005
  • Recipient, Leadership Award of the New York City Council of Supervisors and Administrators, 2004
  • Member, National Assessment Governing Board, 1997-2004
  • US Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander, 1991-1993
  • Advisor, Teachers Solidarity and the Ministry of Education, Poland, 1989
  • Former Adjunct Professor of History and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University
  • Former Guggenheim Fellow
  • Author of ten books, editor of 14 books, and writer of more than 500 articles and reviews for scholarly and popular publications
  • PhD, History, Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, 1975
  • BA, Wellesley College, 1960
  • Recipient of nine honorary degrees
  • Recipient, Deborah Meier Award for Heroism, FairTest, June 5, 2012
  • Recipient, Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize, American Academy of Political and Social Science, 2011
  • Recipient, Outstanding Friend of Education Award, Horace Mann League, 2011
  • Recipient, the American Education Award, American Association of School Administrators, 2011
  • Recipient, Distinguished Service Award, National Association of Secondary School Principals, 2011
  • Recipient, Charles W. Eliot Award, New England Association of Schools and Colleges, 2010
  • Recipient, Kenneth J. Bialkin/Citigroup Public Service Award, 2006
  • Recipient, John Dewey Award, United Federation of Teachers of New York City, 2005
  • Recipient, Gaudium Award, Breukelein Institute, 2005
  • Recipient, Uncommon Book Award, Hoover Institution, 2005
  • Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow, American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, 2002
  • Honored as a “Literary Lion” by the New York Public Library, 1992
  • Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar, 1984-1985
  • Born on July 1, 1938
Quoted in:
Pro & Con Quotes: Do Standardized Tests Improve Education in America?