Diane Ravitch receives NEA’s Friend of Education Award

NEW ORLEANS—Friends sometimes are found in the most unlikely places. And that seemed especially true today when NEA President Dennis Van Roekel presented the organization’s highest honor—the NEA Friend of Education Award—to education scholar Diane Ravitch, an architect of the Bush administration’s infamous No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. With her recently published book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, Ravitch is raising concerns over testing mania, school choice, and charters—concepts she once embraced but clearly has left behind.

The fact that her book has received significant media attention means Ravitch is reframing the national debate over how best to improve our nation’s public schools.  Her change of heart is significant because as part of the conservative wing of the education world, she was an assistant secretary in President George H.W. Bush’s administration. She currently serves as a research professor of education at New York University and is a Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution.

“Diane Ravitch did one of the bravest, most honest things a human being can do: she looked at the facts and admitted that she had been wrong,” said Van Roekel. “It is a testament both to her academic integrity as well as to her deep concern for America’s public school students that she changed her position as the facts warranted. She is indeed a true friend to all of America’s students.”

The Friend of Education Award, presented each year during NEA’s Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly, recognizes a person or organization whose leadership, acts or support have significantly contributed to the improvement of American public education.

“I am thrilled to receive this prestigious award from the NEA, representing more than three million of our nation’s wonderful, hard-working educators,” said Ravitch.

Ravitch follows influential education policy writer and researcher Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, who was named the 2009 NEA Friend of Education. Others who have received this honor include U.S. Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and William Jefferson Clinton; U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall; Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.); and U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley and the late Sen. Edward “Ted” Kennedy (D-Mass.).

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