The "reformers" contend that American education is in crisis. Ravitch says the facts do not back up such claims; for more than 300 pages she painstakingly shoots down claims about merit pay for teachers, vouchers, charter schools, increasing privatization of public education, test scores and more with research and nationally-recognized data.
This is where Ravitch is really in her element as, in addition to her experience in Washington, she is one of the nation’s leading education historians, author of 10 books and recipient of nine honorary degrees.
Andrew Delbanco's review of Ravitch's book compares it against one by Michelle Rhee, Radical: Fighting to Put Students First.
To read Rhee and Ravitch in sequence is like hearing a too-good-to-be-true sales pitch followed by the report of an auditor who discloses mistakes and outright falsehoods in the accounts of the firm that’s trying to make the sale. Both books are driven by hot indignation. Rhee is indignant at the forces that have resisted her efforts to rescue children from incompetent and indifferent teachers. She has little to say about the setting in which many teachers work—the desperate circumstances into which roughly a quarter of American children (a higher percentage in the school district she led) are born—except to say, in passing, that poverty ought not to be invoked as an excuse for poor academic performance.