Peter Sacks, Author and Speaker

"A Nation at Risk"

From Peter Sacks's review essay, "A Nation at Risk," in the Nov. 18 issue of The Nation:

"Schools that fail to meet annual growth targets for test scores are embroidered with a Scarlet A, branding them a failing school.

Parents of children 'trapped in failing schools,' as the Bush team has described it, are invited to transfer their children to supposedly better schools-in other words, the ones with better test scores.

The entire scheme is erected upon a pie-in-the-sky proposition: that turning public education into a pseudo-marketplace in which schools compete on the basis of test scores for their "customers," i.e.
parents and their children, will not only improve educational quality across the board but also wipe out the thorny achievement gaps between races and classes.

The only catch to this seemingly elegant, market-driven solution to education reform is that there's virtually no evidence that it works.

Indeed, after nearly two decades of such "reforms" at the state level following the 1983 diatribe against America's schools known as "A Nation at Risk," the evidence is overwhelming that the Bush approachis, at best, counterproductive to the aims of education, and at worst a cynical ploy to privatize the nation's public schools.

Whether the explanation is unabashed greed or merely certain habits of mind in a capitalistic society governed by the professional classes, American policymakers, while tone deaf to the unfolding educational fiasco they are wreaking, have been mesmerized by regulatory models and corporate-inspired quick fixes that presume
school improvement is limited only by the degree to which you can bribe people or punish people on the basis of their performance on
standardized tests."

Books and Essays by Peter Sacks

Why conservatives should stop listening to anti-government critics on higher education.
Academe Magazine, American Association of University Professors
Essays and Commentary
From the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan. 12, 2007
Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice
From the Chronicle Review (Chronicle of Higher Education, July 25, 2003.
Review essay in The Nation, May 5, 2003.
Essay appears in the Spring 2003 issue of Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice
From the Jan. 8, 2003, issue of Education Week
Review essay of In Schools We Trust by Deborah Meier in The Nation, Nov. 18, 2002.
A review essay on the book, Fair Game?, by Rebecca Zwick for The Nation.
The Boston Review, December/January 2001
The Chronicle of Higher Education (Chronicle Review), June 8, 2001.
The School Administrator, Dec. 2000
While we often hear about the growing economic divide between the rich and the poor in America, Tearing Down the Gates locates the fountainhead of these growing economic disparities, our education system, and shows how the widening class divide results in an untold loss of human talent that will derail the American Dream --not just for some, but for us all.
A critical examination of America's 'testing culture' in schools, higher education, and the workplace, and how the American meritocracy can be more fair for all citizens.
An inquiry into "postmodern" American culture and its sometimes corrosive effects on qualilty in higher education.