Education Politics of Education
by
Douglas E. Mitchell, Lisa Romero
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 September 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0129

Introduction

At its origins and until the end of the 20th century, the politics of education was primarily a product of American scholarship. The field is a relatively new arena of research and analysis. Its origins can be traced to a seminal essay in the American Political Science Review in 1959. That essay, “Toward an Understanding of Public School Politics” by Thomas Eliot (Eliot 1959 cited under Prehistory of Education Politics), does not so much describe the study of educational politics as issue a call to Eliot’s political science colleagues to recognize that they had seriously neglected school politics—a significant domain of policymaking and political power exertion. Of course, in the decades prior to 1960, energized political advocacies substantially influenced public and private schools. Calls by leaders of the Urban Reform and Progressive Education movements to “get politics out of the schools and get the schools out of politics” were so successful that the nation’s political scientists and public officials were thoroughly persuaded, as were ordinary citizens, that there was no such thing as a politics of education. The persuasive presentation of this ideology of a schooling system free of politics is properly seen as one of the most successful political strategies in this nation’s history. These movements, seeking reform in the governance of both cities and schools, sought to professionalize, bureaucratize, and insulate “reform” governance structures through teacher tenure and civil service for employees and by creating at-large, off-year, nonpartisan elections for school boards and city councils. The development and evolution of what we all now recognize as a richly textured, highly contested, and often partisan politics of education began to emerge in the 1950s. This new understanding of the importance of educational politics has stimulated serious scholarly interest that has become the life work of a substantial band of education and political science research scholars and analysts. To frame the study of the politics of education, it is important to review at least a few of the landmark books that describe the emergence of the modern form of free, compulsory mass public education found in all economically developed nations. In this article, the initial framework is brought into focus through an examination of the field’s prehistory, early scholars, and initial themes, and then summaries are provided of fourteen domains in which political scholars have pursued explanations of educational system development, stabilization, and change.

The Prehistory of Education Politics

One of the best places to start when trying to grasp the schooling enterprise that, after 1959, began to be seen as one of the nation’s core political institutions is Tyack 1974, a classic description of how local, village, and community schools throughout the nation sought to become the “one best system.” This book tells the story of how schools became professionalized and bureaucratized, emerging as partners to the Industrial Revolution. Four important books elaborate the industrialization theme identified in Tyack 1974. The first is Taylor 2010, a classic work. Elwood Cubberley and George Strayer, two prominent professors of education, led in bringing concepts of closely managed and supervised work into the arena of the public school. Their major works are Cubberley 1916 and Strayer, et al. 1916. Even as the bureaucratic and managerial revolutions were transforming public education, however, some critics were setting in motion a counterforce. Intellectually led by the philosopher John Dewey, educational progressives were pressing for a more humane and democratic approach to school organization and instruction. The story of this counterpressure is well told in Cremin 1961. Among the best known and most influential of the progressives was George S. Counts. His most influential work is Counts 1932. See also the seminal essay Eliot 1959.

  • Counts, G. S. 1932. Dare the school build a new social order? New York: John Day.

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    In this volume, education is seen as the most important social institution for maintaining democratic ideals and securing democratic government.

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  • Cremin, L. A. 1961. The transformation of the school: Progressivism in American education, 1876–1957. New York: Knopf.

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    While discipline for the scientific managers meant teacher and administrator authority to control students’ behavior, education progressives saw discipline as a matter of student engagement in disciplined inquiry in which students were not compelled to learn lessons dictated by teachers. Ultimately, progressivism collapsed, however, leaving a legacy of social commitment and intellectual challenge, but without overcoming the managerial and bureaucratic legacy of Taylorism.

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  • Cubberley, E. P. 1916. Public school administration: A statement of the fundamental principles underlying the organization and administration of public education. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

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    This volume, together with Strayer, et al. 1916, formed the persuasive argument advocating separation of educational governance from civic government, giving rise to nonpartisan school boards and professionalized school superintendents. The model embraced by these men dominated school governance throughout the 20th century. Cubberley was also influential in calling for policy decisions to be based on empirical data collection and analysis.

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  • Eliot, T. 1959. Toward an understanding of public school politics. American Political Science Review 53.4: 1032–1051.

    DOI: 10.2307/1952073Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This essay sparked widespread recognition of how thoroughly political scholars and politicians had neglected the political dimensions of school organization and operations, thus stimulating the formation of a politics of education scholarly movement.

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  • Strayer, G. D., F. P. Bachman, E. P. Cubberley, W. T. Bawden, and F. J. Kelly. 1916. Some problems in city school administration. Yonkers-on-Hudson, NY: World Book.

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    This volume and Cubberley 1916 constitute part of a large number of writings by these two men. Cubberley and Strayer dominated the managerial reform in school administration, championing close supervision of teachers, detailed specification of tasks, and reliance on formal surveys to secure the data needed for the new management framework.

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  • Taylor, F. W. 2010. The principles of scientific management. New York: Cosimo Classics.

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    Originally published in 1911. Taylor articulated a rationale guiding the development of modern industrial management. Taylor led the revolution in task fragmentation and time-and-motion studies that made mass production possible. The archetype of the new fragmented and carefully monitored worker is a pig-iron hauler identified as “Schmidt.” Taylor describes how Schmidt is coached to become more efficient by following the dictates of his supervisors.

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  • Tyack, D. B. 1974. The one best system: A history of American urban education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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    Reaching back to 19th-century roots, Tyack traces the evolution of American public education from a rural and agrarian ethos to becoming a partner in the transformation of the United States into an urban-industrial nation. While Tyack viewed his work as tentative, it has become the most widely read interpretation of how public education evolved into the bureaucratic, professionalized, and compulsory system of the mid-20th century.

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Emergent Critics

By the mid-1960s, critics of the bureaucratic, scientific management reforms began to take a more sociopolitical view, challenging the appropriateness of an industrial management orientation and seeing it as promoting professionalization and reinforcing class divisions. Two important works summarize this critical and rather pessimistic view of the school reform processes of the early 20th century. The first to be published was Callahan 1964, in which the author complains of a business-dominated “cult of efficiency” undermining the integrity of the schools. From a somewhat different perspective, Katz 1975, a widely read critique, claims that bureaucratic and managerial reforms were mechanisms for reinforcing social class differences and reducing the capacity of public school students to escape the confines of low-wage, working-class futures. This argument is further developed and sharpened in Katznelson and Weir 1985. See also Berube 1995.

  • Berube, M. R. 1995. American school reform: Progressive, equity, and excellence movements, 1883–1993. Westport, CT: Praeger.

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    The historical evolution of the reforms and their critique is described in some detail by Berube. This work extends the analysis presented in the earlier works cited in this subsection through the 1970s and 1980s.

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  • Callahan, R. E. 1964. Education and the cult of efficiency: A study of the social forces that have shaped the administration of the public schools. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    This biting critique of the school transformation process sees the bureaucratic and managerial transformation of the school as the result of business interest in turning the schools into worker training rather than social development institutions. Callahan reviews Frederick Taylor’s influence and then describes the impact of the scientific management revolution as turning schools into “factories” controlled by “efficiency experts.”

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  • Katz, M. B. 1975. Class, bureaucracy, and schools: The illusion of educational change in America. New York: Praeger.

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    Katz sees the early education reforms as driven by social-class structures promoted by the Industrial Revolution. Industrialization brought about the separation of work and living places and made work something that “working-class” men need to be trained to perform. Thus schoolchildren need to learn social discipline: taking direction from supervisors, working independently, and producing results that are evaluated and certified.

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  • Katznelson, I., and M. Weir. 1985. Schooling for all: Class, race, and the decline of the democratic ideal. New York: Basic Books.

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    Reviewing the development of free, mass, compulsory public education, these authors note that only the Roman Catholic Church had serious reservations—because their schooling involved social culture and religious enlightenment as much as preparation for work. Acceptance of the repurposing of schooling to support the Industrial Revolution was well accepted in the United States—other nations encountered greater opposition over this redirection.

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The First Politics of Education Scholars

Three major national events in the 1950s sharply focused political attention on US public schools and, thus, stimulated rapid development of academic and civic interest in the politics of education. These three events were, in order of their occurrence, (1) the Brown v. Board of Education landmark desegregation case unanimously handed down in 1954; (2) the Sputnik satellite launching by the Soviet Union in 1957, which led directly to the National Defense Education Act of 1959; and (3) the widespread organization of teacher unions, which led to the widely publicized New York teacher strike of 1960. These events raised fundamental issues that inspired an explosive growth in both policy proposals and scholarly inquiry into school governance and operations. First reviewed in Mitchell 1982, these events are elaborated in the opening chapter of Mitchell 2011. This political upheaval helped keep Flesch 1986 on the bestseller list. MacKinnon 1960, the first book-length treatment of the politics of education, is written by a Canadian. Two years later, the first book-length treatment appeared in the United States with Bailey and Marsh 1962, a classic. Two years later, Cahill, et al. 1964, which provides a more positive perspective on the relationship between schools and communities, was sponsored by the University Council for Educational Administration. In the same year, Masters, et al. 1964 appeared, which constitutes a field study of education politics in three states.

  • Bailey, S. K., and P. E. Marsh. 1962. Schoolmen and politics: A study of state aid to education in the Northeast. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Univ. Press.

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    This book highlights informal but highly influential linkages between schoolmen (administrators and university-based scholars) and the state legislators who control school policy and funding. It notes that the political consensus among urban reforms and progressives, which aimed at “keeping politics out of education and education out of politics,” did not preclude debates over educational programs and policies. The political character of school finance and policy decisions is highlighted.

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  • Cahill, R. S., S. P. Hencley, University Council for Educational Administration, and University of Oregon. 1964. The politics of education in the local community. Danville, IL: Interstate Printers.

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    This volume marks the earliest effort to bring together diverse scholarly perspectives on local education politics. It reviews the elitist-pluralist argument regarding community power systems and pleads for more attention to how political power structures influence educational processes and outcomes. The work is not particularly strong, but it constitutes an historical marker in the evolution of the field.

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  • Flesch, R. 1986. Why Johnny can’t read: And what you can do about it. New York: Harper & Row.

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    Originally published in 1955. This book combines anxiety over children’s low academic achievement with shrill criticism of teachers and administrators—charging them with both moral and intellectual weakness. This is perhaps the most widely read part of the “red scare” literature, which viewed schools as failing to provide the political and technical socialization needed to keep America safe from its political enemies and economic competitors.

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  • Iannaccone, L. 1967. Politics in education. New York: Center for Applied Research in Education.

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    Focusing on local communities and school districts, Iannaccone emphasizes the abiding issues of race, religion, and rural/urban conflicts in education policy—issues he calls the political “3-Rs.” Writing with a flair for image and metaphor, he describes local schools as the “secular religion” of the nation—reflecting Americans’ abiding faith in the efficacy of education for solving social problems and guaranteeing democratic governance.

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  • MacKinnon, F. 1960. The politics of education: A study of the political administration of the public schools. Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press.

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    The focus of this work is on politics in the Canadian educational system, but it is presented as an introduction to education politics throughout North America. Following Callahan 1964 (cited under Emergent Critics), MacKinnon emphasizes the dominance of education by state civic government and the influence of bureaucratic administrators. He describes the schools as institutions that are easily penetrated by special interests and family demands.

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  • Masters, N. A., R. H. Salisbury, and T. H. Eliot. 1964. State politics and the public schools: An exploratory analysis. New York: Knopf.

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    This work challenges the accepted wisdom of the time that school policy is determined at the local community level by local school boards. These authors see the state as the primary actor and identify the interplay of organized educators—particularly teacher organizations—and state political officials as the primary source of education policy and practice.

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  • Mitchell, D. E. 1982. Governance. In Encyclopedia of educational research. Edited by H. E. Mitzel, J. H. Best, W. Rabinowitz, and American Educational Research Association, 730–738. New York: Free Press.

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    This is the first essay to explicitly distinguish the three political democracy research models used by politics of education research scholars: informed competition, issue response, and episodic dissatisfaction. It concludes that only the episodic dissatisfaction model is able to generate evidence indicating that school governance is meaningfully democratic.

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  • Mitchell, D. E. 2011. The surprising history of education policy, 1950 to 2010. In Shaping education policy: Power and process. Edited by D. E. Mitchell, R. Crowson, and D. Shipps, 1–22. New York: Routledge.

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    This chapter provides a detailed review of the impact of major political events of the 1950s on the evolution of education policy and politics through 2010. It describes the substantial restructuring of school systems and governance and traces the surprising character of these changes to social values and explanatory paradigm shifts that operate to open and close policy decision windows.

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Entering the Mainstream Political Discourse

Mainstream political scientists began making serious contributions to the politics of education with the publication of Zeigler and Johnson 1972, a state-oriented analysis of education politics. Michael Kirst began the effort to develop a comprehensive textbook aimed at supporting formal graduate-level university instruction in the politics of education with the publication of Kirst 1970. Two years later, Kirst teamed up with Frederick Wirt to produce the first of their jointly authored politics of education text books—Wirt and Kirst 1972. Wirt and Kirst 1972 drew heavily on the already classic work Easton 1965. This combination of intellects (Easton’s model combined with Wirt and Kirst’s knowledge of education) served to produce the most widely used textbook in the politics of education. Utilizing the simple but elegant political systems model generated in Easton 1965, Wirt and Kirst 1972 draws together and summarizes a very large portion of the available political research on education policy decision making published up to the time of each edition’s publication date. Wirt and Kirst 1972 has undergone several name changes, but it has been repeatedly updated every few years to take account of new scholarly work in the field. The most recent edition of this work is Wirt and Kirst 2009. See also Peterson 1974.

  • Easton, D. 1965. A systems analysis of political life. New York: Wiley.

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    Using an elegantly simple graphic, Easton describes how political systems work. The graphic shows citizen and interest group demands and supports flowing into a “black box” decision-making system—the governmental policymaking machinery. Entry into the system requires the approval of “gatekeepers.” Outputs in the form of programs and policies then generate a feedback loop influencing the next round of demands and supports.

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  • Kirst, M. W. 1970. The politics of education at the local, state, and federal levels. Berkeley, CA: McCutchan.

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    With this book, Michael Kirst became one of the most widely recognized chroniclers of how the politics of education has been evolving as a field of scholarly study. Important as this historical landmark is, this work was quickly overshadowed by his joint work with Frederick Wirt (Wirt and Kirst 1972).

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  • Peterson, P. E. 1974. The politics of American education. Review of Research in Education 2:348–389.

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    This comprehensive review of published politics of education research through the early 1970s identifies two basic themes: school system autonomy from civic governance and systems of school finance. The review anticipates changes in research on these two themes, development of comparisons between education policymaking with that in other domains, and shifts from tax effort to financial inequalities.

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  • Wirt, F. M., and M. W. Kirst. 1972. The political web of American schools. Boston: Little, Brown.

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    This book is in two parts: (1) a comprehensive review of education politics literature and (2) three studies of important topics in American education—the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Supreme Court desegregation decisions, and curriculum policy decisions. This work began the Wirt and Kirst partnership that produced the longest running, repeatedly updated politics of education textbook.

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  • Wirt, F. M., and M. W. Kirst. 2009. The political dynamics of American education. Richmond, CA: McCutchan.

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    This is the latest rendition of this textbook series and probably the last (Frederick Wirt died about the time of its publication). The work continues to be the most comprehensive review of research on American public education.

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  • Zeigler, L. H., and K. F. Johnson. 1972. The politics of education in the states. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill.

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    This volume uniquely focuses on policymaking processes rather than policy content. Using a general systems framework, the authors identify factors such as family income, state and local taxes, and age that predict state financial support for schools. The authors contribute to an understanding of how education policy emerges from the interplay of a complex mix of factors.

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Core Themes in the Emergent Politics of Education Research

With early scholars effectively dismissing the idea that schools and politics don’t mix and the start-up of a long-running textbook for the field solidly in place, studies on the politics of education began to develop a number of core themes—areas of study investigated by multiple scholars who developed important conclusions (and some equally important points of disagreement). One of the earliest themes to develop involved divergent efforts to answer the question of whether school governance is appropriately seen as democratic (with a small “d”) in some important sense. Local democratic governance and the nature of community-based political power are among the earliest areas of concentrated study.

Democratic Governance Studies

Recognizing that local school board trustees constitute, by far, the largest number of elected officials in the nation, early politics of education researchers were understandably drawn to the question of whether these governance structures should be viewed as engaging in policymaking processes that should be viewed as more or less democratic in content, if not always in tone. Although teacher unions were bringing about fundamental changes in local district governance and state and federal policymakers were responding energetically to watershed political events of the 1950s, studies in the 1960s and 1970s tended to see local school district governance as the litmus test for democracy. Three rather divergent definitions of democratic governance were used to frame these early governance studies. Perhaps the most common definition of democracy is that utilized in Zeigler, et al. 1974, a study of school board elections. The authors test whether “informed competition” exists for election to school boards. The second most popular definition, appropriately designated as “issue responsiveness,” is found in the works of a number of scholars studying desegregation politics. It is clearly articulated in Crain 1968. Though a bit more mixed in perspective, Wirt 1975 analyzes the polity of the school in carrying this issue responsiveness assessment of democratic control across a number of important policy arenas. A line of work developed by Laurence Iannaccone and one of his students, Frank Lutz, offers a third conception of democracy that emphasizes episodic dissatisfaction with established power structures. This line has received reasonably strong empirical support over the years. The groundbreaking initial formulation is found in Iannaccone and Lutz 1970. Lutz and Iannaccone 1978 updated the argument, this time with Lutz as lead editor of the edited volume. The most recent elaborations of this dissatisfaction theory of democratic control are found in Alsbury 2003. Alsbury 2008 brings together a group of scholars interested in school board governance. The episodic realignment, or dissatisfaction, theory of democratic control is articulated as a powerful source of political change in mainstream civic politics in the seminal work Burnham 1970.

  • Alsbury, T. L. 2003. Superintendent and school board member turnover: Political versus apolitical turnover as a critical variable in the application of the dissatisfaction theory. Educational Administration Quarterly 39.5: 667–698.

    DOI: 10.1177/0013161X03257141Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores potential links between school board member and superintendent turnover. Qualitative and quantitative data from 176 school districts in a northwestern state support use of dissatisfaction theory as a useful tool in describing the political sequence of events in local school governance and establish the necessity of distinguishing between political versus apolitical school board member turnover.

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  • Alsbury, T. L. 2008. The future of school board governance: Relevancy and revelation. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

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    This book combines theoretical debate and empirical evidence regarding the effectiveness and relevancy of school boards. Original theorists of competing school board governance theories, current researchers, and researcher/practitioners provided the latest empirical data about the role of school boards as well as applications for practitioners in the field. Contributors include scholars in the fields of political science, educational administration, and sociology.

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  • Burnham, W. D. 1970. Critical elections and the mainsprings of American politics. New York: Norton.

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    Burnham looks at dramatic realignments in national politics such as the emergence of the Democratic Party’s “Solid South,” which arose in part due to efforts to resist civil rights politics, points out that American political values tend to remain constant through multiple elections over decades, and then become reformulated quite quickly when a precipitous public issue comes into focus.

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  • Crain, R. L. 1968. The politics of school desegregation: Comparative case studies of community structure and policy-making. Chicago: Aldine.

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    This work does not see electoral competition as the primary concern. Rather, Crain examines how school board members respond when an issue—desegregation—arises, testing whether popular demand leads to policy change. From a democratic governance viewpoint the data in this study are disappointing. It appears that popular demand leads more to board member resistance than to policy adjustment.

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  • Iannaccone, L., and F. W. Lutz. 1970. Politics, power and policy: The governing of local school districts. Columbus, OH: C. E. Merrill.

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    This book constitutes a case history of a school district undergoing significant community conflict—conflict that eventually led to the defeat of an incumbent school board member and the involuntary departure of the district superintendent. Democracy in this work is identified with school boards, which are the “fly wheels” of governance that provide stability until significant public dissatisfaction leads to political upheaval.

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  • Lutz, F. W., and L. Iannaccone, eds. 1978. Public participation in local school districts: The dissatisfaction theory of democracy. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

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    In this volume, the defeat of an incumbent board member and the involuntary turnover of the superintendent are examined as the clearest and most definitive signal of community dissatisfaction. Data reveal, however, that some leaders recognize changing values and leave voluntarily “before the flooding of the arroyo.” And some superintendents adjust priorities to comply with new community expectations. The episodic dissatisfaction view of democracy is strongly supported.

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  • Wirt, F. M. 1975. The polity of the school: New research in educational politics. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

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    The sixteen chapters in this volume offer a somewhat more mixed assessment of evidence; however, the author continues to challenge the idea that school boards are democratic institutions in the sense either that school board elections serve to winnow competing demands for school policy or that school board decisions are deliberated on the basis of assessing the degree of democratic support for policy alternatives.

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  • Zeigler, L. H., M. K. Jennings, and G. Wayne Peak. 1974. Governing American schools: Political interaction in local school districts. North Scituate, MA: Duxbury.

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    This work affirms that electoral democracy is realized through informed competition among electoral candidates. This conception of democracy assumes that competing candidates for office articulate alternative visions, promise to pursue their visions, and, once elected, produce policies consistent with their campaign rhetoric. Unfortunately, however, data results find that school board candidates are ill-informed about issues, often run unopposed, and emphasize reputation rather than policy differences.

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The Search for Community Power

A second issue that attracted the attention of early politics of education research scholars was discovering how school communities actually do influence school politics and policy. Because the exercise of power through school board elections was found to be relatively weak and infrequent, it became important to ask how influence is generated. Kirst 1984 highlights the diverse approaches to community influence studies that had emerged in the three previous decades. In works such as Hunter 1979, other elite theorists pursued power structures by repeatedly asking individuals to identify the most influential elites in the community. As they conducted this questioning they discovered that only a small number of individuals were named by anyone as having substantial community power. Productive applications of the approach used by elite theorists are found in Kimbrough 1964, Lynd and Lynd 1956 (a study of Muncie, Indiana), and Vidich and Bensman 1958. The authors of Vidich and Bensman 1958 studied a small town in upstate New York, finding a tiny handful of influential community members. In contrast, Dahl 1961 approaches community power analysis in asking how specific public policy decisions had been made and who influenced them. This approach turns up a somewhat larger number of players, but it also finds that substantial power accrues to the political officials who are confronted with competing interests and who have to build coalitions to get decisions made. Secondary analysis of these early studies tended to conclude that the sharp divergence in their conclusions was, to a significant degree, a byproduct of their methods. Hawley and Wirt 1968 brings together in a comprehensive edited volume the major themes of work on community power structure analysis. Published three years later, Summerfield 1971 adds an analysis of organizational politics to community power analyses. Acceptance of politics as an important subdiscipline was signaled in 1969 with establishment of the Politics of Education Association as a special interest group within the American Educational Research Association. This legitimation of education as a subdiscipline brought political science methods and concepts to bear on educational problems and politics of education scholars subsequently began to proliferate and to develop clusters of research scholars with shared interests.

  • Dahl, R. A. 1961. Who governs? Democracy and power in an American city. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

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    Robert Dahl, in a study of New Haven, Connecticut, reached a very different conclusion. He found that influence was distributed among leaders with different civic and financial interests, and that the mayor of New Haven had considerable power because he was the person negotiating among competing interests and “making deals” to get things done.

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  • Hawley, W. D., and F. M. Wirt, eds. 1968. The search for community power. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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    The twenty-four chapters in this compact volume explore the major conclusions reached by various community power researchers. They review the primary methodological and measurement issues surrounding this research stream and point toward a research agenda aimed at further clarifying questions of community power analysis. The book did more to end the search for community power than to clarify or redirect it.

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  • Hunter, F. 1979. Community power structure: A study of decision makers. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press.

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    Originally published in 1953. This classic elite power structure study of Atlanta, Georgia, found education leaders absent from governance processes dominated by business and industry. Hunter identified an inner circle of powerful individuals in civic governance that consisted of fewer than 150 individuals substantially controlling land use, financial, and other key policies. Elected officials were targets of elite influence, not originators of political direction.

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  • Kimbrough, R. B. 1964. Political power and educational decision-making. Chicago: Rand McNally.

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    One important contribution of the Kimbrough study was the discovery that when community power structures are undergoing change, new community organizations and, particularly, new community banks or savings and loan institutions are willing to finance new economic development ventures.

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  • Kirst, M. W. 1984. Who controls our schools? American values in conflict. New York: Freeman.

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    This question had been under investigation for some time in the mainstream political science world, accompanied by a vigorous debate over whether community elites use political systems to pursue private interests or community politics involves significant debate, negotiation, and compromise, displaying democratic policies and practices. The standard bearers for the mainstream political perspective included Floyd Hunter, Robert and Helen Lynd, and Robert Dahl.

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  • Lynd, R. S., and H. M. Lynd. 1956. Middletown: A study in American culture. New York: Harcourt, Brace.

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    The Lynds, studying Muncie, Indiana, found a similar narrowness in the power structure but also concluded that much of the community power in this city was controlled by a single family, the owners of Muncie’s largest manufacturing plant.

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  • Summerfield, H. L. 1971. The neighborhood-based politics of education. Columbus, OH: Merrill.

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    In this little book, Summerfield details the ways in which school principals (particularly secondary school principals) are able to resist and redirect district-level initiatives by relying on their neighborhoods to pressure district officials.

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  • Vidich, A. J., and J. Bensman. 1958. Small town in mass society: Class, power, and religion in a rural community. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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    This book highlights the increasing dependency of small towns on social, cultural, and, above all, financial inputs from urban centers. However, it also demonstrates that elite power structures are to be found even in small rural communities. In this farming community, the farm implement dealer had far more than equal influence over community policies.

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Teacher Unionism and Collective Bargaining

Initially, scholars examining the emergence of teacher unions concentrated on the effects of unionization on school budgets and work rules. As the political significance of the New York teacher strike in 1960 became more apparent, however, political scientists began concentrating more on the political power and influence wielded by the unions. A good overview of the unionization process is found in Murphy 1990. By the late 1980s, it had become apparent that teacher unions were key players in school reform and improvement. Eberts and Stone 1984 seeks to link unionism with school performance while McDonnell and Pascal 1988, published by the RAND Corporation, provides a confirming analysis. That same year, Charles Kerchner began what became for him a career-long effort to rethink the character and impact of teacher unionism. With Douglas Mitchell, he authored Kerchner and Mitchell 1988. A decade later, Kerchner, et al. 1997 provides a more fully developed framework for interpreting teacher union impacts on school policies and practices. In Canada, calls for legal and political reforms concerning the rights of teachers to organize were being voiced—see, for example, Lawton 2000. In the early 21st century, as several states have moved to abolish the rights of teachers to unionize, works such as Cooper and Sureau 2008 have begun to examine deeper motives in the political struggle. Political criticism of teacher unionism has become shrill, however, as illustrated in Antonucci 2010 and Moe and Wiborg 2016. Shelton 2017 provides a mid-2010s summary of this history. For an overview of the most-recent research in this area see Ingle, et al. 2018.

  • Antonucci, M. 2010. The long reach of teachers unions. Education Next 10.4: 24–31.

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    Antonucci reports that the largest political-campaign spender in America is not a megacorporation (at least until the full effects of the Citizens United Case are made manifest); rather, it is the National Education Association (NEA). This article discusses the extent of teacher union policy influence and provides a few examples. The implicit message of excessive union influence is clear.

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  • Cooper, B., and J. Sureau. 2008. Teacher unions and the politics of fear in labor relations. Educational Policy 22.1: 86–105.

    DOI: 10.1177/0895904807311298Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    These authors see union-management relationships as typically characterized by significant fear among workers, including teachers. Teachers, feeling exploited by school systems, turned to collective bargaining to gain power over their wages and working conditions. When policies change, as under No Child Left Behind, teacher unions feel the need to keep teachers safe from exploitation and harsh criticism.

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  • Eberts, R. W., and J. A. Stone. 1984. Unions and public schools: The effect of collective bargaining on American education. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

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    This work assesses teacher union collective-bargaining effects on specific contract outcomes, principally class sizes, operating costs, and student achievement. Data presented suggest that unionism is associated with an increase of 15 percent in operating costs but no change in achievement. In light of early-21st-century political debates regarding the legitimacy of teacher unions, this assertion needs to be considered carefully.

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  • Ingle, W. K., B. Pogodzinski, and C. E. George, eds. 2018. Politics of Education Association special issue: The politics of unions and collective bargaining in education. Education Policy 32.2.

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    This Politics of Education Association special issue provides an editorial overview and eight research articles covering the most-important collective-bargaining issues at the time of publication.

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  • Kerchner, C. T., J. Koppich, and Joseph G. Weeres. 1997. United mind workers: Unions and teaching in the knowledge society. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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    The authors make the case for transforming teacher unions into champions of high-quality education. By organizing teachers as knowledge workers, it is argued that unions can position themselves as leaders in educational reform. By shifting from organizing around issues of job control, work rules, and uniformity to focusing on quality and productivity, teachers may be able to direct the restructuring of public education.

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  • Kerchner, C. T., and D. E. Mitchell. 1988. The changing idea of a teachers’ union. London: Falmer.

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    This book describes three distinct stages in the working relationship between teacher unions and school districts. It emphasizes an emergent third stage, anticipating long-term challenges to the established governance system. Kerchner and Mitchell recognize that teaching is not an unskilled labor compatible with the labor-management model developed in the National Labor Relations Act and routinely incorporated into teacher union laws.

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  • Lawton, S. B. 2000. The future of teachers’ unions: A call for change. Education Canada 40.1: 22–23.

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    Lawton argues for four changes aimed at making Canadian teacher unions more “customer-centered” and “competitive.” First, make union membership optional. Second, sell union services to members and nonmembers. Third, lobby for school-level concerns and conduct controversial political lobbying through arms-length organizations. And fourth, take more-supportive stances toward parental concerns.

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  • McDonnell, L. M., and A. Pascal. 1988. Teacher unions and educational reform. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.

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    This study reviewed participation by teacher unions in education reform, analyzing the roles played at various governmental levels through collective bargaining and political action. Three issues are addressed: (1) whether teachers secure more professional teaching conditions, (2) the political responses of unions to school reform initiatives, and (3) how the activities of teacher organizations shape efforts to restructure the teaching profession.

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  • Moe, T. M., and S. Wiborg, eds. 2016. The comparative politics of education: Teachers unions and education systems around the world. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    This book, following the line of argument developed by Terry Moe in a 2011 volume, presents a sharp, neoliberal critique of public-school teacher unions, arguing that these unions act on behalf of teachers’ special interests and undermine or prevent meaningful school reform.

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  • Murphy, M. 1990. Blackboard unions: The AFT and the NEA, 1900–1980. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press.

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    This book describes the history of unionization, identifying organizational and political obstacles and illustrating contradictions faced by public employees when they turn from tenure to unionization in efforts to identify rights and work rules. The story is presented chronologically, beginning with the centralization of school authority at the beginning of the 20th century and the emergence of early teacher unions opposed to centralization and professionalism.

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  • Shelton, J. 2017. Teacher strike! Public education and the making of a new American political order. 2d ed. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press.

    DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252040870.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Shelton provides a mid-2010s review of the wave of teacher strikes in the 1960s and 1970s and illuminates how this tumult helped shatter the liberal-labor coalition and opened the door to the neoliberal challenge at the heart of urban education today. Drawing on a wealth of research ranging from school board meetings to TV news reports, Shelton puts readers in the middle of fraught, intense strikes in Newark, St. Louis, and three other cities where these debates and shifting attitudes played out.

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Testing and Standards-Based Accountability

Since the 1990s the single biggest change in education policy has been the linking of standardized tests, curriculum delivery standards, and significant accountability sanctions for students, teachers, and schools. The point of origin for this movement should, no doubt, be seen in US National Commission on Excellence in Education 1983. It was not long before this report’s rhetoric of “unilateral disarmament” in public education was turned into serious demands for schools, teachers, and students to improve—to make regular and substantial improvement in learning measured by standardized tests in reading and mathematics. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (the so-called STEM subjects) would come into focus soon enough, but the starting emphasis was clearly on basic literacy and numeracy skills. Within five years, the shape of the “accountability movement” in public education was being recognized. By the late 1990s, concern with accountability for school performance was recognized as an international topic of political interest. As a result, Macpherson 1998 is devoted to the topic. By 2002, more-aggressive critiques of standards-based accountability systems were appearing in such works as Chatterji 2002, a prestigious review sponsored by the American Educational Research Association. Most recently, McDonnell 2018 argues that standards- and test-based accountability policies now fully dominate curriculum policy and practice in the public schools. Nevertheless, theoretical formulations of the intellectual basis for expecting accountability systems to work began to emerge. In a more optimistic take on the issue, Fuhrman and Elmore 2004 proposes redesigning accountability systems. See also Ornstein 1988, Herrington 1993, and Hanushek and Raymond 2002.

  • Chatterji, M. 2002. Models and methods for examining standards-based reforms and accountability initiatives: Have the tools of inquiry answered pressing questions on improving schools? Review of Educational Research 72.3: 345–386.

    DOI: 10.3102/00346543072003345Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Chatterji synthesizes research on standards-based reforms and accountability, attending to purposes, models, and methods of inquiry. This article concludes that research efforts on these reforms have been largely nonsystemic in design and have thereby failed to adequately help individual schools, school systems, and statewide systems to develop in directions that are consistent with the mission of the reform movement.

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  • Fuhrman, S., and R. F. Elmore. 2004. Redesigning accountability systems for education. New York: Teachers College.

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    This book argues that ongoing “accountability reform” is creating changes much more demanding than initiators foresaw, giving rise to a “clear and present danger” that testing programs produce grade retention and denial of high school diplomas to disadvantaged students. The authors point to places where “mid-course corrections” in accountability programs are possible and needed.

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  • Hanushek, E. A., and M. E. Raymond. 2002. Lessons about the design of state accountability systems. In No child left behind? The politics and practice of accountability. Edited by P. E. Peterson and M. R. West, 126–151. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.

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    This chapter examines incentives in different state accountability systems in questioning the extent to which different accountability measures reflect quality or performance accurately. It questions the assumption that accountability systems should be expected to generate improved student outcomes. The authors conclude that more extensive and focused analysis is needed before strong statements can be made about the effectiveness of accountability for raising student performance.

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  • Herrington, C. D. 1993. Accountability, invisibility, and the politics of numbers: School report cards and race. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Atlanta, April 1993.

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    Herrington studied school report cards as accountability tools, finding that parents do not pay attention to them. Moreover, most principals believe that requiring schools to report performance data by race and ethnicity is divisive, increasing racial tensions. District and community officials see report cards as helping to support accountability for performance.

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  • Macpherson, R. J. S. 1998. The politics of accountability: Educative and international perspectives; The 1997 yearbook of the Politics of Education Association. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

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    This book describes an international research project examining educational goal attainment influences. The author studies how politics contribute to the reconstruction of accountability policies in a context of conceptual disarray, divergent reforms, blunt administrative instruments, and multiple political cultures. It reports on accountability politics in the United States, Canada, England and Wales, and Australia.

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  • McDonnell, L. M. 2018. The paradox of curriculum policy. In Shaping education policy: Power and process. 2d ed. Edited by D. E. Mitchell, D. Shipps, and R. L. Crowson, 112–129. New York: Routledge.

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    This chapter elegantly argues that standards- and test-based accountability substantially dominates 21st-century curriculum policy, explores the consequences of this aggressive accountability emphasis, and strikes a cautionary note regarding how long this reform effort will be pursued.

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  • Ornstein, A. C. 1988. The evolving accountability movement. Peabody Journal of Education 65.3: 12–20.

    DOI: 10.1080/01619568809538609Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Ornstein identifies several reasons for the increase in demands for teacher and student accountability. Minimum competency testing of students and teachers is identified as the primary tool of the accountability movement, and the implications of such testing as an evaluation tool are considered.

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  • US National Commission on Excellence in Education. 1983. A nation at risk: The imperative for educational reform; A report to the nation and the secretary of education. Washington, DC: National Commission on Excellence in Education.

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    This report sets out in shrill and uncompromising language a sweeping indictment of the academic performance of America’s public schools. It emphasizes the need for improvement in academic attainment as a prerequisite to maintaining national security through development of a strong economy.

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Rethinking Accountability

By 2005, federal efforts to impose accountability on the schools came in for direct criticism. A direct challenge to the viability of the accountability strategy is found in Superfine 2005. Standards-based accountability has failed to produce the desired results. Thomas and Brady 2005 examines the history of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), up to the 2000 reauthorization of this core federal policy known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The authors question whether the accountability emphasis reflects an adequate appreciation for the complexity of school operations. Ravitch 2010, despite this author’s earlier leadership of the standards-based accountability movement, provides a full-blown critique, arguing that this movement is undermining the curricular integrity of the schools. The Obama administration (US Department of Education 2011) continued to press forward with the accountability theme, threatening direct action for schools lacking measured progress. This administration’s Race to the Top program gave lip service to local flexibility, but the enforcement focus was nevertheless more clearly articulated. Waning political support for federal accountability policies was clearly evident in the 2015 reauthorization of ESEA, now called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA, at least symbolically, dialed down federal interventionism, passing more responsibility to the individual states and promising more locally determined priorities. Egalite, et al. 2017 raises concerns about the implications of the new law for educational-equity efforts. The 2016 election of Donald Trump and his appointment of conservative stalwart Betsy DeVos to head the US Department of Education further suggests less federal concern for accountability. Well-established state and federal regulations will, however, ensure that top-down accountability will remain a reality for most public schools.

  • Egalite, A. J., L. D. Fusarelli, and B. C. Fusarelli. 2017. Will decentralization affect educational inequality? The Every Student Succeeds Act. In Special issue: Implications and consequences of ESSA: Exploring the changing landscape of federal policy and educational administration. Edited by E. Fernández, K. LeChasseur, and J. Weiner. Educational Administration Quarterly 53.5: 757–781.

    DOI: 10.1177/0013161X17735869Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article summarizes key provisions of ESSA, including the increased authority and flexibility it provides to states and new limits it places on federal and executive intervention, effectively loosening the coupling between state and federal education policy. The authors raise questions about the law’s implications for educational equality.

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  • Ravitch, D. 2010. The death and life of the great American school system: How testing and choice are undermining education. New York: Basic Books.

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    In this book, award-winning author, public intellectual, and former assistant secretary of education Diane Ravitch critiques a lifetime’s worth of school reforms and reveals the simple—yet difficult—truth that policies she spent years promoting are not those needed to create actual change in public schools.

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  • Superfine, B. M. 2005. The politics of accountability: The rise and fall of Goals 2000. American Journal of Education 112.1: 10–43.

    DOI: 10.1086/444513Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Superfine traces the 1994 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the passage of the Goals 2000: Education America Act, laws expected to support the development of standards-based, systemic reforms in the states. Superfine argues that these laws faced serious implementation problems and that similar problems were appearing in the implementation of NCLB ESEA reauthorization.

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  • Thomas, J. Y., and K. P. Brady. 2005. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act at 40: Equity, accountability, and the evolving federal role in public education. Review of Research in Education 29:51–67.

    DOI: 10.3102/0091732X029001051Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article traces the history of the ESEA, focusing attention on related educational reform movements. The authors examine the complex issues involved in responding to changing needs among underserved schoolchildren. They argue that the accountability requirements under ESEA were developed without an adequate understanding of the complex issues involved in serving disadvantaged schoolchildren.

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  • US Department of Education. 2011. Fair, flexible and focused: President Obama’s blueprint for accountability. Washington, DC: US Department of Education.

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    This report argues that NCLB has helped focus attention on student achievement, emphasizing the achievement gap. The report notes NCLB’s flaws, and the authors argue that President Obama’s blueprint will fix them by (1) asking states to set standards, (2) creating accountability systems that recognize growth and progress, (3) providing local flexibility, and (4) carrying out interventions in schools without demonstrated progress.

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The Politics of Policymaking

Politics and policy are not easily distinguished. Changes in social programs, governance structures, and organizational institutions are typically seen as policy changes, but many times they are changes made in order to alter the political balance of power, or they even constitute exercises in political coercion undertaken to defeat or bypass a political opponent. Viewed broadly, every political action has some kind of policy consequence and every policy emerges from some political process. Since the 1990s, policy analysis and political analysis have tended to become separate domains of scholarly activity, however, and analyzing the politics of decision making in various policy domains has been a major growth industry. This development is clearly evident in the insightful Kingdon 1984. By the mid-1990s, leading politics of education scholars were hard at work trying to determine what characteristics of schools and communities were most likely to facilitate or inhibit effective policy implementation. An excellent introductory essay is Cibulka 1994. Crowson, et al. 1996 both illustrates this shift in attention and constructively elaborates the institutional features of schools most important to policy implementation. Fifteen years later, the focus on understanding the organizational and social forces controlling education policy implementation is revisited in Mitchell, et al. 2011. Jennings 2011 reminds us that, going into the 2012 election cycle, policy and politics were more entangled than ever in federal policy. The most recent comprehensive treatment of the politics of education policy formation is Mitchell, et al. 2018.

  • Cibulka, J. G. 1994. Policy analysis and the study of the politics of education. Journal of Education Policy 9.5–6: 105–125.

    DOI: 10.1080/0268093940090511Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Declaring the study of educational politics in the United States to be locked within an intellectual straightjacket variously called pluralism, pragmatism, or behavioral science, Cibulka sees a shift from a behavioral paradigm to a policy paradigm. He discusses various policy research and analysis streams and the contributions of educational politics study to policy research, and he draws attention to other challenges.

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  • Crowson, R. L., W. L. Boyd, H. B. Mawhinney, and Politics of Education Association, eds. 1996. The politics of education and the new institutionalism: Reinventing the American school; The 1995 yearbook of the Politics of Education Association. Education Policy Perspectives. Washington, DC: Falmer.

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    Noting that an avalanche of education reforms associated with the 1983 Nation at Risk report failed to produce much real change, the authors in this volume argue that these reforms misunderstood the institutional character of the public schools. This failure to understand the nature of school organizations is leading scholars trained in politics to turn to organizational sociology for new ways of thinking about reform.

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  • Jennings, J. 2011. The policy and politics of rewriting the nation’s main education law. Phi Delta Kappan 92.4: 44–49.

    DOI: 10.1177/003172171009200409Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This applied view of the relationship between policy and politics analyzes the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Contentious issue debates are seen as linked to the 2012 elections. Renewal is threatened by the continuing failure of Republicans to work with Democrats. Also, national education organizations and newer reform groups may or may not support compromises.

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  • Kingdon, J. W. 1984. Agendas, alternatives, and public policies. Boston: Little, Brown.

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    Observing that political systems attend to only a fraction of public problems easily recognized as important, Kingdon examines how policy problems enter political agendas and where the policy options for addressing them arise. Using the metaphor of opening and closing windows of opportunity, Kingdon shows that three streams—problem definition, policy development, and political opportunity—must converge for policies to be enacted.

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  • Mitchell, D. E., R. L. Crowson, and D. Shipps, eds. 2011. Shaping education policy: Power and process. New York: Routledge.

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    This book provides an overview of education politics and policy during a turbulent period in American history. The twenty scholars contributing to this effort review the history of education policy to explain the political powers and processes that have influenced education, including the civil rights movement, federal involvement, the accountability movement, family choice, and the development of nationalization and globalization of education.

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  • Mitchell, D. E., D. Shipps, and R. L. Crowson, eds. 2018. Shaping education policy: Power and process. 2d ed. New York: Routledge.

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    This substantially updated edition interprets political forces at work in several new topical areas, including a review of progressivism, examination of the politics of philanthropy, school-to-college disconnects, and locally based cross-sector collaboration.

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Micropolitics

In the late 20th century the study of micropolitics emerged as a relatively important topic in the American politics of education. The concept borrows loosely from the field of economics, where macrostudies of the behavior of an entire system are distinguished from microstudies of individual economic actors acting within the system. The parallelism is not perfect, because micropolitics in education often is used to mean only a focus on a small, contained political system such as a school or community in order to separate this small-scale arena from the larger arena of school politics. Individual actors are typically the focus of attention, but their action is seen in the context of a small social unit. The earliest published reference to this kind of study is House 1976. In 1991, the journal Education and Urban Society produced a special issue devoted to micropolitics, which includes Iannaccone 1991, Willower 1991, and Marshall and Scribner 1991. Blase 1991 is an edited book-length treatment of the same subject. House 1998 revisits the author’s earlier work on politics at the microlevel. Micropolitical analyses are typically American, but attention to this level in the politics of education is occasionally found in other countries. For example, Vann 1999 reviews the UK scene. Scholarly use of the micropolitical construct has declined in the early 21st century, perhaps due to emergence of a clearer distinction between civil society (where political actions are more micro in scope) and political regimes (where macro political is the norm).

  • Blase, J., ed. 1991. The politics of life in schools: Power, conflict, and cooperation. Newbury Park, CA: Corwin.

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    This book presents nine qualitative studies of school-level micropolitics. Empirical data illuminate formal and informal processes and structures constituting everyday political life in the schools. The studies explore how individuals and groups use power to achieve goals and the consequences of its use for others. Studies were conducted in school settings in the United States, Great Britain, and Canada.

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  • House, E. R. 1976. The micropolitics of innovation: Nine propositions. Phi Delta Kappan 57.5: 337–340.

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    This work presents propositions dealing with communication and implementation of innovations, but it does not represent an empirical study of micropolitics. More than twenty years later, however, House returns to this theme with what is arguably the most sophisticated take on micropolitics to date (see House 1998).

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  • House, E. R. 1998. Schools for sale: Why free market policies won’t improve America’s schools, and what will. New York: Teachers College.

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    This book emphasizes the importance of “transaction costs” in undermining school reforms. Relying on Williamson’s work, House identifies the importance of three types of transaction costs: (1) opportunistic avoidance of reform demands, (2) specific assets made less valuable in the reform setting, and (3) bounded rationality limiting the ability to understand expectations. Transaction costs are rarely considered leading to underestimation of reform costs.

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  • Iannaccone, L. 1991. Micropolitics of education: What and why. Education and Urban Society 23.4: 465–471.

    DOI: 10.1177/0013124591023004008Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Iannaccone argues that a micropolitical reference frame is needed to guide educational research. He illustrates the importance of this perspective by highlighting the stratified structure of statuses in school organizations—status differentials that tend to create caste-type social structures.

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  • Marshall, C., and J. D. Scribner. 1991. “It’s all political”: Inquiry into the micropolitics of education. Education and Urban Society 23.4: 347–355.

    DOI: 10.1177/0013124591023004001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Marshall and Scribner summarize prior research into the micropolitics of education. They identify as core themes in this work: ideologies/values of teacher/administrator subsystems, bureaucratic myths, policy remaking in site-level implementation, bias in organizational life, reality creations in organizations as power studies, conflict privatization, and structures/tasks around which people/leaders/coalitions/loyalties develop.

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  • Vann, B. J. 1999. Micropolitics in the United Kingdom: Can a principal ever be expected to be “one of us”? School Leadership & Management 19.2: 201–204.

    DOI: 10.1080/13632439969212Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A principal describes her experience under the changes then-recently implemented in England and Wales. She describes leadership challenges and some strategies that use micropolitics to affect positive outcomes. She successfully employed tension and confrontation as steps toward change and encouraged participation in decision making.

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  • Willower, D. J. 1991. Micropolitics and the sociology of school organizations. Education and Urban Society 23.4: 442–454.

    DOI: 10.1177/0013124591023004006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using common sociological categories, Willower argues for a micropolitical perspective that takes into account teacher autonomy, order, time, and school administrators and the organization. From this perspective, he traces some implications for future micropolitical research.

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Curriculum Politics

One of the most powerful results of establishing the politics of education as a legitimate field of study in the training of educators and education policymakers was the recognition that curriculum content, previously thought to be primarily technical and based on educational psychology, came to be seen as fundamentally political and based on powerful social and political pressures seeking to use the schools for socialization and acculturation of the young. This political socialization is frequently even more important to policymakers than is the development of literacy and numeracy. Tanner 1988 is an edited volume reviewing critical issues in curriculum, commissioned by the prestigious National Society of the Study of Education. One of the nation’s leading curriculum theorists, Michael Apple, joined the discussion with Apple 1991, which criticizes the educational goals of the conservative reform movement of the 1980s. Apple 1991 also addresses the implications of shifting curricular decision making from teachers to state legislators and local administrators. The author examines some alternatives that give poorer students access to new technologies and a broader skills base and that contribute to community development. An edited volume with provocative essays on curriculum politics, Altbach, et al. 1991 focuses sharply on the politics of curriculum and testing. Just three years later, Elmore and Fuhrman 1994 revisits curriculum politics. A British perspective on curriculum politics is found in Hargreaves, et al. 1996. Some helpful empirical work on the consequences of alternative policy frameworks controlling curriculum exposure is found in White, et al. 1996. A major effort to clarify the foundations of conflict over both math and reading curricula is found in Loveless 2001. Moving away from addressing the political warfare involved in curriculum policy directly Yates and Grumet 2011 provides a detailed treatment of curriculum politics, addressing a more international perspective. McDonnell 2018 sees curriculum policy and politics through the lens of standards-based accountability policy, which the author argues now dominates curriculum policy development.

  • Altbach, P. G., G. P. Kelly, H. G. Petrie, and L. Weis, eds. 1991. Textbooks in American society: Politics, policy, and pedagogy. Albany: State Univ. of New York Press.

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    Various perspectives on the highly complex textbook debate are presented in this book, which includes essays by educators, publishers, policymakers, and scholars. Currently, the advocates of higher academic standards, coherence, and high quality occupy the strongest position in the debate.

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  • Apple, M. W. 1991. Conservative agendas and progressive possibilities: Understanding the wider politics of curriculum and teaching. Education and Urban Society 23.3: 279–291.

    DOI: 10.1177/0013124591023003005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Apple criticizes the educational goals of the conservative reform movement of the 1980s. He addresses the implications of shifting curricular decision making from teachers to state legislators and local administrators. And he examines some alternatives that give poorer students access to new technologies and broader skills and that enable contributions to community development.

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  • Elmore, R. F., and S. H. Fuhrman, eds. 1994. The governance of curriculum: 1994 yearbook of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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    This volume accepts the premise that the United States is moving toward a national, performance-based curriculum policy. At the time, the federal government was expected to play a role by pressuring states with national standards. The chief agents of change would be state and local constituencies. The national debate on educational standards and governance then in progress is reviewed.

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  • Hargreaves, L., C. Comber, and M. Galton. 1996. The National Curriculum: Can small schools deliver? Confidence and competence levels of teachers in small rural schools. British Educational Research Journal 22.1: 89–99.

    DOI: 10.1080/0141192960220106Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article criticizes the notion that small British schools are incapable of adjusting to demands for more-specialized instruction and other innovations. Although earlier research suggested this, more-recent data reveal a high degree of confidence and competence ratings among smaller schools. Many schools have adopted curriculum support strategies.

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  • Loveless, T., ed. 2001. The great curriculum debate: How should we teach reading and math? Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.

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    This collection focuses on public conflict surrounding reading and mathematics education. Thirteen chapters cover the history, theory, political conflicts, and reform strategies affecting mathematics and reading curricula. The curriculum debates are frequently called “wars” to highlight the tone of recrimination and intolerance that often accompanies policy disagreements. The chapter by Boyd and Mitchell emphasizes the global context for education curriculum politics.

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  • McDonnell, L. M. 2018. The paradox of curriculum policy. In Shaping education policy: Power and process. 2d ed. Edited by D. E. Mitchell, D. Shipps, and R. L. Crowson, 112–129. New York: Routledge.

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    In documenting the powerful link between accountability and curriculum policies, this chapter deserves attention. McDonnell argues that accountability efforts now substantially dominate 21st-century curriculum policy, and she raises questions about whether this is the intended purpose of standards and testing policies.

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  • Tanner, L. N., ed. 1988. Critical issues in curriculum. Eighty-seventh yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, Part I. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    In this volume, four chapters address professionalism in curriculum development, covering history, curriculum instability, lack of knowledge application, and political pressure. Six chapters focus on issues of policy, ranging from testing to grouping and tracking. Two chapters address leadership in curriculum development. The authors were among the most respected curriculum scholars at the time.

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  • White, P. A., A. Gamoran, J. Smithson, and A. C. Porter. 1996. Upgrading the high school math curriculum: Math course-taking patterns in seven high schools in California and New York. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 18.4: 285–307.

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    Building on previous work showing students enrolled in general math do not take or learn as much math as students in college-preparatory courses, the authors in this study examine course-taking patterns in seven high schools that enrolled lower-level students in higher initial math courses. Student transcripts revealed that transition math courses met with partial success, providing a common curriculum to students with diverse math preparation.

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  • Yates, L., and M. Grumet, eds. 2011. World yearbook of education 2011: Curriculum in today’s world; Configuring knowledge, identities, work and politics. London: Routledge.

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    This book brings together contributions from around the world in which authors analyze and reflect on the way curriculum is configuring and reconfiguring that world.

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Desegregation and the Pursuit of Equal Opportunity

Among the most agonizing and politically contested education policy decisions in America are those springing from this nation’s legacies of racial, ethnic, class, and gender biases that have worked to provide differing groups of students with access to very different qualities of educational service. The adjudication of educational rights in the United States has its historical origins in this nation’s enslavement of African Americans and in the grant of superior social, economic, and political benefits to males, property owners, and individuals without physical or mental handicapping conditions. From the founding of the nation until the Civil War, enslavement of African Americans was constitutional and defended by the courts. The politics of racial integration are described in this section, while issues related to other forms of bias are tackled in Judicial and Legal Politics. With regard to racial integration, it was not until the Brown v. Board of Education decisions in 1954 and 1955 that the Supreme Court declared racial segregation illegal. And it took two more decades before legislative and judicial decisions would provide equality of opportunity for women, language minorities, and children with various handicapping conditions. These rights were hard won. They required peaceful, but oftentimes disruptive, protests that even entailed calling out the National Guard to enforce the rights of nonwhite students to attend previously segregated schools. The achievement of equality of opportunity for various social groups is a narrative told in terms of judicial intervention and social activism. The first book-length treatment of school desegregation following the Brown decisions is Crain 1968. Five years later, a follow-up study appeared with Kirby, et al. 1973. During the 1970s, the focus shifted to northern and western urban school systems. A good introduction to the more complex ethnic issues involved in school integration is found in Bresnick, et al. 1978. A similarly broad treatment of fundamental issues is found in Crain and Mahard 1982. By the late 1980s, scholars began to document the end of substantial progress in reaching the goal of full school desegregation (as seen in Orfield 1988). Eight years later, Orfield, et al. 1996 is more direct in its argument.

  • Bresnick, D., S. Lachman, and M. Polner. 1978. Black/white/green/red: The politics of education in ethnic America. New York: Longman.

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    This volume covers ethnic tensions in New York schools. Examining interests separating community control advocates from integration activists, the authors describe the origins and dynamics of conflicts among black, Hispanic, and Jewish groups undergoing demographic changes. The authors tell the story of community conflict that led to reorganization of the district and brought to national prominence the leadership of Albert Shanker.

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  • Crain, R. L. 1968. The politics of school desegregation: Comparative case studies of community structure and policy-making. Chicago: Aldine.

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    Cited in Core Themes in the Emergent Politics of Education Research addressing the nature of democratic control, it is mentioned again here for the insightful observations and statistical analyses of school integration decisions that it contains. Crain distinguishes among northern, border, and southern cities and tracks community elites, school boards, and civil rights groups. This is the most thoroughly documented study of integration before 1970.

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  • Crain, R. L., and R. E. Mahard. 1982. Desegregation plans that raise black achievement: A review of the research. N-1844-NIE. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.

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    While the focus is on desegregation, this work describes specific policies that have worked to make some schools more effective. The authors identify techniques that work in all-white or all-black schools. Success includes (1) raising achievement, (2) establishing good race relations, and (3) overcoming student alienation. Success types display low correlation, indicating independent outcomes from school improvement efforts.

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  • Kirby, D. J., T. R. Harris, and R. L. Crain. 1973. Political strategies in northern school desegregation. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

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    This work expands on Crain 1968. It looks at desegregation in ninety-one northern and western cities. Desegregation was the subject of national news, but, by 1970, desegregation pressure virtually disappeared—despite continuing racial separation. Integration efforts were abandoned because complete desegregation was unacceptable to whites, who would move to the suburbs before permitting their children to attend biracial schools.

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  • Orfield, G. 1988. School desegregation in the 1980s. Equity and Choice 4:25–28.

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    Twenty years of desegregation are assessed as follows: (1) desegregation plans have been successful in many cities, (2) many schools without plans have become increasingly segregated, (3) the most desegregated schools are in northern states, (4) segregation for Hispanics is increasing, and (5) desegregation must be a concern of national politics.

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  • Orfield, G., S. E. Eaton, and Harvard Project on School Desegregation. 1996. Dismantling desegregation: The quiet reversal of Brown v. Board of Education. New York: New Press.

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    This work traces judicial responses to segregation between the 1896 Plessy decision and the Missouri v. Jenkins case in 1995. The nation moved to implement desegregation only as the courts required. Desegregation was mandated between 1954, with Brown v. Board of Education, and 1973, with the Keyes v. Denver School District No. 1 mandate. By 1974, with Milliken v. Bradley concerning Detroit, the courts began to retreat.

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Desegregation Reevaluated

By the late 1990s, scholars of desegregation began to question both the efficacy of judicial policymaking and the contributions of mandated school desegregation to the educational success of nonwhite students. Kirp 1997 describes the evolution of desegregation court decisions and legislative actions leading to a “retreat into legalism” as judicial interventions created a confused jumble of defiance, evasion, and delay. Hochschild and Scovronick 2003 frames the confusion in terms of a tension between private interests and public goods. Clotfelter 2004 argues that the civil rights movement produced substantial interracial exposure that was missing before the Brown decisions. But, the authors argue, white resistance blocked thorough desegregation because state and local officials abetted this resistance. Mitchell and Mitchell 2012 traces the rise and fall of desegregation court decisions, while arguing that technical and substantive issues regarding how to measure desegregation progress has prevented the courts from continuing the pursuit of social change articulated in Brown. A late 2010s review of the rise and fall of desegregation in the United States is found in Reed, et al. 2018. A broader interpretation of current US school desegregation is found in the chapters of Bowman 2014.

  • Bowman, K. L., ed. 2014. The pursuit of racial and ethnic equality in American public schools: Mendez, Brown, and beyond. East Lansing: Michigan State Univ. Press.

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    Chapters in this edited book trace desegregation policy and practice in US schools from the 1940s to the 2010s. The authors of this commemorative volume include leading scholars in law, education, and public policy, as well as important historical figures.

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  • Clotfelter, C. T. 2004. After Brown: The rise and retreat of school desegregation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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    Clotfelter tracks the evolution of interracial student exposure in the public schools since the Brown v. Board of Education decisions. Two main conclusions are (1) interracial contact increased substantially, but (2) full integration is prevented by (a) white resistance to racially mixed schools, (b) devices used to avoid race mixing, (c) local official accommodation of white reluctance, and (d) discouragement among integration advocates.

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  • Hochschild, J. L., and N. B. Scovronick. 2003. The American dream and the public schools. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    This book sets the issues of racial segregation and integration in the context of tensions between private interests and public goods inherent in the “American Dream.” The private-public tension has often led to policies giving more opportunities to advantaged citizens. The authors observe that efforts to cope with racism through desegregation are over—mandatory desegregation has been a political failure.

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  • Kirp, D. L. 1997. Retreat into legalism: The Little Rock school desegregation case in historic perspective. Political Science and Politics 30.3: 443–447.

    DOI: 10.2307/420120Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Kirp provides a detailed look at the judicial and legal challenges that have plagued school desegregation since Brown v. Board of Education. He maintains that from the moral high point of Little Rock, Arkansas, segregation rapidly descended into the swamp of defiance, evasion, avoidance, and delay. And he concludes that very little real progress has been made.

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  • Mitchell, R. E., and D. E. Mitchell. 2012. The limits of desegregation accountability. In Urban education: A model for leadership and policy. Edited by K. Gallagher, R. Goodyear, D. Brewer, and R. Rueda, 186–199. New York: Routledge.

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    This chapter examines inconsistencies in the standard indexes used to measure desegregation and reviews judicial judgments from Plessy to the Seattle PICS case. It shows that the US Supreme Court has abandoned desegregation of public schools. In addition to loss of political will, the authors argue that confusing and inconsistent measurement of the degree of segregation has helped to undercut commitment.

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  • Reed, D. S., T. K. Mitchell, and D. E. Mitchell. 2018. Civil rights of individuals and groups. In Shaping education policy: Power and process. 2d ed. Edited by D. E. Mitchell, D. Shipps, and R. L. Crowson, 65–93. New York: Routledge.

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    This chapter covers both students’ rights and school system desegregation efforts. It traces the optimistic accomplishments of the Brown v. Board of Education decisions (1954, 1955) and the gradual abandonment of that optimism over the next six decades.

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Political Cultures and Public Values

One of the more recent additions to the politics of education has been an explicit recognition that political cultures serve to stabilize political systems and keep them from being fully responsive to social policy mandates and incentives. Wildavsky, et al. 1998 serves as a good anchor point for a discussion of the relationship between political culture and social policy. Wirt, et al. 1988 identifies four core cultural values that the authors see as competing for attention in a democratic polity. A more complete treatment of these values and other cultural dimensions in the formation of education policy at the state level is found in a book-length study, Marshall, et al. 1989. A quite different set of cultural concerns with policy are found in works on the role of education in the culture of the nation. Among the most provocative of these is Gutmann 1987, which provides an interpretation of how and why education contributes to the establishment and preservation of a democratic polity. Several scholars have attended to the role of culture and community values in the work-a-day life of the schools—see Louis 1988, for example. Private schools, with their relative independence from public scrutiny and support, raise questions about how to understand the linkages between civic values and school curricula. Devins 1989 takes this up. Stout 1994 succinctly argues that cultural values define the content of educational politics. Mitchell 2018 outlines the ways in which disagreement about fundamental public values creates conflict and instability in education politics.

  • Devins, N. E., ed. 1989. Public values, private schools. London: Falmer.

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    This book takes as its starting point the controversy surrounding the responsibility of private education to emulate compulsory education’s role in inculcating values. Is there a duty, Devins asks, for private educational institutions to conform to constitutional norms? This book examines government regulation and resistance, legislative and judicial approaches, and issues of equality and educational effectiveness in the context of private schools.

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  • Gutmann, A. 1987. Democratic education. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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    Gutmann challenges the overemphasis in 1980s policy on using education for economic and political competition while ignoring its significance to the development and maintenance of political democracy.

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  • Louis, K. S. 1988. Social and community values and the quality of teacher work life. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA, 5–9 April 1998.

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    Louis sees school value systems as influential elements in teacher working conditions. Public discourse on educational reform avoids discussion of deeply embedded values, however, limiting understanding of both academic outcomes and the quality of work in schools. A discussion of professional values compares teachers and school leaders in various countries. Value cohesiveness within communities is found to have significant effects on teachers.

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  • Marshall, C., D. E. Mitchell, and F. M. Wirt. 1989. Culture and education policy in the American states. New York: Falmer.

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    This study developed methods for describing, organizing, analyzing, and predicting state cultural influences on education policy initiatives by assessing the values embraced by state-level policymakers. Data drawn from six states (Wisconsin, Illinois, California, Arizona, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania) document varied political cultures, fiscal stresses, and formal structures.

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  • Mitchell, D. E. 2018. Progressive conflicts produced surprising policy changes. In Shaping education policy: Power and process. 2d ed. Edited by D. E. Mitchell, D. Shipps, and R. L. Crowson, 25–43. New York: Routledge.

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    This chapter describes competing social-science paradigms (pp. 30–36) and four core public values (pp. 36–40), showing how they influence education politics and practices.

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  • Stout, R. T. 1994. Values: The “what?” of the politics of education. Journal of Education Policy 9.5–6: 5–20.

    DOI: 10.1080/0268093940090505Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Stout examines how divergent values and belief systems operate within educational politics. In doing so, he highlights five questions regarding (1) educational quality and equality, (2) schooling’s purpose, (3) curriculum decisions, (4) school policymaking, and (5) financial responsibility for schools. Value tensions raised in trying to answer these questions define much of the content in studies of micropolitics, school district politics, state politics, and national politics.

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  • Wildavsky, A. B., S. K. Chai, and B. Swedlow. 1998. Culture and social theory. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

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    This collection of essays was published as a comprehensive review of Wildavsky’s insightful interpretation of the relationship between culture and social organization. The problem of culture and policy is framed in terms of group cohesion and group identity. Wildavsky sees culture as encapsulating the social values of cohesive groups and orienting these groups toward cooperation, competition, or conflict with other groups.

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  • Wirt, F., D. Mitchell, and C. Marshall. 1988. Culture and education policy: Analyzing values in state policy systems. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 10.4: 271–284.

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    This article provides behavioral definitions of four basic public values—choice, quality, efficiency, and equity—in rendering them amenable to quantitative analysis. Meritocratic, egalitarian, and democratic cultures are identified through content analysis of the values in state education codes in Illinois and Wisconsin, showing that policy choices are culturally influenced. Results support Daniel Elazar’s “political culture” concept.

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Globalization, International and Comparative Politics

A substantial research literature covers international education programs and policy frameworks, utilizing a variety of theoretical frameworks. Given the extensive nature of international politics of education, we focus on K–12 (precollegiate) education, leaving the politics of higher education for future exploration. The field is dominated by, and largely a product of, European scholars. There is a long history of exporting, lending, or imposing educational systems and practices that can be traced to Western colonial imperialism of the 19th century (and even earlier). The emergence of the modern field of comparative politics is rooted in the post–World War II and 1950s era and coincides with the formation of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Education Organization (UNESCO). The introductory chapter of Mundy, et al. 2016 provides a synopsis of the historical context of the field, as well as key concepts such as policy convergence/divergence, coercion, and globalism. Early studies tended to focus on western European and North American countries or on Japan or China. The first book-length study of politics from an international perspective is MacKinnon 1960, a study of Canadian politics. Insights from, and about, other nations began to grow during 1970s, and in the 2010s there are studies that examine a growing and diverse range of developing and industrialized nations around the globe. Some of these studies are truly comparative in nature, while others are more focused on a single country or region. For example, Carney 2009 looks at policy formation in Denmark, Nepal, and China, while Auld and Morris 2014 focuses only on England. Comparative studies that examined formal aspects of educational systems of two or more countries dominated most of the early work in the 1950s–1980s. Themes of policy lending or borrowing were central concerns. Public education was viewed as a positive, social welfare mechanism that could mitigate pressing problems, including poverty and illiteracy, and promote peace, modernization, and development. Beginning in the 1980s, growing concerns in industrial nations about declining economic growth and economic competitiveness shifted the focus and thought from education as a public good to education as human capital necessary for economic growth (Hanushek and Woessmann 2010). Continuing advances in communications and technology vastly increased the global nature and discourse of educational politics. A focus on the globalization of education politics, policy, and discourse has taken center stage since the 1990s. Steiner-Khamsi 2010 discusses, and critiques, the evolution of the field of comparative education politics. Early-21st-century research emphasizes the pervasiveness of neoliberal ideology, driving the growth of market dogma, with an emphasis on privatization, choice, and competition, along with a focus on testing and measurement, “evidence-based” decision making, accountability, and standards. The growth in the number and prominence of global nongovernmental organizations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Bank, along with other advocacy networks, plays a large role in promoting neoliberal ideology. Ball 2012 highlights the oversized role that transnational organizations, corporations, and policy entrepreneurs play; using network analysis, the author traces how neoliberal enterprise works, documenting how intertwined organizations, corporations, policy entrepreneurs, and new philanthropy (seeking a return on investment), influence education policy and politics, viewing education as a marketplace and policy as profit. Mundy and Verger 2015 provides an account of the World Bank’s ascendance to its current position as a powerful player in educational agenda setting globally. The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)–based ranking system is probably the most influential global player. Meyer and Benavot 2013, an edited book, examines the role that PISA, created by the OECD in the 1990s, plays in facilitating and compelling international comparison across countries. Nations such as Finland and Singapore that perform well on PISA are frequently identified as high-performing, world-class educational systems that can and should be emulated globally. Developing countries are often forced to adopt standards that demonstrate they are modernizing in order to qualify for economic aid (Steiner-Khamsi 2010). However, many scholars point out that convergence on the level of discourse may be superficial or symbolic and should not be confused with true convergence in terms of policy enactment and educational practice (Verger 2016). Other studies, such as Auld and Morris 2014, question the validity of international benchmarks, and whether it is possible that educational systems from countries with unique cultural, historical, demographic, and economic profiles can or should be a blueprint. In terms of theoretical frameworks, researchers in the field use a broad mix, including world culture theory, path dependency and historical institutionalism, neo-institutionalism, rationalism, critical constructionism, political-cultural economy, and postcolonial theory. Qualitative research methodology dominates and ranges from single country or region case studies to multicountry comparisons and horizontal and vertical case studies. Other methodologies such as network analysis and discourse analysis are also used.

  • Auld, E., and P. Morris. 2014. Comparative education, the “New Paradigm” and policy borrowing: Constructing knowledge for educational reform. Comparative Education 50.2: 129–155.

    DOI: 10.1080/03050068.2013.826497Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines educational reform in England and documents the push, led by a network of international organizations, to adopt what is characterized by advocates as a “new paradigm” for comparative education. Indicators from test scores and data banks are used to make “evidence-based” transnational comparisons of student performance and economic outcomes to identify “world class” educational systems. Authors use discourse analysis to examine key educational documents in England that highlight this process.

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  • Ball, S. J. 2012. Global Education Inc.: New policy networks and the neo-liberal imaginary. New York: Routledge.

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    Uses network analysis to document the role that networks of transnational, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), advocacy networks, consultants, policy entrepreneurs, private industry (“edu-businesses”) and new philanthropy play in global educational reform. These NGOs advocate, create, legitimize, and disseminate neoliberal ideology and solutions to educational and social problems.

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  • Carney, S. 2009. Negotiating policy in an age of globalization: Exploring educational “policyscapes” in Denmark, Nepal, and China. Comparative Education Review 53.1: 63–88.

    DOI: 10.1086/593152Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article explores policy implementation in three nations: Denmark, Nepal, and China. It emphasizes hyperliberalism in education, arguing that studies of education must be informed by an understanding of the nature of globalization and especially the new sociopolitical regimes it makes possible.

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  • Hanushek, E. A., and L. Woessmann. 2010. The economics of international differences in educational achievement. NBER Working Paper w15949. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.

    DOI: 10.3386/w15949Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Links international variation in the labor market and economic growth to national scores on educational achievement tests (e.g., PISA, Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study [TIMMS], and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study [PIRLS]). Argues that variations in human capital (cognitive skills) explains “vast” differences in economic well-being of countries.

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  • Lingard, B., and S. Rawolle. 2011. New scalar politics: Implications for education policy. Comparative Education 47.4: 489–502.

    DOI: 10.1080/03050068.2011.555941Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that globalism has reallocated political authority away from the nation-state and to more global, transnational players such as OECD. Uses policy in Australia to illustrate.

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  • MacKinnon, F. 1960. The politics of education: A study of the political administration of the public schools. Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press.

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    This early treatment of education politics, which is mentioned also in the section First Politics of Education Scholars, is a discussion of politics in the Canadian educational system. Unlike the US pattern of separation between education and civic governance, Canadian education is dominated by state civic government, with high levels of influence accruing to bureaucratic administrators. MacKinnon sees Canadian schools as easily penetrated by special interests and family demands.

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  • Meyer, H.-D., and A. Benavot, eds. 2013. PISA, power, and policy: The emergence of global educational governance. Oxford: Symposium Books.

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    The impact of PISA as a seemingly neutral tool of international comparison, and the role OECD in global educational governance, which transcends governance of nation-states.

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  • Mundy, K., and A. Verger. 2015. The World Bank and the global governance of education in a changing world order. International Journal of Educational Development 40 (January): 9–18.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.ijedudev.2014.11.021Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the role that the World Bank plays in global educational agenda setting. Traces the growth of the World Bank’s involvement in education from a minimal role in the 1960s to its early-21st-century position as one of the most powerful global forces in education reform policy.

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  • Mundy, K., A. Green, B. Lingard, and A. Verger, eds. 2016. The handbook of global education policy. Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons.

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    This edited volume explores key issues and actors in global education policy and politics.

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  • Rizvi, F., and B. Lingard. 2009. Globalizing education policy. London: Routledge.

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    Discusses the globalization of educational policy, the growth of international NGOS, and the influence of neoliberal global discourse on education policy in nation-states.

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  • Steiner-Khamsi, G. 2010. The politics and economics of comparison. Comparative Education Review 54.3: 323–342.

    DOI: 10.1086/653047Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Comparative-education presidential address. Discussion of how the field of comparative education has developed over time.

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  • Verger, A. 2016. The global diffusion of education privatization: Unpacking and theorizing policy adoption. In The handbook of global education policy. Edited by K. Mundy, A. Green, B. Lingard, and A. Verger, 64–80. Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons.

    DOI: 10.1002/9781118468005.ch3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focuses on policy adoption of privatization reforms. Argues that policy convergence is occurring at a formal level, but that overfocusing on formal adoption obscures and deproblematizes context and complexity of actual enactment. Argues that critical constructivism or political-cultural frameworks are needed for nuanced understanding of policy adoption.

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Judicial and Legal Politics

The judicial branch of government tends to be neglected in studies of the politics of education. In part this is because the common culture equates politics with the more overt struggles for power found in election or appointment of public officials, adoption of laws and regulations, formation of budgets, policy debates in the mass media, protests, or combinations of these. Neglect of judicial politics is also encouraged by judicial commitment to the doctrine of stare decisis (a belief that judicial decisions should conform to court precedents whenever possible). Neglect of judicial politics is also encouraged by an assumption that judges, once sworn into office, respond to the dictates of constitutional and statutory law without regard to their political consequences. This picture has been changing rapidly in the early 21st century, however. As symbolized in the increasingly strident partisan debates over the appointment of Supreme Court justices, political scholars are drawn to the study of the political importance of judicial processes and decisions. Jensen and Griffin 1984 draws attention to the fact that both administrative and policymaking processes have been significantly reshaped by the courts. Published two years later, Kirp and Jensen 1986 develops a more comprehensive analysis of the ways in which elaboration of schooling law and regulation have lifted into prominence the policymaking impact of court decisions. Compulsory education laws serve as the focus of Lines 1984. A Canadian perspective is offered in Dolmage 1992. The most thoroughgoing and detailed examination of the relationship between the judicial branch of government and the politics of education is found in Yudof, et al. 1992, a comprehensive textbook that details the history of American education jurisprudence and provides insightful discussions of the underlying principles that can be expected to guide ongoing judicial decision making. Ruiz-de-Velasco 1998 provides an insightful review of how judicial consent decrees alter the social dynamics and political coalition building found in local school districts. Reed, et al. 2018 provides a review of judicial interventions into students’ due process and freedom-of-expression rights.

  • Dolmage, W. R. 1992. Interest groups, the courts and the development of educational policy in Canada. Journal of Education Policy 7.3: 313–335.

    DOI: 10.1080/0268093910070305Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This essay investigates the use by educational interest groups of the courts to force educational decision makers to implement policy changes in Canada. The investigation shows that the essential preconditions for establishing judicial-level educational policymaking have been met. Importantly, the author notes that many interest groups excluded from the policymaking process have the political will and resources to succeed in court.

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  • Jensen, D. N., and T. M. Griffin. 1984. The legalization of state educational policymaking in California. Journal of Law and Education 13.1: 19–33.

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    Analyzes decisions of the California appellate courts and of the US Supreme Court made from 1858 to 1980 concerning education (with respect to educational policymaking).

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  • Kirp, D. L., and D. N. Jensen, eds. 1986. School days, rule days: The legislation and regulation of education. London: Falmer.

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    The core thesis in this book is that the period from 1950 to 1985 brought about an explosive elaboration of school regulations and that these regulations brought into sharp relief the differences between adopting regulations and implementing them. The authors see centralized regulation as a natural reaction to local school inadequacies.

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  • Lines, P. 1984. Compulsory education laws and their impact on public and private education. Denver, CO: Education Commission of the States.

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    This paper explores the implications of compulsory education for increasingly popular private schools and home instruction. Using prior research and interviews with 120 education leaders in fifteen states, the author reviews compulsory-education policies throughout the nation. The author recommends that compulsory-education requirements be kept at a minimum, and that reforms achieved through public education be so enticing that students want them.

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  • Reed, D. S., T. K. Mitchell, and D. E. Mitchell. 2018. Civil rights of individuals and groups. In Shaping education policy: Power and process. 2d ed. Edited by D. E. Mitchell, D. Shipps, and R. L. Crowson, 65–93. New York: Routledge.

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    The first half of this chapter reviews the legal theories used to adjudicate student due process and freedom-of-expression rights—the most-important student issues to reach the courts. Case law reviews serve to document the rise and fall of competing judicial theories.

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  • Ruiz-de-Velasco, J. 1998. The politics of education in court-ordered school districts: A case study. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA, 13–17 April 1998.

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    This report assesses judicial-consent decrees mandating school reform, tracing judicial intervention begun in the 1990s. Though evidence that schools could achieve court reform objectives is often missing, court-supervised change may offer political benefits to client groups and school leaders alike and may address collective-action problems facing education stakeholders. Court supervision increases information flow and creates incentives for coalition building.

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  • Yudof, M. G., D. L. Kirp, and B. Levin. 1992. Educational policy and the law. St. Paul, MN: West.

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    This volume, widely used in US law schools, covers the constitutional and statutory foundations of US educational policy. Court cases and commentary by leading scholars in law and education show how the rights and responsibilities of educators, students, and communities are established and enforced. Topics include compulsory education, tort liabilities, due process and freedom of expression, labor law, special education, and equality opportunity.

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Urban Politics and Mayoral Control

A substantial majority of all schoolchildren are located in the central cities of large metropolitan areas. These central cities are characterized by political processes that differ substantially from the dynamics of suburban and rural areas. Peterson 1976 ably demonstrates in this delineation of big-city politics in Chicago that urban centers have strong interest groups that divide along social class and ethnic lines. Politics are complex and multifaceted; decision making follows different formats depending on the cohesiveness of interest groups and the clarity of their goals. Dawson 1984 constitutes a critical response to the popular view of the 1980s that citizen participation in urban school systems was largely symbolic and without significant policy impact. To the contrary, this study argues that in urban centers at least, participation has significant impact. By 1991, the subject of urban politics in the United States became important enough for the American Politics of Education Association to commission a yearbook devoted to this topic. Cibulka, et al. 1991 does a credible job of summarizing work on urban education politics up to that point. Clarence Stone and colleagues (Stone 1998; Stone, et al. 2001) provide some of the most insightful analyses of urban school policy and politics. These works show just how hard it is to turn reform ideas into reform realities in the nation’s major cities. Wong and Jain 1999 adds newspaper analysis to the growing body of work seeking to account for the forces that control education politics and policy in the cities. Cibulka and Boyd 2003 raises the temperature on urban education analysis with the authors’ declaration that “time is running out” on the ability of reformers to prevent catastrophic collapse in the cities.

  • Cibulka, J. G., and W. L. Boyd. 2003. A race against time: The crisis in urban schooling. Westport, CT: Praeger.

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    After three successive waves of reform intended to turn around the dismal performance of urban schools, confidence that they can be saved is undermined by a mood of gloom and despair. The waves following the 1983 report A Nation at Risk included intensified achievement demands, restructuring school organization and governance, and radical system changes redefining schooling. A fourth wave—expanding choice—is emerging.

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  • Cibulka, J. G., R. Reed, and K. Wong, eds. 1991. Special issue: The politics of urban education in the United States: The 1991 yearbook of the Politics of Education Association (PEA). Journal of Education Policy 6.5.

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    This 1992 yearbook of the Politics of Education Association reviews urban school politics, problems, and possibilities. Twelve chapters review urban school politics, examine the condition of urban schools, and explore options for renewal. The renewal options include (1) a shift from enrollment integration to resource equalization, (2) a restructuring of federal aid, (3) decentralization of power and control, and (4) judicial delineation of rights and responsibilities.

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  • Dawson, D. J. 1984. Community participation in urban schooling: A critical assessment. Urban Review 16.3: 177–186.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF01207501Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Dawson analyzes the notion of community participation in urban education and argues against critics who hold it to be merely “symbolic.” Rather, from the perspective of a phenomenological approach grounded in an analysis of the school’s hegemonic role, community participation is seen as an emancipatory activity.

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  • Peterson, P. E. 1976. School politics, Chicago style. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    In this landmark study of school politics, Peterson emphasizes the role of political bargaining, finding four fundamentally different bargaining types—pluralistic, ideological, rational, and organizational. They reflect differences in cohesion among participants and in the clarity of policy options. For example, when close-knit groups have diverse goals and propose policy options clearly linked to outcomes, bargaining becomes highly ideological and contentious.

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  • Stone, C. N., ed. 1998. Changing urban education: Studies in government and public policy. Lawrence: Univ. Press of Kansas.

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    This collection explores efforts to change urban education. Contributors show how hard it is to rearrange political relationships so that they will be conducive to school reform. Close study of major cities reveals that difficulties reflect racial and class segregation in housing, resistance to regional solutions, and jobs and economic development issues. Business involvement is seen as a source of significant leverage.

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  • Stone, C. N., J. R. Henig, B. D. Jones, and C. Pierannunzi. 2001. Building civic capacity: The politics of reforming urban schools. Studies in Government and Public Policy. Lawrence: Univ. Press of Kansas.

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    This book examines civic capacity and urban education politics in eleven large cities. Education is caught in a complex web of policy subsystems, causing policy “reverberation” and making implementation and stabilization of change difficult. Civic mobilization analysis in the cities reveals that local history is a conditioning force, substantially influencing how political mobilization occurs.

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  • Wong, K. K., and P. Jain. 1999. Newspapers as policy actors in urban school systems: The Chicago story. Urban Affairs Review 35.2: 210–246.

    DOI: 10.1177/10780879922184365Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the influence of local newspapers on policy decisions related to public education, highlighting news reporting on educational issues in Chicago and applying two analytical perspectives (the pluralist bargaining and unitary actor models). Information from a database of news reports on Chicago’s educational matters by two major newspapers suggests a strong unitary tendency in news reporting by the two newspapers.

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Urban Mayoral Influence

By the start of the 21st century, the role of mainstream civic governance in promoting urban education reform and improvement had become an important theme in the politics of education research literature. Kirst and Bulkley 2001 provides a broad framework for this line of scholarship, noting that big-city mayors have taken an increasingly active role in public education and that they have done so in a variety of different ways. Cuban and Usdan 2002 provides case studies of six major US cities in which various forms of mayoral influence have been chronicled. The authors find the effects to be relatively weak, however, and they are not very optimistic about their long-term impact. In Wong and Farris 2018, the authors sound a more optimistic note, arguing that regime theory, with an emphasis on coalition building and negotiated policy decisions, indicates that the emergence of active mayoral involvement in the urban centers remains a promising source of energy and ideas for reform.

  • Cuban, L., and M. Usdan, eds. 2002. Powerful reforms with shallow roots: Improving America’s urban schools. New York: Teachers College.

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    This compendium addresses the complexities of urban school reform and shows linkages between school success and urban vitality. The work explores governance reform in six US urban centers—Chicago, Boston, Seattle, San Diego, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Except for Baltimore, where previous reforms are being reversed, cities are shifting authority from educators toward city mayors or noneducator executives (e.g., a former governor, general, or federal prosecutor).

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  • Kirst, M. W., and K. E. Bulkley. 2001. Mayoral takeover: The different directions taken in different cities. Washington, DC: Educational Resources Information Center.

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    This report maps the variety of mayoral influence and control mechanisms that are currently reversing a century-long progressive view of school control as nonpartisan, professionalized, and separated from civic governance. Mayoral involvement in education policy control assumes a “new breed” of mayors is coming into office who possess a rational interest in educational improvement. The authors express limited confidence that mayoral takeover will have a substantial impact.

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  • Wong, K. K., and E. Farris. 2018. Governance in urban school systems: Redrawing institutional boundaries. In Shaping education policy: Power and process. 2d ed. Edited by D. E. Mitchell, D. Shipps, and R. L. Crowson, 288–314. New York: Routledge.

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    This work explores the relationship between regime theory, with its emphasis on governing through political coalitions, and integrated governance theory, with its emphasis on establishing a single civic governing power center dominated by the mayor and city council. Wong and Farris argue that the integrated governance approach is a more promising strategy for generating effective urban schools.

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Market Politics

Since the 1980s, school political decision making has moved paradoxically toward both dramatic centralization and substantial decentralization. The centralization thread is seen in dramatically expanded national-level and state-level policy controls relying on neoliberal market theories to centralize expenditure category–based fiscal controls and increased performance accountability requirements. Centralization is also supported by the realignment of school and civic governance in urban centers. At the same time, school policy control is undergoing substantial decentralization through expansion of family choice options, vouchers, and charter schools so as to allow finances to flow to private and parochial schools and end judicial enforcement of equal opportunity requirements. The result has been a rapid expansion in scholarly interest in the nature of marketplace decision making and the impact of market structures on school performance. The best early-21st-century summary of the simultaneous centralization and decentralization policy shifts is found in Malen 2011. John Chubb and Terry Moe have had a very large impact on the decentralization of education policymaking. Beginning with their effort to provide a theoretical foundation for the finding by James Coleman and colleagues that private and Catholic schools tend to substantially outperform public schools when it comes to student achievement, these two scholars have mounted a consistent and, for many, a persuasive view that public educational systems are inherently incapable of producing the highest rates of student achievement. Their early foray into this analysis is Chubb and Moe 1985. The argument made in Chubb and Moe 1990 is challenged directly in Rosario 1992 and challenged theoretically in Archbald 1988. An international perspective is developed in Bondi 1991. The underlying theory for decentralizing education policy and providing more opportunities for family choice in the provision of educational services is the theory that economic and sociological theorists refer to as “rational-choice theory.” This theory has had a broad array of defenders and critics. A good introduction to the theory and its controversial elements is Coleman and Fararo 1992. The case of market choice dilemma for those interested in special education is addressed in Anastasiou and Kauffman 2009. Harris, et al. 2018 provides a very readable interpretation of how market theories are reshaping education politics.

  • Anastasiou, D., and J. Kauffman. 2009. When special education goes to the marketplace: The case of vouchers. Exceptionality 17.4: 205–222.

    DOI: 10.1080/09362830903232109Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article examines market-based policies in special education, focusing on voucher programs. It discusses school choice as the theoretical linchpin of a market model for educational reforms and shows why the market-driven rationale of vouchers erodes the public functions of special education.

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  • Archbald, D. A. 1988. Magnet schools, voluntary desegregation, and public choice theory: Limits and possibilities in a big city school system. PhD diss., University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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    Archbald argues that school choice is advocated on the theory that deregulation and greater market control can restructure and improve education. While certain market strategies for improvement are worth exploring, complex production functions, unclear goals, and the political role of education in society limit the extent to which education can be understood and improved as a market.

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  • Bondi, L. 1991. Choice and diversity in school education: Comparing developments in the United Kingdom and the USA. Comparative Education 27.2: 125–134.

    DOI: 10.1080/0305006910270202Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Bondi discusses the policies of choice and diversity in the United Kingdom and the United States, identifying commonalities and differences. Three factors stimulated changes: lower birth rates, public disenchantment, and expenditure cutbacks. National system contrasts are reflected in decentralization and family choice emphasis in the United States. UK policies emphasize reducing class differences; schools are thought to be classless institutions throughout US history.

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  • Chubb, J. E., and T. M. Moe. 1985. Politics, markets, and the organization of schools. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, New Orleans, LA, 29 August–1 September 1985.

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    Presents survey results from about five hundred of the High School and Beyond schools, showing that private schools produce significantly greater gains in achievement than public schools. The authors present a comparative description of public and private schools and conclude that performance differences derive from political constraints on the public school environment.

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  • Chubb, J. E., and T. M. Moe. 1990. Politics, markets, and America’s schools. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.

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    This book constitutes a provocative, widely cited challenge to public control of public schools. The authors argue that public control is incapable of stimulating reform and improvement due to a lack of incentives for excellence. The risks and benefits found in marketplace decision making create the incentives needed to stimulate fundamental change, whereas public control is cautious and captive to worker interests.

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  • Coleman, J. S., and T. J. Fararo. 1992. Rational choice theory: Advocacy and critique. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.

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    This review of rational-choice theory illuminates essential elements of the theory and the controversies surrounding its application to social analysis and policy formation. It provides an access to the attractiveness of rational-choice theory for analyzing educational policy and to critics’ beliefs that this theoretical approach risks misunderstanding central issues. A solid background for the applied work in Boyd, et al. 1994 (cited under Family Choice Reconsidered).

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  • Harris, D. N., J. F. Witte, and J. Valant 2018. The market for schooling. In Shaping education policy: Power and process. 2d ed. Edited by D. E. Mitchell, D. Shipps, and R. L. Crowson, 130–161. New York: Routledge.

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    This chapter identifies seven factors responsible for the rapid expansion of support for family choice and market-type decision making in American school systems. The authors note that the 2016 election has brought a strong advocate of voucher-based family choice into the cabinet-level position of secretary of education in the Donald Trump administration.

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  • Malen, B. 2011. An enduring issue: The relationship between political democracy and educational effectiveness. In Shaping education policy: Power and process. Edited by D. E. Mitchell, R. L. Crowson, and D. Shipps, 23–60. New York: Routledge.

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    This essay carefully delineates the simultaneous centralizing and decentralizing tendencies of the previous several decades and concludes that power is not a zero-sum game in education—it is possible for multiple players to become more powerful as contexts and institutions change.

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  • Rosario, J. R. 1992. On “politics, markets, and American schools.” Journal of Education Policy 7.2: 223–235.

    DOI: 10.1080/0268093920070207Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In Chubb and Moe 1990, the authors advocate free-market principles that would give individual families the freedom to choose among competing schools. This review claims that Chubb and Moe’s empirical case is fatally flawed and that the market approach to choice they embrace threatens the ideal of a democratic education.

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Family Choice Reconsidered

Beginning in the mid-1990s, politics scholars began to raise questions about whether choice theory and family choice policies could be expected to provide the kinds of school improvement originally anticipated. Boyd, et al. 1994, while still trying to clarify how rational-choice theory should be incorporated into political analysis, began clarifying the limitations of this political model. Meyer and Boyd 2001 sharpens thinking about the limits of rational-choice policies, framing issues in an international context. Henig 1994 provides a book-length treatment of the core issues of market or rational-choice theory. An international perspective on the core issues of rational-choice theory is found in Meyer and Boyd 2001. Finally, Henig 2009, a contribution to the prestigious yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, returns to the issue of choice.

  • Boyd, W. L., R. L. Crowson, and T. van Geel. 1994. Rational choice theory and the politics of education: Promise and limitations. Journal of Education Policy 9.5–6: 127–145.

    DOI: 10.1080/0268093940090512Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Rational-choice theory and its three branches (game theory, collective-choice theory, and organizational economics) have altered the face of political science, sociology, and organizational theory. This paper reviews rational-choice theory, examines a small body of work that relies on the rational-choice paradigm to study educational politics, and comments on the promise and limitations of this approach.

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  • Henig, J. R. 1994. Rethinking school choice: Limits of the market metaphor. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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    Henig notes the linkage between the privatization movement and central education reform issues. The privatization movement generates persistent political pressure to shrink government and expand control by the private sector. He links expansion of parental choice to this movement, where it is made potent by linking school finance to the decisions families make regarding where their children should attend school.

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  • Henig, J. R. 2009. The politics of localism in an era of centralization, privatization, and choice. Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education 108:112–129.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-7984.2009.01151.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Henig challenges the wisdom of the international drift toward centralized education policymaking. He notes expansion of national policy control and a paradoxical corollary of growing market-oriented policies undermining control by local agencies. Centralizing and privatizing tendencies make local control seem inadequate and obsolete. Henig argues, however, that conclusions about the uselessness of local control are empirically suspect.

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  • Meyer, H.-D., and W. L. Boyd, eds. 2001. Education between state, markets, and civil society: Comparative perspectives. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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    This book taps a group of international scholars to examine how state policy systems and market forces differentially intersect in the control of education in European and North American nations at the turn of the 21st century. Policy frameworks in Germany, the Netherlands, England, and the United States are examined in detail. One important contribution is adding “civil society” to conceptual analyses in this policy domain.

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Research and Knowledge Utilization

Analysis of when and how research knowledge is utilized in the formation of education policy has been a significant topic in the study of politics generally as well as in the study of the politics of education. Wildavsky 2000 provocatively lays out the basic issues. Wirt 1980 sketches out basic issues associated with the use of social science research in the policymaking process. Mitchell 1981 is a book-length empirical study of scientific-knowledge utilization by state legislatures. And Clark and Astuto 1987 examines the role of social research in federal policymaking during the Reagan administration. By 1999, the Politics of Education Association commissioned the editors of one of their annual yearbooks to address issues of social science utilization, as provided in Cooper and Randall 1999. Four years later, it was beginning to become evident that demands for “scientifically based” school reforms were producing highly contested claims and counterclaims in which evidence was quite clearly infused with preferred political values (as seen in Eisenhart and Towne 2003). Humes and Bryce 2003 brings a critical “post-structuralism” political framework to bear on essentially the same question. With increasingly diverse methods being applied to variously conceptualized educational problems and supported by an increasingly divergent set of research sponsors and interpreters, it quickly became clear that “synthesizing” various research findings was a major politics of education concern. See, for example, Andrews and Harlen 2006. More-recent work led by the authors of Lubienski, et al. 2014 provides a summary of current issues in research utilization.

  • Andrews, R., and W. Harlen. 2006. Issues in synthesizing research in education. Educational Research 48.3: 287–299.

    DOI: 10.1080/00131880600992330Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    These authors argue for synthesizing results from multiple studies to create coherent pictures of how policies are affecting practice. When studies are diverse in design and methodology, synthesis can be problematic. They present a brief review of the literature on the role of systematic reviews in education, together with a description of a staged process of systematic review.

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  • Clark, D. L., and T. A. Astuto. 1987. The implications for educational research of a changing federal educational policy. Charlottesville, VA: Policy Studies Center of the Univ. Council for Educational Administration.

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    Clark and Astuto examine how social research influenced policy during the Reagan era. They see the “new federalism” in education as institutionalized, with bipartisan consensus supporting diminished federal and expanded state roles. Useful social science is narrowed and federal actions that are not research related are shaped by conservative values. They expected a reduction in research and regional laboratory support.

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  • Cooper, B. S., and E. V. Randall. 1999. Accuracy or advocacy: The politics of research in education. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

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    Addresses a variety of instances of social science evidence collection and utilization in support of specific education policy options.

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  • Eisenhart, M., and L. Towne. 2003. Contestation and change in national policy on “scientifically based” education research. Educational Researcher 32.7: 31–38.

    DOI: 10.3102/0013189X032007031Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This work examines definitions of scientific research in legislation and policy and that are used in decisions about education programs and future education research. Different definitions of how to “base” policy on science findings, and alternative ways of combining them with public input, substantially alter research interpretations and change how they serve as the basis for adopting or operationalizing public policy.

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  • Humes, W., and T. Bryce. 2003. Post-structuralism and policy research in education. Journal of Education Policy 18.2: 175–187.

    DOI: 10.1080/0268093022000043056Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    These authors examine some of the challenges to policy research posed by postmodernist and post-structuralist thinking. They argue that policy research poses particular problems because there must always come a point of closure on options, but researchers have difficulty bridging the relationship among research, policy, and practice.

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  • Lubienski, C., J. Scott, and E. DeBray. 2014. The politics of research production, promotion, and utilization in educational policy. Educational Policy 28.2: 131–144.

    DOI: 10.1177/0895904813515329Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article compares the role of research use in education policy to other issues, such as climate science, and highlights the growing role of intermediate actors as they shape research use. It also considers some common characteristics of these policy issues that may contribute to misuse or disuse, as well as to greater consideration of research. The authors provide an overview of the understanding of research use in education and point to the need to explore new theoretical frameworks and methodologies.

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  • Mitchell, D. E. 1981. Shaping legislative decisions: Education policy and the social sciences. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

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    This book reviews a study of social science utilization in state legislatures. Research findings are but one form of the “grounds for decision making” used by legislators to formulate their political positions. Other decision grounds include consistency with established law, interest group pressure, and trust networks among legislators. Legislators are more influenced by social scientists with whom they talk than by their scientific findings.

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  • Wildavsky, A. B. 2000. Speaking truth to power: The art and craft of policy analysis. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

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    Originally published in 1979. Wildavsky argues that policy research is as much art as science. Its artistic character arises because polices aim to solve problems, while science explains only how things work. He describes the policy analysis “craft,” a cycle of policy implementation turning into new problems for analysis. Policy solutions are also scientific hypotheses and represent conceptions of “how things work” that may, or may not, be true.

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  • Wirt, F. M. 1980. Is the prince listening? Politics of education and the policymaker. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, DC, August 1980.

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    Wirt explores the influence of research on educational-policy formation. After noting disunity in methodology and theory, he argues that shortcomings can be addressed using deductive theory. He sees research as political ammunition as well as an aid to problem solving and as a means of conceptualizing issues. Different types of research (descriptive, exploratory, critical, and forecasting) apply at different stages of the policy process.

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Federalism and the Centralization of Control

In the United States, authority and responsibility for educational programs and practices have historically been highly decentralized. For a long time it was believed that the federal government had little or no responsibility for education. Until well into the 20th century, federal policymakers offered almost no fiscal support, adopted no substantial laws, and rarely discussed education as a matter of national concern. Although the states routinely incorporated education responsibilities into their constitutions, they were typically “paper tigers” when it came to education. School boards with their local roots and limited links to other political entities were formed even before some state constitutions were written, and, prior to the 1950s, they were seen as the authentic and legitimate agencies to control public education. By 1980, however, it was becoming quite clear that education policy was a national political priority. Guthrie 1981 outlines this development. Five years later, Astuto and Clark 1986, in analyzing the Reagan administration’s approach to education policy, appears to confirm the expectation made in Guthrie 1981. Five years later, Mitchell and Goertz 1990 constitutes a collection of essays that highlight an educational system that remains highly dispersed. Sroufe 1994 calls for increasing scholarly attention to the politics of the federal government, despite the relatively low level of federal commitment to education at that point. By the year 2000, when the American Educational Finance Association was preparing its yearbook, state-level centralization of power was widely recognized, but the return of the federal government was still off the screen. Theobald and Malen 2000 pulls together the analysis of school finance that was dominated by the question of how to balance local and state interests. The resurgence of federal-level politics is sharply delineated in DeBray 2006. Published the next year, West and Peterson 2007 is an important work that returned attention to the state level as the authors examine the political and judicial pursuit of educational adequacy. DeBray-Pelot and McGuinn 2009 revisits federalism in the post–No Child Left Behind (NCLB) era. Malen 2011 articulates clearly the dramatic centralization of power in the hands of big-city mayors, state education agencies, and the federal government that has occurred during the previous six decades. Weiss and McGuinn 2017 provides a summary of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which moves some distance toward rebalancing state and federal power to control education policy, transferring responsibility for planning and enforcement to the states (though maintaining strong federal control over accountability). The extent or impact of this rebalancing is not yet evident in school practices.

  • Astuto, T. A., and D. L. Clark. 1986. The effects of federal education policy changes on policy and program development in state and local education agencies. Occasional Paper 2. Bloomington, IN: Policy Studies Center of the Univ. Council for Educational Administration.

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    Federal education policy during the Reagan administration emphasized procedural and substantive elements aimed at devolution of authority and responsibility from federal to state and local levels. Federal strategies included decentralization, deregulation, and diminution.

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  • DeBray, E. H. 2006. Politics, ideology & education: Federal policy during the Clinton and Bush administrations. New York: Teachers College.

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    DeBray identifies the two core themes of this era as the emergence of a strong standards-based educational accountability movement and the appearance of increasingly sharp political partisanship, which interferes with effective policy development.

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  • DeBray-Pelot, E., and P. McGuinn. 2009. The new politics of education: Analyzing the federal education policy landscape in the post-NCLB era. Educational Policy 23.1: 15–42.

    DOI: 10.1177/0895904808328524Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors develop a framework for thinking about education politics in the post-NCLB era, reviewing the evolution of national education policy over the previous ten years. They also analyze how the law has altered the national politics of education, including the growth and diversification of think tanks in the inter-reauthorization period. Implications for the future of federal education policy and politics are considered.

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  • Guthrie, J. W. 1981. The evolution of federal educational policy. Paper prepared for the School Finance Project, authorized by Section 1203 of the US Congress Education Amendments of 1978 (P.L. 95-561).

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    Guthrie describes growth in federal money for schools during the 1960s and 1970s, labeling this the “federal era” in US education. Three initiatives are reviewed: the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Compensatory and Bilingual Education Act, and the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. After executive and legislative actors controlled adoption of these policies, exclusion of educators backfired, yielding complaints about onerous federal regulations.

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  • Malen, B. 2011. An enduring issue: The relationship between political democracy and educational effectiveness. In Shaping education policy: Power and process. Edited by D. E. Mitchell, R. L. Crowson, and D. Shipps, 23–60. New York: Routledge.

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    While documenting radical centralization, Malen insists that political power in education is not a zero-sum game in which increases in power for one agency or level of government necessarily mean the diminution of political power and influence by others. Malen sees power growing simultaneously in multiple places—bringing fuller control to the process rather than just creating winners and losers.

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  • Mitchell, D. E., and M. E. Goertz, eds. 1990. Education politics for the new century: The twentieth anniversary yearbook of the Politics of Education Association. Falmer Press Education Policy Perspectives. London: Falmer.

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    This book describes forces shaping education politics and policy in the 1990s. Rather than federal control, these essays highlight different sources of influence. The decline in federal focus during the 1980s is reviewed, promoting educational inequality in urban schools. Local school systems are seen as disparate and incoherent in programs. Business involvement, economic rationalism, and technology utilization are growing influences.

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  • Sroufe, G. E. 1994. Politics of education at the federal level. Journal of Education Policy 9.5–6: 75–88.

    DOI: 10.1080/0268093940090509Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Sroufe notes the federal government’s limited role in financing education since adoption of the Constitution. He urges study of federal politics because the federal government represents a singular set of institutions that are too large and noisy to ignore. This call comes just as the country began electing Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as the “education” presidents.

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  • Theobald, N. D., and B. Malen, eds. 2000. Balancing local control and state responsibility for K–12 education. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.

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    The ten chapters of this edited book are fundamentally concerned with the issue identified in the title to the opening chapter: balancing local control and state responsibility. Increasing state-level activism is documented along with the influence of judicial action in school finance cases.

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  • Weiss, J., and P. McGuinn. 2017. The evolving role of the state education agency in the era of ESSA and Trump: Past, present, and uncertain future. CPRE Working Paper WP 2017-1. Philadelphia: Consortium for Policy Research in Education, Univ. of Pennsylvania.

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    This working paper highlights key components of ESSA, noting that states have more responsibility and flexibility with this latest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act. The authors raise questions about the capacity and commitment of the states to provide oversight and support to districts.

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  • West, M. R., and P. E. Peterson, eds. 2007. School money trials: The legal pursuit of educational adequacy. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.

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    Educational adequacy lawsuits have, with little fanfare, emerged as alternative strategies for reforming education in the United States. Plaintiffs allege insufficient resources are provided to create state-guaranteed education quality, asking courts to order increased funding. Since 1985, more than thirty states have faced suits. The book examines how pervasive—and effective—this trend has become. So far, broad changes are unrealized.

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Linking Schools to Other Social Services

The possibility and political pitfalls of asking schools to link educational with medical, social services, parks and recreation, and other civic services had been the focus of several serious politics of education scholars. Among the best works is Adler and Gardner 1995. A second book-length treatment of this topic came three years later with Emihovich and Herrington 1997. A more recent summary of evidence and theory concerning the linked services dialogue is provided in Crowson, et al. 2011. A relatively optimistic picture of integrated service provision is found in Ream, et al. 2015. A more cautious analysis of important issues arising as efforts are made to link schooling with other children’s services is contained in Reihl and Henig 2018.

  • Adler, L., and S. Gardner, eds. 1995. The politics of linking schools and social services. Falmer Press Education Policy Perspectives. Washington, DC: Falmer.

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    This yearbook of the Politics of Education Association shows that linking schools and social services had become a nationwide and international movement by the mid-1990s. Chapters in this yearbook outline organizational, economic, and political issues and discuss important themes, including the necessity of clearly defining the ethos supporting school/social services linkages, and the central role of interpersonal ties in the collaboration process.

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  • Crowson, R. L., C. E. Smrekar, and J. Bennett. 2011. Education as civic good: Children’s services perspectives. In Shaping education policy: Power and process. Edited by D. E. Mitchell, R. L. Crowson, and D. Shipps, 238–256. New York: Routledge.

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    After reviewing evidence for the effectiveness of linked services and noting the concentration of education policymaking power and authority in more-centralized governance structures, the authors argue for continued attention to the development of an integrated service delivery model, centered in the school and relying on local leadership and implementation.

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  • Emihovich, C., and C. D. Herrington. 1997. Sex, kids, and politics: Health services in schools. New York: Teachers College.

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    This book examines practical, cultural, and political implications of putting health programs in schools. A study is made of three Florida school districts implementing a controversial statewide initiative; namely, health programs to reach medically underserved children and reduce teenage pregnancy. The book provides a framework for assessing whether programs are feasible, effective, and viable for meeting routine primary-care needs.

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  • Ream, R. K., A. K. Cohen, and T. Lloro-Bidart. 2015. Whither collaboration? Integrating professional services to close reciprocal gaps in health and education. In Professional responsibility: The fundamental issue in education and health care reform. Edited by D. E. Mitchell and R. K. Ream, 287–307. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

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    Emphasizing the diversity in contexts for education and medical services, these authors argue for the development of a new class of professionals to serve as integrative-change agents. With this new role occupied, the authors see a positive future for linked health and education services.

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  • Reihl, C. J., and J. R. Henig 2018. All together now: The apparent resurgence of locally based cross-sector collaboration. In Shaping education policy: Power and process. 2d ed. Edited by D. E. Mitchell, D. Shipps, and R. L. Crowson, 269–287. New York: Routledge.

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    Presented primarily in a case study format, this chapter examines in detail the complexities encountered in efforts to create integrated children’s services. The authors present a sobering picture of the potential roadblocks limiting success for this reform strategy.

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The Politics of Philanthropy

Over the last half century philanthropic foundations and a set of private limited-liability corporations (LLCs) have emerged as substantial players in the politics of education. These players control billions of dollars in assets and annually direct programs and policy initiatives with hundreds of millions of dollars in goal-motivated incentive grants in aid. For those interested in the magnitude and character of these investments, the nonprofit Foundation Center tracks philanthropic data. An important summary of these players and their political motivations and strategies is provided in Reckhow and Snyder 2018.

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