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Volume 13, Number 1
January/February 1997

Navigating the Political Waters

Schools don't exist in a vacuum: external forces, especially parents, can have tremendous influence over the pace and progress of detracking efforts

 

Educators who seek to detrack schools must pay careful attention to the new curriculum and content they hope to implement, as well as to the culture and norms that govern the day-to-day activities in schools and classrooms. But they cannot afford to ignore another critical component of detracking: the political atmosphere surrounding their particular school or district. Parents in particular can have tremendous influence over what takes place within a school—as well as what does not take place.

One major factor is whether parents have faith in the soundness of the school's educational program and its plans for detracking. Crete Monee Middle School in Crete, IL, for example, has been successful in getting students to meet higher math standards. The school's standardized test scores have risen steadily during the past three years: In 8th-grade math, for example, the school's average score on the Illinois Goals Assessment Program test, which has a 400-point scale, climbed from 241 three years ago to 296. This success has helped build and maintain support for its reform and detracking efforts. "If you can't show that you're improving" by pursuing detracking and other reforms, principal Joe Crawford says, "then you're dead."

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.

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