In The Transformation of Great American School Districts, William Lowe Boyd, Charles Taylor Kerchner, and Mark Blyth argue that urban education reform can best be understood as a long process of institutional change, rather than as a series of failed projects. They examine the core assumptions that underlay the Progressive Era model of public education—apolitical governance, local control, professional hierarchy, and the logic of confidence—and show that recent developments in school governance have challenged virtually all of these assumptions.
Drawing on case studies of five urban districts—Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York, and Los Angeles—they trace the rise of new ideas and trends that are reshaping the institution of public education: mayoral control, shifting civic coalitions, federal and state involvement, standards-based accountability, and the role of educational outsiders in district administration. Although each city has evolved along a different path, the editors argue that a set of new underlying ideas is being auditioned in the transition to a new institutional model and describe the process by which institutional change occurs.
The Transformation of Great American School Districts provides fascinating portraits of the governance changes now occurring in America’s major urban school systems, along with a trenchant discussion of the extent to which these changes signal a new direction for American education. The book will make a strong contribution to research on the politics of education in the United States and shows the promise of applying insights from the new institutionalism to research on educational governance. — Brian Rowan, Burke A. Hinsdale Collegiate Professor in Education and Research Professor, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan
An important analysis of the evolution of urban education and some provocative ideas about what might be next. Whether your interest is urban schools or American education more generally, you’ll learn from this book. — Andrew J. Rotherham , Co-Director of Education Sector, Member of the Virginia Board of Education, and Author of Eduwonk.com
This cogent collection employs a cultural/historical lens to assess the challenges communities face in their decades-long struggles to transform failing urban school systems. These groundbreaking reflections make a persuasive case for devoting more attention to the political, cultural, and social dimensions of district reinvention—an endeavor that is often treated as a technical challenge alone. — Warren Simmons, Executive Director, Annenberg Institute for School Reform