Drawing on a four-year study of the last 40 years of education reform in Los Angeles, Learning from L.A. captures the sweeping change in American education. It puts forth a provocative argument: while school reformers and education historians have tended to focus on the success or failure of individual initiatives, they have overlooked the fact that, over the past several decades, the institution of public education itself has been transformed.
Outstanding Academic Title, Choice
“Districts in Research and Reform” Publication Award, American Educational Research Association
Colorful characters, dramatic encounters, and political skirmishes enliven this rich account of the wrenching transformations that took place in the Los Angeles Unified School District from the 1960s onward. The book focuses particularly on four key ideas that emerged through a succession of reforms beginning in the 1990s—decentralization, standards, school choice, and grassroots participation. Though the particular plans that gave rise to these ideas may have faded, the ideas themselves have taken root and developed in ways that those who inaugurated or participated in these reforms never anticipated.
This is an important book by seasoned analysts of education reform. Their grounded, long-term perspective provides insights that gets our thinking out of the weeds and provides clarity about where urban education reform has been and where it is going. — Jane Hannaway, Director, Education Policy Center, Urban Institute
Learning from L.A. provides a detailed analysis of a system in transition. The authors make a fine distinction between reform ‘projects’ and systemic, institutionalized reform movements—both of which are necessary to propel deep-rooted, dynamic education reform. They identify initiatives that can be the springboard for widespread institutional transformation. This account of a changing school system, with its focus on grassroots politics and processes, will prove particularly useful to both educators and policy-makers. It is a refreshing reminder of the challenges of urban education reform. — Peter McWalters, Rhode Island Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education
Learning from L.A. is both an outstanding political history of educational reform and a first-class, theoretically sophisticated analysis of how institutions change. — Mark Blyth, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University