What Should I Wear
Politics, language, and culture are three of the most powerful forces affecting education today, yet they have been little discussed in relation to systemic school reform, the new status quo of urban schools. This book looks at their effects through the eyes of teachers, administrators, and insider/outsiders who are actually living reform at the school level in four widely different urban school systems: Chicago, San Francisco and Oakland, California, and Boston. The book also creates a statistical and conceptual picture of urban education and school reform as national phenomena with deep historical roots, and offers a composite case study of an urban elementary school undergoing reform.
The author argues that urban school reform is failing becasue its basic strategy is misguided and because reform thinking has consciously ignored three essential sources of knowledge about school change. Strategically, efforts for reform have relied heavily on the widespread replication of nationally promoted exemplary programs. This approach assumes that local schools lack the knowledge and will to solve their own problems and require prescriptive intervention from national models. In fact, the exemplary programs approach has yielded very limited success. What is needed instead is the creation and long-term support of unique, local exemplary contexts that combine best-practice approaches with local knowledge, conditions, and resources.
In the United States it certainly is the case that we live in a country that adheres to an ideology of individualism. In education this ideology is manifest in ho- ing teachers accountable for the achievement of their students, and teacher e- cators accountable for the quality of teaching. Similarly, in school districts such as Philadelphia, where this research was undertaken, school principals are held accountable for the quality of the educational programs in their schools. In making this claim about individualism I do not seek to oversimplify an argument that individualism is the only referent used in formulating and enacting policies. Clearly there is recognition of complexity and the mediating effects of others actions on individuals accomplishing their goals. However, in arguments over accountability it always seemed beyond argument, for example, that teachers should have control over their students and if that were not the case then the teacher is not effective. Similarly, as a teacher educator, there is a widespread perspective that I should train teachers to establish and maintain tight control over students, and plan and enact curricula to meet mandated national, state, and local standards in ways that align with testing programs such as those associated with the No Child Left Behind legislation. Failure to comply with these expec- tions, while possible, feels risky."
A Companion to Urban Economics provides a state-of-the-art overview of this field, communicating its intellectual richness through a diverse portfolio of authors and topics.
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