Building the Federal Schoolhouse: Localism and the American by Douglas S. Reed

By Douglas S. Reed

During the last fifty years, the federal government's efforts to reform American public schooling have reworked U.S. faculties from locally-run agencies into advanced structures together developed through federal, country, and native actors. the development of this federal schoolhouse-an academic procedure with universal nationwide expectancies and practices-has essentially altered either schooling politics and the norms governing academic coverage on the neighborhood point.

Building the Federal Schoolhouse examines those matters via an in-depth, fifty-year exam of federal academic rules locally of Alexandria, Virginia, a filthy rich but socially assorted suburb of Washington, D.C. The epochal social modifications that swept via the US long ago part century hit Alexandria with specific strength, reworking its Jim Crow university process right into a new immigrant gateway district inside generations. alongside the way in which, the varsity procedure has struggled to supply caliber schooling for distinctive wishes scholars, and has sought to beat the legacies of monitoring and segregated studying whereas concurrently holding upper-middle type scholars. so much lately, it has grappled with nation and federally imposed responsibility measures that search to spice up academic results. All of those coverage projects have contended with the prevailing political regime inside of Alexandria, every now and then forcing it to a brink, and at different instances reconstructing it. the entire whereas, the neighborhood expectancies and governing realities of directors, mom and dad, politicians, and electorate have sharply limited federal projects, restricting their scope whilst in clash with neighborhood commitments and amplifying them once they align.

Through an intensive use of neighborhood documents, modern bills, college info, and interviews, Douglas S. Reed not just paints an intimate portrait of the conflicts that the federal schoolhouse's production has wrought in Alexandria, but additionally records the successes of the federal dedication to bigger academic chance. In so doing, he highlights the complexity of the yankee schooling country and the centrality of neighborhood regimes and native ancient context to federal academic reform efforts.

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These contrasting perspectives—one of continuity and predictable levels of (under)achievement, the other of intense and persistent efforts at systemic change in public education—illuminate the reasons why our educational policy gurus are perplexed. Why has all this change produced little in educational improvement? Why do we see so little correlation between educational outcomes and educational reform? Our improvements in math do not seem to track the implementation of NCLB, or the adoption of charter or voucher programs.

While many advocates of federal reforms—from school integration to special education to 4 Building the Federal Schoolhouse Race to the Top—argue that federal policies can incentivize educational improvement, the realities of educational localism in the United States mean that the task of building the education state requires federal policy initiatives to dislocate and disrupt existing local arrangements, without assuming the responsibilities of actually operating schools. And while many federal educational initiatives over the past fifty years have greatly widened the educational opportunities of millions of children, the localism that many reformers saw as the primary obstacle to greater equality in educational opportunity in the United States was, nonetheless, the primary means by which these reforms gained political legitimacy—and were implemented—within communities.

These inequalities, both of educational opportunity and of educational outcomes, do not occur, however, by happenstance. Schooling inequalities are often the byproduct of economic disparities, racial segregation, and unequal access to power structures within localities and within states. As a result, federal education officials have in The L ocal Politic s o f Fed eral E ducati on R e for m 5 many instances struggled against local actors as they sought to implement reforms to equalize educational opportunities and to improve outcomes for children.

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