Essential Reading for Education Activists (and Wonks)
Corporate, privatized, market-driven education reform hasn't worked-- and now there's a book chock full of research to prove it.
The National Education Policy Center is based at the University of Colorado (Boulder) School of Education. They look kind of like what I always imagined when I thought of an actual think tank-- one that was interested in real inquiry and research, and not just put together to lobby for a particular set of ideas. They've created a network composed of many of the top researchers in the education policy world (just look at this list of fellows) and they are a regular source of actual education policy research (as well as doing solid analyses of other research that is out there, even when it's just "research").
William J. Mathis and Tina M. Trujillo have put together an important (and huge) look at what's been going on in education. Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms is a collection of twenty-eight articles from a rather amazing array of top scholars in the field, looking at what has been tried, what hasn't worked, and the research says will work.
The preface, foreword, and introduction lay out the vision pretty clearly and forcefully. In the second paragraph of the preface, Mathis and Trujillo summarize where we are pretty succinctly:
Unfortunately, our review also confirmed that, despite decades of solid research evidence demonstrating the limited and contradictory effects of the market model on school reform, it is still the model that dominates education in this country, particularly in schools that serve low-income families and children of color.
In her foreword, Jeannie Oakes argues that cultural values have dominated the arena while pushing aside actual research-based approaches, and that the dominant value is a sort of behaviorism. Reformsters have "normalized the idea that school quality and equity will improve" as families shop in an unequal "competitive" marketplace. Oakes raises an idea that I confess I hadn't really CURMUDGUCATION: Essential Reading for Education Activists (and Wonks):