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Article

In the United States, policymakers have exhibited a resilient confidence in the idea that reforming urban schools is the essential key to improving the life chances of children, especially African American and Latino youth. Since the mid-1960s in particular, this resonant belief, as articulated in different forms by politicians, interest groups, local communities, and the broader public, has served as motivational impetus for small- and large-scale school change efforts. Despite such apparent unanimity regarding the importance of city schools, disputes have emerged over the proper structural and systemic alterations necessary to improve education. Often at issue has been the notion of just who should and will control change efforts. Moreover, vexing tensions have also characterized the enacted reform initiatives. For instance, urban school policies created by distant, delocalized outsiders have routinely engendered unanticipated local effects and fierce community resistance. In addition, particular urban school reforms have manifested simultaneously as means for encouraging social justice for marginalized youth and as mechanisms for generating financial returns for educational vendors. Regardless of such tensions, faith in urban school reform has persisted, thanks to exemplary city schools and programs that have helped students thrive academically. For many reformers, such success stories demonstrate that viable routes toward enabling academic achievement for more children living in urban areas do indeed exist.

Article

Since 1970, education reform in Spain and many other countries has proposed changes to existing school-family relationships. Such school reforms and subsequent legislation are key to the production of norms; that is, they define what a “good” school is and what “good” parents are and, consequently, determine the sort of “good” connections and associations between them. Critical analyses of school-family relationships in school reforms have been carried out in different countries, especially England, questioning their neutrality. Such analyses highlight how power relations are deeply embedded in family-school relationships and throughout different processes and bodies (e.g., interviews, meetings, parents’ associations, and school governing body). Thus, all school reforms have strong implications in terms of inclusion/exclusion, heterogeneity/homogeneity, and equality/inequality. Following a critical policy sociological approach, family-school relations are analyzed in the context of Spanish school reforms since the democratic transition in the 1970s up to the present. In the 1970s and all the way through the 1980s, schools were conceived, at least discursively, as a democratic community where parents, as a collective and as diverse actors, played an important role. Since the 1990s, and especially in the first decade of the 21st century, through small shifts in school reforms and laws, families have become managers and consumers in the form of rational choosers. As in many other countries, notably England, in the first decades of the 21st century, neoliberal rationality sees good parenting and good family-school relations as a neutral issue, hiding behind them a push toward managerialism, individualization, and depoliticization. This involves a new model that has strong and broader implications, particularly in terms of social exclusion, homogenization, and inequalities. The implications of this new model and future research directions are considered in order to rethink current school-family relationships with the aim of promoting more democratic, equitable, and inclusive practices.

Article

Developing a successful university–school partnership has been a topic for research since the early 1900s. In this case study, faculty members at one university in the southern United States believes they may have found one possible answer. This university has been working toward forming a partnership with three local schools to bring about transformative change to the schools and the community. Through this collaboration, faculty members sought to intentionally trouble the pervasive top-down approach many universities take when communicating with schools and to disrupt the savior complexes that often center on these efforts. Instead, by starting to identify the community needs, listening intently to the community desire for future changes in local schools, and working in solidarity with the community, sustainable partnerships were formed, and meaningful change has already happened in the short term. Creating multi-layered relationships rooted in a commitment to culturally relevant/responsive and sustaining pedagogy, the partnerships began with a shared vision between the university and the schools to work collaboratively, responding to the individual needs of each school and the surrounding community. The university faculty members committed to working in and with the community understand that centering the culture of the community in all partnership discussions was tantamount to their success, demonstrating that cultural relevance should not be confined to the walls of the university classroom, but rather, should be a guiding principle in all interactions between universities, local schools, and communities. The success of these partnerships, and the strong relationships built as a result, has created a possible model for future university–school partnerships.

Article

Amanda Nuttall and Edward Podesta

School reform in England, under the guise of school improvement and school effectiveness, is not new. Existing policy directions and trajectories for school reform in England seemingly continue to follow industrial drivers of the 19th century, promoting a highly regulated and regimented schooling system. This direction is underpinned by neoliberal forces which emphasize the relationship between education, business, and economy. Critiques of this model of school reform point to key issues around lack of response to key societal challenges and a reductionist approach to increasingly complex needs of diverse societies and cultures. Such reductionist school reform policies, in combination with stringent accountability measures, generate and consolidate differences between schools which are particularly detrimental for schools that serve students and families in poverty. In England, “success” in schools and educational outcomes is drawn from narrowly defined measures of quality with a privileging of quantitative data and testing outcomes above all other indicators. Within these measures, schools in poor, disadvantaged communities are more likely to be labeled “failing” and subjected to further intrusive monitoring, inspection, and sets of performance training in mandated methods of teaching. In these externally driven and policy-focused school reform strategies, teachers become victims of change with their voices censored and their students viewed as deficient in some way. In contrast, more meaningful school reform may be effected by recognizing that schools have the capacity to improve themselves. This improvement should be driven by those closest to the school: teachers, students, and their families. Above all, authentic school reform programs should be context specific, inquiry driven, and rooted in research and theory. Teachers should not be expected to reinforce a single hegemonic version of the “successful” school, notably in England, but should be able to engage in genuine school reform which is emancipatory and empowering.

Article

Juan Pablo Valenzuela and Carmen Montecinos

After over 30 years of a market model for the provision of educational services in Chile, the expansion of private providers financed through state vouchers, a decrease in public school enrollments, and a highly segregated educational system with unequal learning opportunities sparked in 2006 a social movement demanding changes to the model. In this article we discuss three structural reforms implemented between the years of 2008 and 2016 aiming to increase educational quality, reverse declining enrollments in public schools, the inequitable distribution of learning opportunities, and school segregation. The Preferential School Subsidy Law, passed in 2008, acknowledges that students who are growing up under conditions of social exclusion require extra support, thus in addition to the regular voucher a subsidy is provided to vulnerable students. The Law for School Inclusion, approved in May 2015, involves four main components: expansion of state subsidies, elimination of parental co-payment, elimination of for-profit voucher schools, and elimination of school practices to select students. The National System for Teachers’ Professional Development Law, approved in 2016, addresses improvements in teachers’ working conditions as well as more rigorous requirements for university-based initial teacher preparation programs. After presenting the antecedents and key provisions of each law, we analyze their potential impacts and the risk factors that may attenuate them. Three main areas of risks are addressed: externalities, institutional capacities at various levels of the system, and changes in the economic and political support needed for long-term sustainability.

Article

The Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) have all based their school systems on a vision of inclusive and comprehensive schools with no streaming and easy transition between the levels. In Sweden, “A school for all” was the concept and vision for school reforms during the postwar period from the 1950s to the 1980s. This vision originated in egalitarian philosophy and the development of the welfare state. The implementation and reforms have gone through three phases: (a) implementing and supporting enactment of the comprehensive school reforms from 1950 to 1980 approximately; (b) decentralizing and implementing new public management and local accountability from 1980 to 2010 approximately; and (c) evaluating, correcting, and considering new measures from 2010 onward approximately. Political and economic premises have changed the prospects of implementing “school for all.” There are diverse developments in Nordic societies and schools, which, however, are not as dramatic as those in some other countries currently in 2021. Nevertheless, the question of equity in the school system and its importance for a democratic society needs to be raised.

Article

The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) and its Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) play an important role in forming transnational education policy. Based on the results of the PISA measurements and other evaluations, the OECD can claim that its policy proposals are evidence based and in accordance with international standards. There is growing interest from the national governments to adapt their national policy strategies to these international standards. However, the translation from the transnational to national policy is a complex process, whereby the national receivers of the policy are selective regarding the policy elements they borrow from those who create and influence transnational policy. Thus, discursive power regarding transnational policy can be understood as power through ideas, making national reforms similar but not identical, and promoting incremental or imperceptible reforms.

Article

Parental engagement in children and young people’s learning has been shown to be an important lever for school improvement and young people’s outcomes. However, parents are rarely involved in school reform movements. These reform movements are generally centered on the school rather than on improvement of learning per se. Shifting the focus away from the school and to learning as an overarching aim requires the inclusion of and partnership with parents. This is a new way of understanding school reform but has the best chance of supporting all students, including those not best served by the schooling systems in the early 21st century. The reforms here are chiefly concerned with U.K. schooling systems, but could be more widely applicable, and call on a wide range of evidence, from the United Kingdom and beyond.

Article

Japan’s two major national school reforms succeeded in helping transform the country from a premodern feudal society into a modern nation-state in the mid-19th century, and after World War II from a militarist society into a liberal democracy. Since then, there have been numerous reform initiatives. The key drivers of the reforms since the 1990s have been neoliberals, neoconservatives, progressive educationalists, and human rights advocates. Reflecting both struggle and collaboration among these groups, the reforms have been multidirectional and not necessarily consistent. The major reform directions identified are (a) decision-making becoming more decentralized, (b) educational offerings becoming more diverse and flexible, (c) the emergence of greater individual choice, (d) recognition of a widening gap among students and addressing equity and social justice, and (e) a greater role for outside-school providers. There is a significant degree of autonomy and discretion for actors in the middle (local governments, education boards, and schools) and teachers (both independently and collectively). They have utilized this in interpreting the national government’s directives, often avoiding direct challenges to the center.

Article

Cebsile P. Nxumalo

Inclusive school reform has been a subject of concern in many countries, including the Kingdom of Eswatini. One of the forces that has shaped this reform agenda are the demands on transforming schools to embrace inclusive education, thus catering for diverse learners. Effective and sustainable inclusive reform is dependent on comprehensive school reform (CSR) approaches to change, with a focus on embracing and catering for diversity of learners from a broader perspective other than disability and special needs. CSR is one approach to change that is being used with some success in general education and has proven to have the potential of developing more inclusive schools. This is because such reform develops effective, sustainable programs that improve educational outcomes for all learners, with or without special needs and disabilities. CSR provides administrators and teachers with a framework to develop successful, effective, and sustainable inclusive programs. Each country has designed its own ways to ensure inclusive school reform. Inclusive school reform in Eswatini is situated within the context of a comprehensive larger school change effort that promises to improve educational outcomes for all learners while providing the necessary support to allow general classrooms to be changed to accommodate a diverse range of learners. The Southern Africa Development Community school reform model known as Care and Support for Teaching and Learning (CSTL) or “Inqaba,” which means fortress—a safe haven for all learners—has played an important role in the implementation of inclusive school reform in Eswatini. The Inqaba model is a comprehensive response and represents a pragmatic pathway toward inclusive quality education. Creating a caring, supportive, and inclusive teaching and learning environment in every school requires implementing a diverse, comprehensive, and multisectoral response, such as Inqaba, despite some challenges.

Article

The purpose of education and school reform is a topic of constant debate, which take on a different perspective depending on the motivation of those calling for change. In the Australian context, two of the loudest school reform agendas in the early 21st century center on school autonomy and social justice. The school autonomy agenda focuses on freeing up schools from the centralized and bureaucratic authorities, enabling them to respond to the local needs of their students and school community. Social justice reform focuses on equity, including lack of opportunity, long-term health conditions, low educational attainment, and other intersecting inequalities, and practices of care and nurture that focus on emotional, behavioral, and social difficulties in order to address the disadvantages and inequalities experienced by many students and families. In the early 21st century, school autonomy and social justice reform have been engulfed by neoliberal ideology and practices. Schools are encouraged to engage in a culture of competitive performativity dictated by market-driven agendas, whereas equity has been transformed by measurements and comparisons. Neoliberalism has been heavily critiqued by scholars who argue that it has mobilized the school autonomy agenda in ways that generate injustice and that it fails to address the social issues facing students, families, schools, and the system. Schools are committed to care and social justice, and, when given autonomy without systems-level constraints, they are adept at implementing socially just practices. While the neoliberal agenda focuses on the market and competitive performativity, the premise of school autonomy is to empower school leadership to innovate and pursue opportunities to respond more effectively to the needs and demands of their school at the local level. Schools are implementing social justice practices and programs that introduce responsive caregiving and learning environments into their school culture in order to address the holistic wellbeing and learning needs of their students and school community. With an increasing commitment to addressing disadvantage through the provision of breakfast food, schools are creating wraparound environments of nurture and care that have become enablers of students’ learning and of their connectedness to school and their local community. Adopting a whole-school approach, principals have demonstrated how social justice and school autonomy reform has aligned to address the overall educational commitment to excellence and equity in Australian education.

Article

Insil Chang and Lydia Harim Ahn

The advancement of globalization around the world shifted South Korea’s rapid change into a multicultural society. As a result, the characteristically homogenous school environment in Korea has seen an increase in students from diverse cultural backgrounds. Currently, the total number of multicultural students is 109,387 (1.9%), a large comparative shift from previously when there were solely Korean students in classrooms. In addition, multicultural areas with schools where over 50% of students are multicultural are increasing in Korea. However, because of the national curriculum guidelines in Korea, all classrooms operate in the same way regardless of student backgrounds. The language barrier and other cultural differences pose difficulties for multicultural students to keep up in coursework. Overall, schools that are accustomed to the traditional national curriculum have difficulties in school reform regardless of the changes in student demographics ratio. However, in an endeavor for school reform, the Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education has designated for school reform multicultural international innovation schools where multicultural students make up over 30% of the students. These schools have at least 50% autonomy in curricula, whereas other Korean schools have to follow the national school curricula. There are three elementary school curricula designed as multicultural international innovation schools in Gyeonggi-do. This article examines school reform in a multicultural society by focusing on how three primary schools are designated as multicultural international reform schools.

Article

Elisa Di Gregorio and Glenn C. Savage

In recent decades, important changes have taken place in terms of how governments debate, manage, and allocate funding for schools. These changes have been strongly influenced by a diversification of actors contributing to the school funding. For example, although governments continue to provide the majority of funding resources for schools across member nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), many nations have witnessed an increased presence of nongovernment actors, such as philanthropies and corporations, in contributing to the funding of both government and nongovernment schools. Many nations have also seen increases in private parental contributions, which has contributed to the expansion of private schooling relative to traditional public schooling. Despite significant diversity in funding models across OECD nations, debates about funding are increasingly informed by a transnational field of policy ideas, practices, and evidence. The OECD has been a central force in facilitating this “global conversation” about the complexity of school funding trends and impacts, particularly in relation to the impacts of funding on student achievement and equity. A key question in these evolving debates is whether “more money” alone will improve outcomes or whether the focus needs to shift more toward “what schools do” with money (i.e., a “what works” approach). In response to this question, the OECD has played a leading role in steering global debates away from a historically dominant focus on whether more funding makes a difference or not to student achievement, toward a different narrative that suggests the amount of money only matters up to a certain point, and that what matters most beyond that is what systems and schools do with money. At the same time, the OECD has been central to producing a rearticulated “numbers-driven” understanding of equity, which understands equity primarily in terms of the relationship between a young person’s background and his or her performance on PISA, and which frames equity as primarily important from an economic perspective. Importantly, however, while schooling funding reforms are increasingly informed by global conversations, policy reforms remain locally negotiated. Recent Australian school funding reforms illustrate this well. Over the past decade, two prominent federal school funding reviews have sought to address funding issues in Australia’s federal system. These reports have been deeply shaped by the distinctive conditions of possibility of Australian federalism, but at the same time have been heavily informed by broader transnational reform narratives and the work of the OECD specifically. Yet while both reviews position the OECD at the center of their respective rationales, each does so in different ways that speak to different policy problems. An exploration of the Australian case and how it relates to broader global conversations about school funding offers important insights into how policies are simultaneously globally and locally negotiated.

Article

Michael Ford

School boards are a fixture of America’s public education system. The vast majority of public school students obtain an education overseen by one of over 13,000 locally elected school boards. Yet scholars and advocates continue to debate the legitimacy, efficacy, and even need for school boards. Supporters argue that school boards are bastions of local control designed to represent citizen values. Critics dismiss school boards as under qualified, overly political, and generally not up to the task of improving student outcomes. Key areas of school board research include board zones of discretion, superintendent relations, the link between school board governance and outcomes, and role of special interest groups in board elections. All of these research areas relate to the larger question of whether school boards are the appropriate model for the oversight of public education.

Article

Harald Thuen and Nina Volckmar

Comprehensive schooling has been a cornerstone in the development of the Norwegian welfare state since World War II. Over the years it has been extended, initially from 7 to 9 years and later to 10-year compulsory schooling, since the late 1990s including virtually all Norwegian children between the ages of 6 and 16. In education policy, the interests of the community versus the individual have played a key role, reflected in a line of conflict between the political left and right. During the first three to four decades after the war, through the Labor Party, the left wing was in power and developed education policy according to a social-democratic model. The ideal of equality and community in schools had precedence. The vision was to create a school for all that had a socially and culturally unifying effect on the nation and its people. Social background, gender, and geographical location should no longer create barriers between pupils. Ideally, school was to be understood as a “miniature democracy,” where pupils would be trained in solidarity and cooperation. Compulsory schooling was thus regarded as an instrument for social integration and for evening out social inequalities. But one challenge remained: How could a common school for all best take care of the individual needs of each pupil? The principle of individualized teaching within the framework of a common school was incorporated in the education policy of social democracy and was subjected to experimentation and research from an early stage. But with the political shift to the right toward the 2000s, a sharper polarization can be observed between the interests of the community versus the interests of the individual. The political right profiles education policy in opposition to the left-wing emphasis on the social purpose of the school system. In the early 21st century, the interests of knowledge, the classroom as a learning arena, and the performance of each pupil take precedence. Based on the model of New Public Management, a new organizational culture is taking shape in the school system. Where the political left formed its policy from the perspective of “equality” during the first postwar decades, the right is now forming it from the perspective of “freedom.” And this is taking place without significant opposition from the left. The terms “equality” and “equity” provide the framework for the analysis of the changing polarity between collective and individual considerations and between pupils’ freedom and social solidarity in postwar education.

Article

Curt Dudley-Marling

The reform of public education through the application of principles of free-market capitalism, particularly notions of competition and choice, has long enjoyed bipartisan support in the United States, reflecting trends in other industrialized countries. The basic assumption is that the competitive pressures of the market, instantiated through various forms of school choice and high-stakes accountability, will necessarily lead to more efficient and effective schools while honoring parents’ right to determine what is best for their children. Concurrently, another group of educational reformers, advocating for the rights of students with disabilities, have pushed for the transformation of schools, with the goal of creating spaces congenial to the range of human differences, including disability. The problem is that the basic assumptions that underpin free-market reforms and the principles of inclusion are incompatible. One of the requirements of school choice, for example, is the production and marketing of data based on standardized assessment practices and standardized curricula. This tendency toward standardization in market-oriented schools, saturated with the ideology of normality, is antithetical to the conception of diversity that informs the desire for inclusive schools.

Article

Robert E. Slavin and Nancy A. Madden

The development, evaluation, and dissemination of Success for All (SFA)—a comprehensive improvement approach for elementary schools—is a story of how developers, coaches, researchers, and practitioners work together to implement this program. There is considerable formal research informing the program and its continual development. However, although there is reliance on rigorous, quantitative research methods in informing model development, there is also a very strong commitment to learn from teacher practice. SFA seeks a constant interplay between teachers’ practice and research. The knowledge SFA coaches bring to the table, many of whom were former SFA teachers, is also integral to the continual development of the model and its implementation strategies.

Article

William T. Pink

From a comprehensive analysis of the extant educational literature on school change, it is evident that two activities are essential for the successful reform of schools in the United States. While the focus in this article will be on the programmatic shifts implemented in U.S. schools, the danger of exporting these same failed programs to other countries also will be noted. The first requirement is a systematic critique of the major school reform strategies that have been employed since the 1960s (e.g., the Effective Schools model, standardized testing and school accountability, the standards movement, privatization of schools, charter schools, and virtual/cyber schools). The major conclusion of this critique is that each of these reform strategies has done little to alter the connection between schooling and their production of labor for the maintenance of Western capitalism: beginning in the early 1970s an increasingly strong case has been made that the design and goal of U.S. schooling has been driven by the need to produce an endless supply of differentiated workers to sustain the U.S. economy. Moreover, while both equality and equity have entered the conversations about school reform during this period, it becomes evident that the relative position of both poor students and students of color, with respect to their more affluent White peers, has remained at best unchanged. The second essential requirement is the exploration of an alternative vision for school reform that is grounded in a perspective of equity, both in schools and in the society. Beginning with the question “What would schools look like, and what would be the role of the teacher in a school that was committed to maximizing equity?” such an alternative vision is built on the concept of developing broadly informed students able to play both a thoughtful and active role in shaping the society in which they live, rather than be trained to fit into a society shaped by the interests of capital. From this exploration of the literature emerges a new role for both schools and teachers that repositions schooling as an incubator for social change, with equity as a primary goal. Also addressed is the importance of inequitable economic and public policies that work to systematically inhibit student learning. A key element in forging a successful transition to schools functioning as incubators for reform is the ability of preservice teacher preparation programs to graduate new teachers capable of doing this intellectual work, and for current classroom teachers to engage in professional development to achieve the same end What is clear from a reading of this literature is that without this re-visioning and subsequent reform of schooling, together with a reform of key public policies, we must face the high probability of the rapid implosion of the public school system and the inevitable escalation of class warfare in the United States.

Article

Farida Abdulla Khan and Charu Gupta

Initial efforts toward reform in mathematics education in India evolved out of a more general concern for educational reforms as they assumed a pivotal role in the agenda of modernization and development after independence. Mathematics as a foundational aspect of science and technology assumed a privileged status with recommendations to keep up with developments in technologically advanced countries. This led to the creation of an unduly loaded curriculum with little attention to children’s cognitive and developmental capacities and other more social and humane aspects of a well-rounded education. The early decades after independence were largely focused on providing access, and other than the rhetoric of equality and quality and overarching recommendations, little investment was made into researching the more nuanced aspects of learning and teaching and the social implications of schooling. Several important national commissions and two major policies put forward important recommendations for reform in mathematics education with suggestions for both curriculum and pedagogy. The early decades after independence saw a greater commitment to higher education, especially in the sciences and technology, and this began to shape the school curriculum, with mathematics as a major concern. Although critiques of the system were never totally absent, efforts at intervention in schools and at the ground level were initially made by smaller groups and nongovernmental organizations (NGOS), and then also nationally and regionally, to transform processes of schooling and learning with a focus on the learner rather than the content alone. A particularly large and comprehensive national effort at reforming school education in all subject areas was the National Curricular Framework, coordinated and initiated by the National Council of Educational Research and Training in 2005. This was a radical attempt at framing an alternative idea of schooling and learning, focused on the child, but with an acute awareness of the larger social, economic, and political structures within which schools, classrooms, teachers, and students are implicated.

Article

Curriculum reform is at the heart of educational change and impacts pupils, teachers, other educational professionals, and society at large. Moreover, the way we go about developing our schools and designing curricula defines our future and reveals where we stand regarding the role of education in society. In order to research the desired aims of reforms, it is crucial to understand curriculum making: How does the school develop, and what regulates the development? Learning is at the core of school development. It can be considered as both the aim and the primary means of achieving and sustaining any change in schools. Accordingly, the impact of a school reform is highly dependent on the quality of learning enabled within the school communities. Particularly, the extent to which the reform engages teachers in active and skillful learning by promoting their professional agency is a central determinant of the reform’s outcomes. The core curriculum is the single most influential regulator of school development in Finland. It is renewed approximately every 10 years and provides a common direction and basis for renewing school education and instruction, and sets the framework and foundation for district- and school-level curriculum development work. Teachers in Finland are curriculum makers not only in the class and school, but also at the district and even national levels of the school system. In such a system, teacher autonomy and teacher agency are at the core of school development. Moreover, teachers’ ability to understand the aims of the reform and to integrate, modify, and adopt them as part of their pedagogical practices is essential. This requires making sense of their aims. In Finland, shared sense-making has been the main strategy in the latest participatory reforms, with the aim of promoting transformative learning in professional communities in order to reach reform goals.