A Race against Time: The Crisis in Urban Schooling

By James G.Cibulka; William Lowe Boyd | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER TEN

Urban Education-Reform Strategies

comparative analysis and conclusions

JAMES G.CIBULKA
WILLIAM LOWE BOYD

IN THE INTRODUCTION we indicated that three governance-reform strategies tend to dominate discussions of urban school reform: systems reform, strong mayoral roles, and external intervention. To varying degrees, each of these strategies is linked to the principle of accountability, which we define as responsiveness to external authority and control. Each strategy makes somewhat different assumptions about how accountability forces will improve urban school systems.

We noted, however, that in practice, policy-makers tend to mix strategies. 1 All of the urban school systems we know of—certainly the ones discussed in this book—are experimenting with some combination of these approaches. The convergence of reform efforts around a relatively finite set of strategies reflects the emergence of school reform as a national problem that has engaged the public, policy experts, civic elites, the media, and politicians. Because policy discussions have taken on a national character, on the surface, the language of reform used across the cities looks quite similar. Yet once one moves beyond a superficial rhetorical level, the experiences of each city with reform are quite variable. The social, political, and institutional contexts of the cities have led to many different approaches to these strategies.

Recognizing that each city is in some respects unique, in this chapter we try to look for common threads and generalizations. We see our task here as employing the cases to provide evidence of the respective

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