Contracted Solutions to Urban Education Problems
James W. Guthrie
The recent worldwide economic downturn has blunted some of the rationale for American education reform. The American economy now clearly leads the world and the education doomsday message initiated 15 years ago by A Nation at Risk appears, at least, to have been premature. However, regardless of the rhetoric about education and our collective economic fate, the American citizenry has maintained its personal interest in school reform, and nowhere is this more accurate than among inhabitants of our big cities. However, city school districts are caught between two contrasting views of what constitutes education reform. One paradigm suggests that higher achievement results from individual schools complying with centrally promulgated regulations. The other strategy places individual schools at the center of reform and argues to construct enabling policies in support of them. This chapter describes those contrasting strategic views of reform and explains their practical consequences.
The 1983 A Nation at Risk used hyperbole and drumbeat alliteration to drive home the message that low academic achievement was about to economically sink the United States. The education systems of our