Politics, Language, and Culture: A Critical Look at Urban School Reform

By Joseph W. Check | Go to book overview

Part II

Policy Versus Reality: Implementation Dilemmas in Urban Reform

GENERATION VS. IMPLEMENTATION: TWO ANALYTIC FRAMES

Analysts make a basic distinction between policy generation and policy implementation. 1 I began this study by discussing generative dimensions of urban reform: What is urban? What is reform? What can history tell us about the contexts and outcomes of past reforms? In the Imaginary Gardens chapter I began to shift the focus to implementation. In the chapters that follow I will present a more detailed look at the implementation process in three urban areas: Chicago; Bay Area, California (Oakland and San Francisco); and Boston. I will use these cities as lenses to focus, respectively, on issues of politics, language, and culture as they affect the implementation of reform, and particularly on the uniqueness of the three local contexts. I will make extensive use of the testimony of those most familiar with the implementation of reform, and least represented in the national conversation on it—professionals who work in schools.

A starting point for understanding the relationship between generation and implementation is the fact that the United States unlike, for example, Japan or Britain, has local rather than national control of schooling. Federal influence on education is weak because many Americans want it that way. Until the 2000 election the platform of the Republican Party, the long-standing majority in Washington, had for years called for elimination of the U.S. Department of Education. In financial terms, the U.S. government's share of public school costs has traditionally hovered below 10 percent.

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