A Developmental Perspective on
Education in Multiethnic Cities
FOCUSING ON THE INTERSECTION of interests, ideas, and institutions provides a useful analytical framework for exploring school reforms in multiethnic cities. It is also instructive for broadly comparing the dilemmas of the 1980s and 1990s with the past—that is, the coalitions of interests, ideas, and institutions predominant during different historical periods. In shorthand, we refer to those coalition patterns and orientations as “regimes.” From a historical and developmental viewpoint, the multiethnic moments in the 1980s and 1990s brought the prospects of potential regime change: New interests gained ground, mobilized around distinctive ideas and policy paradigms, and contended with institutions geared toward a previous configuration. Yet as we have shown, the outcomes varied substantially in each city. Much of the contingency and variation in the unfolding of these multiethnic moments can be traced to the ways in which lagging institutions shaped possibilities in each of our cities. Concluding our analysis by placing this period in historical perspective further illustrates our central arguments.
Recall that our empirical analysis began by examining ethnic and racial interests in school reform. It became clear, however, that the situations and problematic political impacts of these diverse groups are not easily or fully explicable by an interest-based paradigm alone. As new school constituencies, Latinos and Asians in particular were systematically underrepresented in the formal educational policymaking structures in all four cities. Latino underrepresentation was matched by low levels of educational achievement while Asian students fared somewhat better on educational achievement measures.