Accountability and Abdication: School Reform and Urban School Districts in the Era of AccountabilityReportar como inadecuado

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Educational Foundations, v21 n3-4 p27-38 Sum-Fall 2007

The current school reform era has moved through a series of phases, coupling state centralization with a focus on school-level change at each step. Yet this era of reform also has a deeper history. Its deeper history reveals the dynamics that would plague the school reform era until the present day. While the school reform era seemed to focus on school-level change, it was actually a process of state (and federal) centralization. Setting standards and creating high stakes testing programs were state efforts with which schools were expected to comply. Thus, school-level reform became implicated in linking individual schools more tightly to state policy. This in turn put school districts in a novel position. That is, how was the district to understand its role when accountability policy linked the schools tightly with the state policy? In some instances, accountability policies created a situation where some districts found that abdicating their authority over local schools made good sense. Indeed, studies of urban school districts revealed that this abdication can take more than one form. The situation being created by accountability policy means that people may need to rethink the idea of school districts as public institutions. In this article, the authors review the history of school districts in order to set the context for the changes being prompted by accountability policy. Next, they discuss their research (funded by the Rockefeller Foundation) in four urban school districts and how it illuminated the ways in which school districts were struggling to find their role on this redefined scene of public policy. Finally, the authors suggest some ideas for reconceptualizing school districts themselves.

Descriptors: Urban Schools, Standard Setting, School Districts, Educational Change, Centralization, Accountability, Public Policy, Educational History, Educational Policy, Educational Testing, School Based Management, School Policy, Politics of Education

Caddo Gap Press. 3145 Geary Boulevard PMB 275, San Francisco, CA 94118. Tel: 415-666-3012; Fax: 415-666-3552; e-mail: caddogap[at]; Web site:

Autor: Jennings, Michael E.; Noblit, George W.; Brayboy, Bryan; Cozart, Sheryl


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