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Rising Tide, Not Enough Boats


Bringing Equity Back

Bringing Equity Back: Research for a new era in american educational polic, Janice Petrovich and Amy Sturat Wells, (Teachers College Press, 2006)

Which era's reforms produced better results? The 1960s and 1970s, the high-water mark for desegregation in U.S. public schools? Or the 1980s and 1990s, when "excellence" became the watchword of an effort to counter a reported decline in American schools, and policymakers turned to market forces and individual choice? In Bringing Equity Back: Research for a New Era in American Educational Policy, edited by TC Professor Amy Stuart Wells and the Ford Foundation's Janice Petrovich, a group of authors examine the evidence.

The scorecard stacks up quickly. Older reforms that aimed at desegregation, though currently stymied, mostly worked, while the record of the new reforms is mixed with debatable gains offset by significant losses. Among the subject s researched: the assault on affirmative action, skewed testing results, admissions efforts to support diversity subrosa, charter schools, school choice and a national voucher system in Chile.

Can refocusing on racial integration reverse these trends?

"Schools are embedded in a structure of inequality that they cannot single-handedly overcome," Petrovich writes. "Nevertheless, as one of the few public spaces with the potential of mixing the classes, forming the habits of citizenship and providing civic glue for a diverse country, schools remain a vital link to a strong democracy." The right result may be reform in which, at the very least, "equity" and "excellence" are not treated as mutually exclusive.


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