Building Civic Capacity
The Politics of Reforming Urban Schools
Studies in Government and Public Policy
Sales Date: September 5, 2001
208 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: September 2001
Winner: APSA Best Book Award in Urban Politics
The authors of this volume argue that urban education is in urgent need of reform and that, although there have been plenty of innovative and even promising attempts to improve conditions, most have been doomed. The reason for this, they agree, lies in the failure of our major cities to develop their “civic capacity”—the ability to build and maintain a broad social and political coalition across all sectors of the urban community in pursuit of a common goal.
Drawing upon an ambitious eleven-city study funded by the National Science Foundation, the authors synthesize and make sense of the enormous amount of data from Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Not only is this a vivid report from the front lines of big city schooling, but this work challenges us to rethink our approach to the crisis in our schools.
The authors vigorously contend that it is essential for all (or most) important actors in an urban community to join together in a shared vision of what is wrong in the schools and how to fix it, and to pursue that vision strongly and systematically over a long time. That can only happen, however, if those same actors develop the ability and willingness to set aside narrow aims and opportunistic behavior in favor of pursuing the collective good.
Written for a wide spectrum of potential readers—including educators, social scientists, policymakers, and every citizen who cares about his or her child’s education—this book restores coalition politics to the center of educational reform and reminds us to look well beyond pedagogy and management theory for solutions to problems that are immune to the usual remedies. Drawing on select cases, the authors show that effective civic coalitions can be built. The struggle for reform can be won.
"One of those rare books that speaks not only to scholars but also to a broad range of community stakeholders eager to influence the quality of urban education."—Urban Education
"An outstanding piece of scholarship. Students of school reform will find a cornucopia of insights in this book."—Political Science Quarterly
"This book, and the massive project whose essence it contains, are major contributions to the literature on public policy in general and education policy in particular. It is a stellar example of enlisting political science in the service of addressing a major public policy problem. Building Civic Capacity should be read by everybody who is interested in making urban schools better."—Journal of Politics
"Scholars and activists are finally moving beyond debates over whether to seek policy change through ‘top down’ or ‘bottom up’ strategies. The answer, of course, is both at the same time. This book shows us why, and how, to do that. With luck it will reshape the fields not only of education policy but also of urban politics more generally."—Jennifer L. Hochschild, author of Facing Up to the American Dream
"Four of the nation’s keenest intellects give us a road map to solving one of our most vexing problems."—John Mollenkopf, author of A Phoenix in the Ashes and The Contested City
"This incisive and well-argued book is a breath of fresh air in the school reform debates."—Margaret Weir, author of Schooling for All
1. The Scope of the Problem
2. The Challenge of Change in Complex Policy Subsystems
3. The Urban Context: A First Look at the Case Cities
4. Civic Mobilization in Eleven Cities
5. Conducting Policy in an Ill-Structured Problem Space
6. Civic Mobilization and Policy Effort
7. Implications and Recommendations