Changing Urban Education

Clarence N. Stone, ed.

With critical issues like desegregation and funding facing our schools, dissatisfaction with public education has reached a new high. Teachers decry inadequate resources while critics claim educators are more concerned with job security than effective teaching. Though urban education has reached crisis proportions, contending players have difficulty agreeing on a common program of action. This book tells why.

Changing Urban Education confronts the prevailing naivete in school reform by examining the factors that shape, reinforce, or undermine reform efforts. Edited by one of the nation's leading urban scholars, it examines forces for change and resistance in urban education and proposes that the barrier to reform can only be overcome by understanding how schools fit into the broader political contexts of their cities.

“This important book, a welcome addition to the ongoing debate about urban education, offers a comprehensive approach to studying change in urban school systems.

—Choice

“The 13 chapters lucidly point out the difficulty of changing such an entrenched monolith as public education, a complex decentralized enterprise existing in different contexts across the United States. Instead of calling for higher standards and better teachers, this book emphasizes that real school reform must come through the political realm—it can’t be imposed from above as an election year promise.

—Library Journal
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Much of the problem with our schools lies with the reluctance of educators to recognize the profoundly political character of public education. The contributors show how urban political contexts vary widely with factors like racial composition, the role of the teachers' union, and relations between cities and surrounding metropolitan areas. Presenting case studies of original field research in Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, and six other urban areas, they consider how resistance to desegregation and the concentration of the poor in central urban areas affect education, and they suggest how cities can build support for reform through the involvement of business and other community players.

By demonstrating the complex interrelationship between urban education and politics, this book shows schools to be not just places for educating children, but also major employers and large spenders of tax dollars. It also introduces the concept of civic capacity—the ability of educators and non-educators to work together on common goals—and suggests that this key issue must be addressed before education can be improved.

Changing Urban Education makes it clear to educators that the outcome of reform efforts depends heavily on their political context as it reminds political scientists that education is a major part of the urban mix. While its prognosis is not entirely optimistic, it sets forth important guidelines that cannot be ignored if our schools are to successfully prepare children for the future.

About the Author

Clarence Stone is a professor in the department of government and politics at the University of Maryland, where he also directs the Urban Education Project. Recipient of the Ralph J. Bunche Award and the APSA's Career Achievement Award, he is the author of Regime Politics: Governing Atlanta, 1946-1988 and coeditor of The Politics of Urban Development, both published by Kansas.

Additional Titles in the Studies in Government and Public Policy Series