To Educate a Nation

Federal and National Strategies of School Reform

Carl F. Kaestle and Alyssa E. Lodewick, editors

To Educate a Nation brings together the work of some of the most notable young scholars in the field of national education policy studies, focusing on the growing federal role in reform efforts; programs to provide equal educational opportunity; the changing relationships among federal, state, and local agencies; and the shifting boundaries between public and private sectors.

Collectively, these essays provide a new and penetrating look at how education policymaking has changed over the past fifty years. Individually, they address such issues as desegregation, education choice, Title I, the National Defense Education Act, the politics of pre-K education, and Supreme Court decisions on equal opportunity—as well as how No Child Left Behind fits into the larger framework of debates over the standards-based reform movement.

“This volume is uniquely valuable because it brings together young scholars with a shared interest in school reform from diverse disciplinary backgrounds (education, history, political science, economics, and psychology) that employ a mix of methodological approaches. . . . [Makes] a timely and important contribution to our understanding of how the country’s half-century-old debate over equal educational opportunity has evolved and of the many complex and contentious issues that remain before us.

—Perspectives on Politics

“A broad panorama of the shifts in education policy that have evolved slowly over the past century. Contributing to the rich picture it presents are the diverse backgrounds of the book's eleven authors. . . . Should be required reading for any policymaker who supports market-based approaches to K-12 education and wants to get a sense of the challenges and rewards that may lie ahead. . . . As policy makers consider the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, they would almost certainly benefit from this thoughtful and diverse overview of federal and national reform’s earlier incantations and effects. There is no reason to repeat the mistakes of the past when eleven op scholars can help you use it to provide a potential blueprint for the future.

—Teachers College Record
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Developed over three years of seminars at Brown University, To Educate a Nation brings thematic and analytical coherence to the subject. Bridging historical and social science analyses, the contributors examine the interactions of federal initiatives with state and local practices as they highlight the complications inherent in American education today and provide a framework for grappling with its problems. Their insights expand our understanding of federal policy, national reform movements, and the changing nature of the polity in education—the institutions, traditions, and power relationships that define who has a voice in education policymaking and how they participate in it.

For citizens and scholars alike, To Educate a Nation provides new ways to think about educational decision making in a federal system of governance, about unintended consequences of top-down policies, and about the continued resilience of state and local variation, clarifying how education policy is made in our unusual American system of shared governance and supplying an effective framework for understanding today's complex policymaking context.

About the Author

Carl F. Kaestle is University Professor of Education, History, and Public Policy at Brown University whose books include Pillars of the Republic: Common Schools in American Society, 1780-1860 and Literacy in the United States: Readers and Reading since 1880. Alyssa E. Lodewick, formerly assistant director of the Advanced Studies Fellowship Program at Brown, is vice president of the Urban League in southern Connecticut.

Additional Titles in the Studies in Government and Public Policy Series