It Takes a City: The Process and Politics of Urban School Restructuring Restricted; Files & ToC

Wilbon White, Tirza (2012)

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This historic case study reveals the process, goals, and motivations of
stakeholders who were involved in the restructuring of a K-5 urban elementary school.
Although extensive literature exists on urban school restructuring and on the influence of
context in school reform efforts, the literature omits voices belonging to those individuals
who shape restructuring reform agendas and goals during the process: educators; non-
school, external stakeholders; and community members. Moreover, no studies illuminate
embedded motivations for restructuring and the role that race, class, and power assumes
in those efforts. Oral histories, in-depth interviews, narratives, document analysis,
and focus groups were used to illustrate the process from the perspectives of multiple
stakeholders. Urban regime theory (URT) and critical race theory (CRT) framed the
study's results and revealed the counter-narratives that challenged key assumptions
located in mainstream literature. They show that (1) school restructuring occurred within
the context of a simultaneous investment in neighborhood revitalization; (2)
external, non-school stakeholders with varied primary goals initiated and invested in
restructuring because they viewed a high-performing school as critically important yet
secondary, a tool needed to supported their primary motivations; (3) restructuring
resulted in dramatic increases in student achievement for low-income, African America children,
increases that were subsequently sustained over a ten-year period; (4) committed school-
level educators were disinvested in the political process of change and therefore found
their future trajectory at the will of district-level administrators; and (5) many of
the problems attributed to the education of African American children and families were
not the result of poverty as a deficit of individuals but rather were the result of a legacy of social
policy neglect. This study is instructive because it can inform those concerned with the
education of children in urban settings about the mechanisms, motivations, and broad
understanding that were required to turnaround a failing school prior to the passage of the
No Child Left Behind Act. This study is also theoretically significant because it gives
voice to the perspectives of stakeholders of color and adds to the growing literature on
race-conscious education policy.

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