The Allure of Order: High Hopes, Dashed Expectations, and the Troubled Quest to Remake American…

Paperback | April 1, 2015

byJal Mehta

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Ted Kennedy and George W. Bush agreed on little, but united behind the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Passed in late 2001, it was hailed as a dramatic new departure in school reform. It would make the states set high standards, measure student progress, and hold failing schools accountable.A decade later, NCLB has been repudiated on both sides of the aisle. According to Jal Mehta, we should have seen it coming. Far from new, it was the same approach to school reform that Americans have tried before.In The Allure of Order, Mehta recounts a century of attempts at revitalizing public education, and puts forward a truly new agenda to reach this elusive goal. Not once, not twice, but three separate times - in the Progressive Era, the 1960s and '70s, and NCLB-reformers have hit upon the same ideafor remaking schools. Over and over again, outsiders have been fascinated by the promise of scientific management and have attempted to apply principles of rational administration from above. Each of these movements started with high hopes and ambitious promises, but each gradually discovered thatschooling is not easy to "order" from afar: policymakers are too far from schools to know what they need; teachers are resistant to top-down mandates; and the practice of good teaching is too complex for simple external standardization. The larger problem, Mehta argues, is that reformers have it backwards: they are trying to do on the back-end, through external accountability, what they should have done on the front-end: build a strong, skilled and expert profession. Our current pattern is to draw less than our most talentedpeople into teaching, equip them with little relevant knowledge, train them minimally, put them in a weak welfare state, and then hold them accountable when they predictably do not achieve what we seek. What we want, Mehta argues, is the opposite approach which characterizes top-performingeducational nations: attract strong candidates into teaching, develop relevant and usable knowledge, train teachers extensively in that knowledge, and support these efforts through a strong welfare state. The Allure of Order boldly challenges conventional wisdom with a sweeping, empirically rich account of the last century of education reform, and offers a new path forward for the century to come.

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Ted Kennedy and George W. Bush agreed on little, but united behind the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Passed in late 2001, it was hailed as a dramatic new departure in school reform. It would make the states set high standards, measure student progress, and hold failing schools accountable.A decade later, NCLB has been repudiated on ...

Jal Mehta is Associate Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His research explores the underlying structures which shape American schooling, the cultural assumptions which underpin these approaches to education, and the consequences of those decisions for schools, teachers, and students. He is the co-editor of The Fut...

other books by Jal Mehta

Format:PaperbackDimensions:416 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.68 inPublished:April 1, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190231459

ISBN - 13:9780190231453

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Table of Contents

1. The Allure of Order: Rationalizing Schools From the Progressive to the Present2. The Cultural Struggle for Control Over Schooling: The Power of Ideas and the Weakness of the Educational Field3. Taking Control from Above: The Rationalization of Schooling in the Progressive Era4. The Forgotten Standards Movement: The Coleman Report, the Defense Department, and a Nascent Push for Educational Accountability5. Setting the Problem: The Deep Roots and Long Shadows of A Nation at Risk6. A Semi-Profession in an Era of Accountability7. E Pluribus Unum: How Standards and Accountability Became King8. Transforming Federal Policy: Ideas and the Triumph of Accountability Politics9. Rationalizing Schools: Patterns, Ironies, Contradictions10. Beyond Rationalization: Inverting the Pyramid, Remaking the Educational SectorBibliography

Editorial Reviews

"Jal Mehta challenges our tendency to believe that every education reform effort is 'new' and therefore holds fresh promise for improving student performance... Although the value of standards as a primary driver of educational improvement has generated a plethora of literature, Mehta's searchfor why this reform has persisted, despite frustration with student achievement gains, adds depth to an ongoing and urgent policy discussion about strategies to improve student performance." --Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare