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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Politics of School Reform: A Broader and Bolder Approach for Newark

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A substantial body of evidence has shown that past reforms have largely failed to improve schools in urban areas. After reviewing some of the major reforms that have been undertaken over the last 20 to 30 years the authors conclude that prior efforts failed to address the numerous ways in which poverty influences student academic outcomes and school performance (Coleman et al., 1966; Rothstein, 2004). As a contrast to the decontextualized approach to school improvement that has characterized national reforms, a new strategy to school improvement that is underway in Newark, New Jersey is presented as an alternative model. Conceived as a demonstration model for the Broader and Bolder Approach,2 the Newark strategy follows an approach that has been pursued by the Harlem Children’s Zone, the Children’s Aid Society, and a small number of similar efforts. These initiatives are based on the premise that educational reforms must be designed to counter and mitigate the effects of social and economic conditions in the local environment. The case of Newark is presented as a model for what it might take to enable a greater number of schools in distressed neighborhoods to experience success.

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