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Education > Education Policy and Reform

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From Schoolhouse to Courthouse

The Judiciary's Role in American Education

edited by Joshua M. Dunn and Martin R. West

From race to speech, from religion to school funding, from discipline to special education, few aspects of education policy have escaped the courtroom over the past fifty years. Predictably, much controversy has ensued. Supporters of education litigation contend that the courts are essential to secure student (and civil) rights, while critics insist that the courts distort policy and that the mere threat of litigation undermines the authority of teachers and administrators.

From Schoolhouse to Courthouse brings together experts on law, political science, and education policy to test these claims. Shep Melnick (Boston College) and James Ryan (University of Virginia School of Law) draw lessons from judicial efforts to promote school desegregation and civil rights. Martha Derthick (University of Virginia), John Dinan (Wake Forest University), and Michael Heise (Cornell Law School) discuss litigation over high-stakes testing and school finance in the era of No Child Left Behind. Richard Arum (New York University), Samuel R. Bagenstos (Washington University Law School), and Frederick M. Hess (American Enterprise Institute) analyze the consequences of court rulings for school discipline, special education, and district management. Finally, editors Joshua Dunn and Martin R. West probe the tangled relationship between religious freedom, student speech, and school choice.

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Getting Choice Right

Ensuring Equity and Efficiency in Education Policy

edited by Julian Betts and Tom Loveless

This second volume from the National Working Commission on Choice in K-12 Education examines the connections between school choice and the goals of equity and efficiency in education. The contributors—distinguished university professors, high school administrators, and scholars from research institutions around the country—assess the efficiency of the educational system, analyzing efforts to boost average achievement. Their discussion of equity focuses on the reduction of racial and religious segregation in education, as well as measures to ensure that "no child is left behind." The result is an authoritative and balanced look at how to maximize benefits while minimizing risks in the implementation of school choice. The National Working Commission on Choice in K-12 Education was established to explore how choice works and to examine how communities interested in the potential benefits of new school options could obtain them while avoiding choice's potential harms. In addition to the editors, commissioners include Paul T. Hill and Dan Goldhaber (University of Washington), David Ferrero (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), Brian P. Gill and Laura Hamilton (Rand), Jeffrey R. Henig (Teachers College, Columbia University), Frederick M. Hess (American Enterprise Institute), Stephen Macedo (Princeton University), Lawrence Rosenstock (High Tech High, San Diego), Charles Venegoni (Civitas Schools in Chicago), Janet Weiss (University of Michigan), and Patrick J. Wolf (Georgetown University).

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Getting to Graduation

The Completion Agenda in Higher Education

edited by Andrew P. Kelly and Mark Schneider

The United States, long considered to have the best higher education in the world, now ranks eleventh in the proportion of 25- to 34-year-olds with a college degree. As other countries have made dramatic gains in degree attainment, the U.S. has improved more slowly. In response, President Obama recently laid out a national “completion agenda” with the goal of making the U.S. the best-educated nation in the world by the year 2020. Getting to Graduation explores the reforms that we must pursue to recover a position of international leadership in higher education as well as the obstacles to those reforms. This new completion agenda puts increased pressure on institutions to promote student success and improve institutional productivity in a time of declining public revenue. In this volume, scholars of higher education and public policymakers describe promising directions for reform. They argue that it is essential to redefine postsecondary education and to consider a broader range of learning opportunities—beyond the research university and traditional bachelor degree programs—to include community colleges, occupational certificate programs, and apprenticeships. The authors also emphasize the need to rethink policies governing financial aid, remediation, and institutional funding to promote degree completion.

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A Good Investment?

Philanthropy and the Marketing of Race in an Urban Public School

Amy Brown

Select students and teachers worked the room at a fundraising event for a New York City public high school Amy Brown calls College Preparatory Academy. It was their job to convince wealthy attendants that College Prep, with its largely minority and disadvantaged student body and its unusually high rate of graduation and college acceptance, was a worthy investment. To this end, students and teachers tried to seem needy and deserving, hoping to make supporters feel generous, important, and not threatened. How much, Brown asks, does competition for financing in urban public schools depend on marketing and perpetuating poverty in order to thrive? And are the actors in this drama deliberately playing up stereotypes of race and class?

A Good Investment? offers a firsthand look behind the scenes of the philanthropic approach to funding public education—a process in which social change in education policy and practice is aligned with social entrepreneurship. The appearance of success, equity, or justice in education, Brown argues, might actually serve to maintain stark inequalities and inhibit democracy. Her book shows that models of corporate or philanthropic charity in education can in fact reinforce the race and class hierarchies that they purport to alleviate.

As their voices reveal, the teachers and students on the receiving end of such a system can be critically conscious and ambivalent participants in a school’s racialized marketing and image management. Timely and provocative, this nuanced work exposes the unintended consequences of an education marketplace where charity masquerades as justice.


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Good Little School, A

A Good Little School pays homage to Jefferson County Open School, a public school of choice with a thirty-year history of providing an alternative education for students in K-12. Chronicled in this book are the personal experiences and anecdotes of teachers, parents, and students within the school, and how their contributions make it unique. In so doing, these reflections demonstrate to others that there is more to education than conventional subject areas such as math and reading. Also examined are the ways in which the school preserves the core elements that support the students’ best personal, social, and intellectual interests. These self-reflective accounts create a learning environment with humanity at the center, giving students the skills necessary to lead compassionate lives.

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Higher Education Financing in East and Southern Africa

This nine-country study of higher education financing in Africa includes three East African states (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda), five countries in southern Africa (Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa), and an Indian Ocean island state (Mauritius). Higher Education Financing in East and Southern Africa explores trends in financing policies, paying particular attention to the nature and extent of public sector funding of higher education, the growth of private financing (including both household financing and the growth of private higher education institutions) and the changing mix of financing instruments that these countries are developing in response to public sector financial constraints. This unique collection of African-country case studies draws attention to the remaining challenges around the financing of higher education in Africa, but also identifies good practices, lessons and common themes.

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Higher Education in Africa. Crises, Reforms and Transformation

Higher Education in Africa. Crises, Reforms and Transformation

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Higher Learning, Greater Good

The Private and Social Benefits of Higher Education

Walter W. McMahon

A college education has long been acknowledged as essential for both personal success and economic growth. But the measurable value of its nonmonetary benefits has until now been poorly understood. Walter W. McMahon, a leading education economist, carefully describes these benefits and suggests that higher education accrues significant social and private benefits. McMahon's research uncovers a major skill deficit in the United States and other OECD countries owing to technical change and globalization. Yet a college degree brings better job opportunities, higher earnings, and even improved health. Higher education also promotes democracy and sustainable growth and contributes to reduced crime and lower state welfare and prison costs. These social benefits are substantial in relation to the costs of a college education. Offering a human capital perspective on these and other higher education policy issues, McMahon suggests that poor understanding of the value of nonmarket benefits leads to private underinvestment. He offers policy options that can enable state and federal governments to increase investment in higher education.

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Homeroom Security

School Discipline in an Age of Fear

Aaron Kupchik

Police officers, armed security guards, surveillance cameras, and metal detectors are common features of the disturbing new landscape at many of today's high schools. You will also find new and harsher disciplinary practices: zero-tolerance policies, random searches with drug-sniffing dogs, and mandatory suspensions, expulsions, and arrests, despite the fact that school crime and violence have been decreasing nationally for the past two decades. While most educators, students, and parents accept these harsh policing and punishment strategies based on the assumption that they keep children safe, Aaron Kupchik argues that we need to think more carefully about how we protect and punish students.

In Homeroom Security, Kupchik shows that these policies lead schools to prioritize the rules instead of students, so that students’ real problems—often the very reasons for their misbehavior—get ignored. Based on years of impressive field research, Kupchik demonstrates that the policies we have zealously adopted in schools across the country are the opposite of the strategies that are known to successfully reduce student misbehavior and violence. As a result, contemporary school discipline is often unhelpful, and can be hurtful to students in ways likely to make schools more violent places. Furthermore, those students who are most at-risk of problems in schools and dropping out are the ones who are most affected by these counterproductive policies. Our schools and our students can and should be safe, and Homeroom Security offers real strategies for making them so.

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The Human Right to Language

Communication Access for Deaf Children

Lawrence M. Siegel

In 1982, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Amy Rowley, a deaf six-year-old, was not entitled to have a sign language interpreter in her public school classroom. Lawrence M. Siegel wholeheartedly disagrees with this decision in his new book The Human Right to Language: Communication Access for Deaf Children. Instead, he contends that the United States Constitution should protect every deaf and hard of hearing child’s right to communication and language as part of an individual’s right to liberty. Siegel argues that when a deaf or hard of hearing child sits alone in a crowded classroom and is unable to access the rich and varied communication around her, the child is denied any chance of success in life. In The Human Right to Language, Siegel proposes that the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution be enforced so that Amy Rowley and her peers can possess that which virtually every other American child takes for granted – the right to receive and express thought in school. He asserts that the common notion of a right to “speech” is too infrequently interpreted in the narrowest sense as the right to “speak” rather than the broader right to receive and transmit information in all ways. Siegel reveals that there are no judicial decisions or laws that recognize this missing right, and offers here a legal and constitutional strategy for change. His well-reasoned hypothesis and many examples of deaf children with inadequate communication access in school combine to make a compelling case for changing the status quo.

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