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Who's in Charge Here?

Who's in Charge Here?: The Tangled Web of School Governance and Policy

Noel Epstein Editor
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 303
  • Book Info
    Who's in Charge Here?
    Book Description:

    Behind the scenes, a revolution is taking place in primary and secondary education. Once thought sacrosanct, the principle of local lay control has come under growing attack. In the 1970s and 1980s, governors sought greater influence by promulgating academic standards and even taking over failing schools. Mayors soon followed, with some wresting control of struggling local school systems. Atop this, the president and Congress greatly extended their reach into U.S. classrooms with enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which requires annual reading and math tests in grades 3 through 8, tougher yardsticks to measure whether pupils are making sufficient progress, and penalties for schools that persistently fall short. The result is a spider's web of responsibility. It is difficult, if not impossible, to figure out where accountability lies. Not only have municipal, state, and federal authorities reasserted control over the separate education government that the nation long ago created, but an array of other institutions -including the courts, community-based organizations, and education management companies -are also deeply involved in school decisions. These trends have created a growing gap between those who make education policy and those responsible for the results. What's more, they have contributed to widespread confusion about how to fix public education. In Who's in Charge Here? some of the finest minds in education cut through the confusion to analyze key issues such as the Constitution's role in allocating responsibility for education, the pros and cons of growing federal control, how to ensure a supply of talented teachers for the underprivileged, the impact of the school-choice movement, and the expanding non-academic role of schools. Other chapters explore the history of U.S. education governance and propose principles for creating a new system that especially benefits the children who are most in need. The question of who should be in charge of America's schools is likely to occupy the nation for years to come. Based on extensive scholarship and practical experience, Who's in Charge Here? is an important contribution to this critical debate.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-9665-7
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Ted Sanders

    The primary role of the Education Commission of the States (ECS) is to assist state policymakers and others in improving K–12 and higher education in the states and in the nation. The publication of this book, making the work accessible to a wide readership, contributes to our efforts to accomplish that goal.

    For some time now ECS has focused attention on the governance of education. In doing so, it has joined many other individuals and organizations searching for the best possible structure to meet the needs of high-quality public education. Indeed, our great concern about policy issues surrounding student...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. 1 Introduction: Who Should Be in Charge of Our Schools?
    (pp. 1-13)

    It is only common sense that institutions need to have someone in charge, someone who sets goals and strategies and is accountable for results. In business and finance it is the chief executive officer; in the military, the generals and admirals. If one were to sketch an organizational chart of the American elementary and secondary education systems, however, one would discover that there is no such line of responsibility. Instead one would find something closer to a spider’s web that has grown increasingly tangled in recent years—a web in which it is difficult, if not impossible, to figure out...

  6. 2 Turning Points: A History of American School Governance
    (pp. 14-41)

    Was it just because old beliefs die hard? When asked who has the most power to improve public schools, most respondents to a 2002 survey by the Public Education Network andEducation Weeksaid local school boards.¹ The public has been told repeatedly, after all, how much the nation reveres local school control—by those who have been taking away much of that control. So Americans may be forgiven if they have not yet come to grips with the fact that local boards as well as local superintendents and individual schools have for some time been losing influence over education...

  7. 3 The Tenth Amendment and Other Paper Tigers: The Legal Boundaries of Education Governance
    (pp. 42-74)

    American education governance provides fertile ground for myths and misunderstandings. Consider, for example, the belief that the U.S. Constitution leaves states in charge of our schools. The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution declares that “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” Since the Constitution makes no mention of education, federal involvement in this arena must be quite limited, right?

    Tell that to the state education officials required to do Washington’s bidding today under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)....

  8. 4 Recovering from an Accident: Repairing Governance with Comparative Advantage
    (pp. 75-103)

    The following statements can be made with confidence about how American education is run. Clearly it is an accidental system. Nobody of sound mind would have deliberately created the collection of laws, regulations, court orders, intergovernmental relationships, and contracts that goes by the name “education governance.” Nobody ever thought through its costs, benefits, and unintended consequences. If someone had, this ungainly system would have been scrapped long ago. Finally, nobody claims that our governance system is optimized to support teaching and learning. If the system did work, most analysts would be applauding the current state of American education, not wringing...

  9. 5 A Solution That Lost Its Problem: Centralized Policymaking and Classroom Gains
    (pp. 104-130)

    Today’s education reforms are curious. They seek to slay demons that no longer exist. They apply uniform approaches to dissimilar problems. They take power away from local school boards and educators, the only people who can improve what happens in classrooms, and give it to distant officials, who have little capacity to achieve results. In short, the Queen of Hearts would have felt at home with them.

    Education reforms are fashioned, of course, to address real or perceived problems, which sometimes rise to a “crisis,” as, for example, when Americans fear that foreign forces might take over the country. After...

  10. 6 Less than Meets the Eye: Standards, Testing, and Fear of Federal Control
    (pp. 131-163)

    When Washington starts issuing mandates about standards for student learning and how to assess that learning, controversies begin. Such policies, after all, have strong implications for school curriculums, and federal control of curriculum has long been taboo. Since before the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, fear of federal dominance over education and worries about preserving local control have kept federal influence over the content of schooling rather circumscribed.

    Now, however, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) is asserting a strong new role for Washington: directing states to set academic standards, determining how often states...

  11. 7 A Teacher Supply Policy for Education: How to Meet the “Highly Qualified Teacher” Challenge
    (pp. 164-227)

    Recent policy developments have drawn unprecedented attention to teacher quality. To achieve its goals for improved school outcomes, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) requires a “highly qualified teacher” in all classrooms, as well as better-prepared paraprofessionals and public reporting of staff qualifications. This concern has been driven by a growing acknowledgment, fueled by accumulating research evidence, of how critical teachers are to student learning. In this recognition policymakers are catching up with parents, who have long believed that teachers matter most.¹

    To turn the NCLB mandate into a reality, however, the nation will have to overcome...

  12. 8 Multiple “Choice” Questions: The Road Ahead
    (pp. 228-255)

    American federalism, as embodied in the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, rests on the principle that the national government has limited powers and relegates all remaining authority to the states. In recent years this principle has raised many issues in education, an area where federal and state interests often overlap and sometimes conflict. Underlying the federalism concept is the idea of placing decisions closest to the social unit affected by them. This suggests that not only legislatures, school boards, and government agencies must be considered in education policymaking but families and children as well. In this respect, school choice is...

  13. 9 The American Kibbutz? Managing the School’s Family Role
    (pp. 256-288)

    More than thirty years ago, when he was a middle school principal in Philadelphia, Paul Vance was intrigued by Bruno Bettelheim’sThe Children of the Dream, a study of communal child rearing on an Israeli kibbutz and its implications for U.S. education. So Vance joined colleagues in discussions about whether some of the commune’s methods might be applied to Philadelphia schools. “In those days,” he recalls, “it was evident to some of us … that the schools were replacing the family as primary care provider for kids, particularly for poor kids.”¹

    Today, as former superintendent of schools in Washington, D.C.,...

  14. Contributors
    (pp. 289-290)
  15. Index
    (pp. 291-304)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 305-307)