Besieged: School Boards and the Future of Education Politics

Brookings Institution Press
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School boards are fighting for their survival. Almost everything that they do is subject to regulations handed down from city councils, state boards of education, legislatures, and courts. As recent mayoral and state takeovers in such cities as Baltimore, Chicago, and New York make abundantly clear, school boards that do not fulfill the expectations of other political players may be stripped of what few independent powers they still retain. Teachers unions exert growing influence over board decision-making processes. And with the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, the federal government has aggressively inserted itself into matters of local education governance. B esieged is the first full-length volume in many years to systematically examine the politics that surround school boards. A group of highly renowned scholars, relying on both careful case studies and quantitative analyses, examine how school boards fare when they interact with their political superiors, teachers unions, and the public. For the most part, the picture that emerges is sobering: while school boards perform certain administrative functions quite well, the political pressures they face undermine their capacity to institute the wide-ranging school reforms that many voters and local leaders are currently demanding.
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About the author

William G. Howell is an associate professor in the Government Department at Harvard University and deputy director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Brookings Institution Press
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Published on
Apr 1, 2005
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Pages
356
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ISBN
9780815797692
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Language
English
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Genres
Education / Educational Policy & Reform / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Since the early 1960s, scholarly thinking on the power of U.S. presidents has rested on these words: "Presidential power is the power to persuade." Power, in this formulation, is strictly about bargaining and convincing other political actors to do things the president cannot accomplish alone. Power without Persuasion argues otherwise. Focusing on presidents' ability to act unilaterally, William Howell provides the most theoretically substantial and far-reaching reevaluation of presidential power in many years. He argues that presidents regularly set public policies over vocal objections by Congress, interest groups, and the bureaucracy.

Throughout U.S. history, going back to the Louisiana Purchase and the Emancipation Proclamation, presidents have set landmark policies on their own. More recently, Roosevelt interned Japanese Americans during World War II, Kennedy established the Peace Corps, Johnson got affirmative action underway, Reagan greatly expanded the president's powers of regulatory review, and Clinton extended protections to millions of acres of public lands. Since September 11, Bush has created a new cabinet post and constructed a parallel judicial system to try suspected terrorists.

Howell not only presents numerous new empirical findings but goes well beyond the theoretical scope of previous studies. Drawing richly on game theory and the new institutionalism, he examines the political conditions under which presidents can change policy without congressional or judicial consent. Clearly written, Power without Persuasion asserts a compelling new formulation of presidential power, one whose implications will resound.

A passionate plea to preserve and renew public education, The Death and Life of the Great American School System is a radical change of heart from one of America's best-known education experts.

Diane Ravitch-former assistant secretary of education and a leader in the drive to create a national curriculum-examines her career in education reform and repudiates positions that she once staunchly advocated. Drawing on over forty years of research and experience, Ravitch critiques today's most popular ideas for restructuring schools, including privatization, standardized testing, punitive accountability, and the feckless multiplication of charter schools. She shows conclusively why the business model is not an appropriate way to improve schools. Using examples from major cities like New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, and San Diego, Ravitch makes the case that public education today is in peril.

Ravitch includes clear prescriptions for improving America's schools:
leave decisions about schools to educators, not politicians or businessmendevise a truly national curriculum that sets out what children in every grade should be learningexpect charter schools to educate the kids who need help the most, not to compete with public schoolspay teachers a fair wage for their work, not "merit pay" based on deeply flawed and unreliable test scoresencourage family involvement in education from an early age
The Death and Life of the Great American School System is more than just an analysis of the state of play of the American education system. It is a must-read for any stakeholder in the future of American schooling.
All American presidents, past and present, have cared deeply about power--acquiring, protecting, and expanding it. While individual presidents obviously have other concerns, such as shaping policy or building a legacy, the primacy of power considerations--exacerbated by expectations of the presidency and the inadequacy of explicit powers in the Constitution--sets presidents apart from other political actors. Thinking about the Presidency explores presidents' preoccupation with power. Distinguished presidential scholar William Howell looks at the key aspects of executive power--political and constitutional origins, philosophical underpinnings, manifestations in contemporary political life, implications for political reform, and looming influences over the standards to which we hold those individuals elected to America's highest office.

Howell shows that an appetite for power may not inform the original motivations of those who seek to become president. Rather, this need is built into the office of the presidency itself--and quickly takes hold of whoever bears the title of Chief Executive. In order to understand the modern presidency, and the degrees to which a president succeeds or fails, the acquisition, protection, and expansion of power in a president's political life must be recognized--in policy tools and legislative strategies, the posture taken before the American public, and the disregard shown to those who would counsel modesty and deference within the White House.

Thinking about the Presidency assesses how the search for and defense of presidential powers informs nearly every decision made by the leader of the nation. In a new preface, Howell reflects on presidential power during the presidency of Barack Obama.

“Drop the flashcards—grit, character, and curiosity matter even more than cognitive skills. A persuasive wake-up call.”—People

Why do some children succeed while others fail? The story we usually tell about childhood and success is the one about intelligence: success comes to those who score highest on tests, from preschool admissions to SATs. But in How Children Succeed, Paul Tough argues that the qualities that matter more have to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, optimism, and self-control.

How Children Succeed introduces us to a new generation of researchers and educators, who, for the first time, are using the tools of science to peel back the mysteries of character. Through their stories—and the stories of the children they are trying to help—Tough reveals how this new knowledge can transform young people’s lives. He uncovers the surprising ways in which parents do—and do not—prepare their children for adulthood. And he provides us with new insights into how to improve the lives of children growing up in poverty. This provocative and profoundly hopeful book will not only inspire and engage readers, it will also change our understanding of childhood itself.

“Illuminates the extremes of American childhood: for rich kids, a safety net drawn so tight it’s a harness; for poor kids, almost nothing to break their fall.”—New York Times

“I learned so much reading this book and I came away full of hope about how we can make life better for all kinds of kids.”—Slate
As the central feature on the American political landscape, it is only natural that scholars and commentators focus on the presidency. So much is written about the subject, in fact, that it is often difficult to know where we stand in our understanding of it. The Oxford Handbook of the American Presidency will help scholars assess the state of scholarship on the presidency and the directions in which it needs to move. Never before has the academic literature on the American presidency received such an extended treatment. Nearly three dozen chapters critically assess both the major contributions to a literature on a dimension of the presidency and the ways in which the literature has developed. The authors of each chapter seek to identify weaknesses in the existing literature- be they logical flaws, methodological errors, oversights, or some combination therein-and to offer their views about especially productive lines of future inquiry. Equally important, the authors also identify areas of research that are unlikely to bear additional fruits. These chapters offer a distinctive point of view, an argument about the successes and failures of past scholarship, and a set of recommendations about how future work ought to develop. Thus, this volume will help set the agenda for research on the presidency for the next decade. The Oxford Handbooks of American Politics are a set of reference books offering authoritative and engaging critical overviews of the state of scholarship on American politics. Each volume focuses on a particular aspect of the field. The project is under the General Editorship of George C. Edwards III, and distinguished specialists in their respective fields edit each volume. The Handbooks aim not just to report on the discipline, but also to shape it as scholars critically assess the scholarship on a topic and propose directions in which it needs to move. The series is an indispensable reference for anyone working in American politics. General Editor for The Oxford Handbooks of American Politics: George C. Edwards III.
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