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Popular Educational Classics

A Reader

Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis

The last half century has created deep tensions in how we analyze educational and social change. Educators, policymakers, and concerned citizens have had to cope with competing belief systems in evaluating and acting upon school policies and practices. This illuminating book untangles many of the roots of those persistent debates that have divided the nation for so long. It offers readers a critical opportunity to reflect on our continuing ideological struggles by examining popular books that have made a difference in educational discourse.
The editor has specifically selected key books on social and educational controversies that speak to wide audiences. They frame contextual issues that so-called «school reformers» have often neglected – much to the detriment of any real educational progress. Ultimately, this text is meant to stir our consciences, to disorder our certainties, and to compel us to treat education and culture with both reason and passion. It is highly relevant for courses in social foundations of education, school reform, educational policy studies, philosophy of education, history of education, politics of education, curriculum studies, and teacher education.
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Chapter Thirty-Three: Richard Rothstein, Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap (2004)


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Richard Rothstein, Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap (2004)

Leslie S. Kaplan and William A. Owings

Richard Rothstein is a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and senior fellow of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at the University of California (Berkeley) School of Law. He is one of the nation’s leading authorities on the impact of socioeconomic factors on disparities in student achievement. From 1999 to 2002, he was the national education columnist for The New York Times, and he has written extensively on student achievement and school reform. The book that is the subject of this chapter originated in Rothstein’s lectures in 2003–2004 at Teachers College, Columbia University, although some chapters expand work done at EPI or published elsewhere.


Since our nation’s inception, public schools have been America’s chosen means of preparing its children for civic responsibility, economic advancement, and social mobility. In the nineteenth century, Horace Mann called public schools “the great equalizer of the conditions of men—the balance-wheel in the social machinery” (Mann, 1848). For many, however, this has been more the ideal than reality.

Today’s policymakers, education reformers, and the general public assume that the persistent achievement gaps between children of color and White students results from “failing public schools.” They argue that a combination of wrong-headed...

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