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Practicing Disability Studies in Education

Acting Toward Social Change


Edited By David J. Connor, Jan W. Valle and Chris Hale

Practicing Disability Studies in Education: Acting Toward Social Change celebrates the diversity of contemporary work being developed by a range of scholars working within the field of Disability Studies in Education (DSE). The central idea of this volume is to share ways in which educators practice DSE in creative and eclectic ways in order to rethink, reframe, and reshape the current educational response to disability. Largely confined to the limitations of traditional educational discourse, this collective (and growing) group continues to push limits, break molds, assert the need for plurality, explore possibilities, move into the unknown, take chances, strategize to destabilize, and co-create new visions for what can be, instead of settling for what is. Much like jazz musicians who rely upon one another on stage to create music collectively, these featured scholars have been – and continue to – riff with one another in creating the growing body of DSE literature. In sum, this volume is DSE «at work.»
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12. A Disability Studies in Education Analysis of Corporate-Based Educational Reform: Lessons From New Orleans



The city of New Orleans was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. Before the initial flood waters had receded, the city was hit by a second flood of privatized school reform that dismantled the existing public school system. As a result, New Orleans currently has the largest percentage of students enrolled in charter schools of any district in the United States, a “market share” of 84% as of the 2012–2013 academic year (Cowen Institute, 2013, p. 7).

Media reports have upheld New Orleans as an example of the success of privatized school reform, citing improvements in student measures on test scores and college acceptance rates as evidence (Anderson, 2010; Cowen Institute, 2013; Gabor, 2013; New York Times, 2011). However, little attention has been paid to understanding the constellation of effects that the discourses and policies of corporate school reform in New Orleans have had on students with complex support needs. In this chapter, I take up this issue from the perspective of disability studies in education (DSE), an orientation that argues for an examination of the institutional and cultural practices of schooling that shape the appearance, manifestation, and consequences of dis/ability (Collins, 2013; Connor & Gabel, 2013). Drawing on DSE, I examine the discourses and policies of school reform in post-Katrina New Orleans to identify the dominant narrative and how it positions students with complex support needs. I then make visible the profound effects of these policies and practices with...

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