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The Shifting Landscape of the American School District

Race, Class, Geography, and the Perpetual Reform of Local Control, 1935–2015

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Edited By David Gamson and Emily Hodge

The Shifting Landscape of the American School District offers a new perspective on the American school district. The educational system of the United States has long been characterized by its tradition of local control, and the district has symbolized community involvement in education. Scholars have written insightful studies on individual city systems and school districts, but rarely has the district—as an organizational form itself—been the subject of scrutiny, and Americans have continued to take the district for granted as the primary unit of local schooling. In recent years reformers have also built many of their innovations upon the belief that it is the traditional, bureaucratic, hierarchical district that requires overhaul. The Shifting Landscape of the American School District seeks to challenge that perception. The editors argue that the pervasive view of district history—the notion that the school district is a holdover from the progressive reforms of the early twentieth century—has shrouded a fascinating story of the ways in which districts have evolved, innovated, and reacted in response to state and federal mandates, national reform movements, demographic shifts, desegregation, structural/organizational changes, and a shifting political climate. The chapters in this volume offer compelling evidence of the many ways that districts have expanded, contracted, integrated, consolidated, reorganized, and been torn apart over the past century. By covering a wide range of time periods, the authors are able to draw fascinating parallels between the past and present.

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