Educational policymakers and practitioners are today under a constant barrage of calls for reform to produce better student performance. Efforts to improve schooling in the United States are not new, and have waxed and waned over the decades in their urgency and level of public support. The impetus for reform emerged with renewed vigor in the last two decades, fueled by reports such as A Nation at Risk (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983) and, more recently, by the national “Goals 2000” legislation. Driving current reform efforts are concerns about the changing, more competitive world economy and dramatic increases in the number of low-income and racial and ethnic minority children in schools, children whom American schools have too often failed to educate well (Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development, 1989; Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy, 1986; William T. Grant Foundation, 1988). A consensus has emerged that there can be little hope of addressing the increasing levels of social inequity and social problems that confront us daily unless all students receive the quality education necessary for participation, opportunity, and success in today' world.
Into this mix of calls for reform and shifts in the social context in which schools must operate have come a wide array of reform recommendations. Some are linked to the belief that market forces can improve schools, emphasizing such strategies as the privatization of school management and voucher plans.
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