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ERIC Number: EJ746356
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2004
Pages: 54
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 133
ISSN: ISSN-0091-732X
How Society Failed School Desegregation Policy: Looking Past the Schools to Understand Them
Wells, Amy Stuart; Holme, Jennifer Jellison; Revilla, Anita Tijerina; Atanda, Awo Korantemaa
Review of Research in Education, v28 p47-99 2004
The strongly worded "Brown" ruling discussed at length the importance of public education in preparing students for their adult lives as workers and citizens. In contrast, the Coleman report muted the "Brown" decision's interpretation of public education as a paramount institution and argued instead that the variation in school curriculum and facilities and, to a lesser extent, teacher quality accounted for relatively little difference in student achievement, especially among students of color. This chapter begins by highlighting this distinction between these two landmark documents, as doing so reflects the ongoing ambivalence in the United States over how much responsibility we can and should place on public schools to solve problems that the schools themselves did not create. In the first section of this chapter, the authors trace the history of this pendulum swing from Coleman to the current federal law, No Child Left Behind--from an argument that schools matter very little to a focus on schools as the sole solution to social problems--and consider various political trends that have propelled it, including racial politics and the backlash against school desegregation. Also considered is the role of social science research in the collective understanding of what schools can and cannot accomplish. In the second section, they consider how and why so little of the post-Coleman research on school desegregation offered a more balanced understanding of the role of schools in society, given what these studies were revealing about the difficulty schools faced in overcoming racial inequality and, at the same time, the relative success of desegregation policies in comparison with other school reform models. The third section discusses the authors' 5-year historical study of six high schools that were desegregated in the 1970s and their now-adult graduates from the class of 1980 in order to provide a framework for understanding the intertwined relationship between schools and the larger society. [This article represents Chapter 3 of "Brown's Influence on Education and Education Research: Critical Insights, Uneven Implementation, and Unanticipated Consequences", "Review of Research in Education", v28, 2004 (EJ748129).]
American Educational Research Association. 1230 17th Street NW, Washington, DC 20036-3078. Tel: 202-223-9485; Fax: 202-775-1824; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: No Child Left Behind Act 2001