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ERIC Number: EJ883977
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 60
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0091-732X
Naming and Classifying: Theory, Evidence, and Equity in Education
Lucas, Samuel R.; Beresford, Lauren
Review of Research in Education, v34 n1 p25-84 2010
Education names and classifies individuals. This result seems unavoidable. For example, some students will graduate, and some will not. Those who graduate will be "graduates"; those who do not graduate will be labeled otherwise. The only way to avoid such labeling is to fail to make distinctions of any kind. Yet education is rife with distinctions, and as long as there is any nontrivial knowledge involved, labels for the more and less knowledgeable seem inherent to the enterprise. Thus, analysts and policymakers seem to have accepted the inevitability of at least some inequality in education. However, analysts and policymakers demonstrate some concern with the extent to which success or failure in education is associated with other sociodemographic factors. As analysts document and explain such an association, they may facilitate policy responses to improve the education and educational outcomes for the disadvantaged. Yet many factors stand in the way of successful policy response. First, the nominal categories that constitute the sociodemographic dimensions are not simply given. Accordingly, prior to documenting sociodemographic inequality in education, analysts need attend to the theoretical bases of the categories in use. As the theoretical bases of the categories can be replete with contention and controversy, analysts may receive conflicting guidance as they proceed. Setting aside such debate, the very measurement of educational inequality itself is also not a given. Consequently, analysts must draw on the many debates within the literature as they seek to appropriately measure the phenomena of interest. In addition, by itself, empirical research offers little to social analysts and policymakers; theory is essential for drawing proper inferences from the research. Yet the wide set of plausible theories, and strategies of analysis that are not designed to eliminate nonviable theories, can ultimately render social science evidence of little value to policy. These problems, and others, pose serious challenges to the effort to bring social science evidence into the policy discussion on education and inequality. In this chapter, the authors outline the major aspects of these problems and offer some next steps for analysts' effort to bridge the divide between social science research on one hand and policy construction on the other. They draw on the sociological literature that has attended closely to the definition and measurement of social location. A key theme of their assessment is that empirical analyses need become more theory laden if any progress on informing policy is to be realized. (Contains 1 table and 1 note.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A