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Peabody Journal of Education, Volume 88, Issue 1, 2013

Contesting Equity in the Twenty-First Century

The United States has long viewed education as a great equalizer. In the American narrative, schools are a place where children have an equal opportunity to demonstrate the hard work, perseverance, and resilience necessary to succeed as adults. While many of the structural and philosophical conditions in American schools have changed—shifting from common schools to segregated schools to the current landscape of public, charter, and private schools—the implicit purpose of schooling has remained much the same. For Americans, public education is the primary pathway to an equitable society, one that allows American talent and optimism to flourish. In this edition of The Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, guest editors Kathryn A. McDermott, Erica Frankenberg, and Sheneka M. Williams broaden the current debate over equal opportunity in education by situating the discussion of equity in the current political environment. McDermott, Frankenberg, and Williams add depth to the conversation by highlighting examples of current policies and practices that either challenge or work to improve equity in schools.

McDermott, Frankenberg, and Williams introduce the issue by noting the difference between equity and equality as the terms are used in education policy. The authors then provide an overview of the arguments for and against equity before moving into a discussion of the issue as a whole. The next article, by Katrina E. Bulkley, lends further clarity to the term “equity” by analyzing how influential actors within the education policy environment view the concept. Featuring 12 semistructured interviews with individuals from influential organizations, the article examines the nuances and tensions present in different views of equity. The issue then shifts its focus to the federal government in Elizabeth DeBray and Ann Elizabeth Blankenship’s article on Congress’ changing role in the delivery of an equitable education. The authors use two different frameworks—federalism and policy instruments—to analyze how Congress’ views on educational opportunity have evolved over time.

Kenneth K. Wong focuses the conversation of equity on a single state in his analysis of the Rhode Island General Assembly’s reformed school funding formula. The article describes how state leaders in Rhode Island overcame recessionary politics and budget shortfalls to enact a major legislative reform on school funding. The next article, by Tiina Itkonen and Robert Ream, is an exploratory case study examining the rise of autism advocacy. The authors focus closely on the relationship between the general rhetoric about autism and the message and political agenda of the nation’s largest autism advocacy group, Autism Speaks. The authors expand on this discussion to provide some implications for future research and advocacy on autism.

The next piece, by Janelle Scott, outlines the trajectory of the parental empowerment narrative in education, beginning with the progressive era and continuing through to today’s modern reforms. Scott utilizes a framework that redefines equity and empowerment as parents’ ability to “purchase” educational opportunity for their children. She then concludes the article by discussing the private sector’s encroachment on public education. Preston C. Green III shifts the conversation to a discussion of the judiciary’s role in addressing the financial disparities encountered by predominantly African-American school districts. Focusing on the implications of past and present finance litigation, Green argues that one way Black students in today’s schools may seek to address funding irregularities is by enacted modified separate-but-equal legal arguments.

Authors Kathryn A. McDermott and Kysa Nygreen focus their article on the developing sense of “new paternalism” in many urban schools, specifically charter schools. The authors describe the features of new paternalism in urban schools—namely, increased instruction time, targeted character education, and strict behavioral expectations—before positing an agenda for future research on the implications and long-term outcomes of new paternalism on urban schools. Ester J. de Jong next explores the different views of language acquisition and learning in the modern education discourse. De Jong breaks the discourse on language learning into two broad categories—assimilationist and pluralist. She then uses these categories to analyze the current education reform efforts before suggesting a new framework that promotes policies affirming cultural identities and multilingual learning environments.

The next article, by Erica Frankenberg and Stephen Kook, focuses on the politics of suburban education, specifically the tendency for students and families to exit diverse urban districts for less diverse suburban districts. Considering this tendency, the authors argue that policymakers’ decisions have led to, and perhaps even encouraged, this practice. Finally, Sheneka M. Williams concludes the issue with an article on the politics of rural school consolidation. The article presents a qualitative, case-study analysis of a single parish in Louisiana, which acts as a starting point for a discussion of poverty, race, and inequity in America’s rural schools.

As always, the Peabody Journal of Education would like to extend its gratitude to Kathryn A. McDermott, Erica Frankenberg, and Sheneka M. Williams for organizing this excellent issue. The PJE is thankful as well to all the authors for their contributions, without which this issue examining equity in education would not be possible. We hope practitioners and researchers alike will find this discussion insightful and useful.

CONTENTS
Journal abstracts are linked to titles.

Introduction: Contesting Equity in the Twenty-First Century
Kathryn A. McDermott, Erica Frankenberg, and Sheneka M. Williams
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 88, No. 1: pages 1-9.

Conceptions of Equity: How Influential Actors View a Contested Concept
Katrina E. Bulkley
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 88, No. 1: pages 10-21.

Future Policy Directions for Congress in Ensuring Equality of Opportunity: Toward Improved Incentives, Targeting, and Enforcement
Elizabeth DeBray and Ann Elizabeth Blankenship
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 88, No. 1: pages 22-36.

The Design of the Rhode Island School Funding Formula: Developing New Strategies on Equity and Accountability
Kenneth K. Wong
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 88, No. 1: pages 37-47.

Autism Advocacy: A Network Striving for Equity
Tim Itkonen and Robert Ream
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 88, No. 1: pages 48-59.

School Choice and the Empowerment Imperative
Janelle Scott
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 88, No. 1: pages 60-73.

Assessing the Role of the Courts in Addressing the Educational Problems Caused by Racial Isolation in School Finance Litigation
Preston C. Green III
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 88, No. 1: pages 74-83.

Educational New Paternalism: Human Capital, Cultural Capital, and the Politics of Equal Opportunity
Kathryn A. McDermott and Kysa Nygreen
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 88, No. 1: pages 84-97.

Policy Discourses and U.S. Language in Education Policies
Ester J. de Jong
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 88, No. 1: pages 98-111.

Demography and Educational Politics in the Suburban Marketplace
Erica Frankenberg and Stephen Kotok
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 88, No. 1: pages 112-126.

Micropolitics and Rural School Consolidation: The Quest for Equal Educational Opportunity in Webster Parish
Sheneka M. Williams
Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 88, No. 1: pages 127-138.


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