School Reform That Matters

By Michael C. Johanek

A "loving critic" of the U.S., Dean Kishore Mahbubani at the National University of Singapore, suggests that "American society could ... fail if it does not force itself to conceive of failure." Our "first systemic failure," claims Mahbubani, is "groupthink." evident in our collective inability to challenge the "manifest nonsense" from financial sector officials years ago. Today, "the belief that American society allows every idea to be challenged has led Americans to assume that every idea is challenged. They have failed to notice when their minds have been enveloped in groupthink."[1]

Might this apply to our ideas about school reform? Have we slipped into groupthink, holding fast to our belief that X will lead to better outcomes for our kids, despite persistent evidence to the contrary?

Let's consider some 30,000-foot-view evidence. Our best collective achievement measure, long-term results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, remains distressingly flat; the progress of recent decades in narrowing group outcome differences has apparently stalled. "We do not see a lot of progress in closing the achievement gap," said Stuart Kerachsky, Acting Commissioner, National Center for Education Statistics, earlier this year.[2] Despite several billion dollars of philanthropy and federal support, high school graduation, while varying wildly across states, has remained "essentially flat" since 2002.[3] In a recent analysis of our international performance, the U.S. appears not only weak, but wasteful; the "U.S. spends $165 to get a point on PISA math, about 60% more than the OECD average."[4]

And what about specific reform ideas? Just as the limited impact of "standards-based" reform becomes clearer, efforts by the states and testing organizations to develop national standards are ramping up. One recent analysis of the impact of standards-based reform on the poverty gap predicts "as much rain as sunshine," acknowledging "unrealistic expectations," "inadequate implementation" and the need for "more rigorous research on a wider variety of educational practices ... designed explicitly to identify effective instruction for disadvantaged children."[5] One recalls New York School Superintendent Sobol's plea over a decade ago to move "beyond standards." Or Linda Darling-Hammond, 15 years ago, arguing that national standards and assessments diminish the "many pathways to learning," fail to advance resource equalization, and were already then proving to be "inappropriate vehicles for enhancing teaching and stimulating school change."[6]

Charter schools enjoy top billing as a reform item today, though recent research confirms that "in the aggregate, charter students are not faring as well as their [traditional public school] counterparts."[7] Reform  cities like New York and Chicago, with promising work underway, have received bracing critiques.[8] Even recognizing valiant efforts and some hard-won progress - increased attention to subgroup performance, progress on longitudinal data systems, large district reforms, and a developing entrepreneurial sector - we see little on the dominant school reform landscape that bears credible evidence of potential for significant breakthrough.[9]

Though it is tempting, we should not conclude an assessment like this with a knee-jerk abandonment of all current ideas. Given the deteriorating conditions affecting many youth, low-slope progress arguably represents significant school impact by many dedicated educators.  More ambitious standards, enhanced assessments, more varied and autonomous governance, better data systems, improved teacher pay schemes, and technology-enabled solutions will likely contribute to future progress.  But if we persist in our current approach, we can anticipate, at best, decades of slow progress.

Consider two Maryland communities- the City of Baltimore and Carroll County. Drive the 45 minutes northwest from the inner city into the nearby county and the percentage of low-birth-weight babies drops in half, the infant mortality rate more than two-thirds, and juvenile arrest rate 80 percent.[10] In Baltimore, high school graduation rates are less than half of those in the surrounding metropolitan area, a 47-point gap, the highest nationally. The surrounding suburban districts' average graduation rate ranks well ahead of all 50 principal large-city districts in the nation.[11] While diminishing schools' responsibilities for disparities in achievement and outcomes is inexcusable, ignoring the impact of these dramatically different contexts in which children are raised and educated is dangerously naïve. Considering these neighboring communities, do we find our key reform ideas - standards, charters, data systems, etc. - necessary? Yes, perhaps. Woefully insufficient? Yes, certainly.  Knowing that these powerfully distinct contexts affect educational outcomes, why would we limit our educational policy solutions to a single institution in the community?

Waste Management
"All waste is due to isolation," Dewey wrote in 1899.  To escape our groupthink, we need to overcome the wasteful isolation of educational reform within school reform.  John Dewey wrestled with this a century ago, and his work may help us reframe "education" so as to encompass the wider set of educating influences current reform often ignores.  In our moment of fiscal crisis, we can overcome wasteful isolation at three levels.        

First, "from the standpoint of the child," claimed Dewey, "the great waste in the school comes from his inability to utilize the experiences he gets outside the school in any complete and free way within the school itself; while, on the other hand, he is unable to apply in daily life what he is learning at school. That is the isolation of the school - its isolation from life." From here emanates a long painful history of efforts to "arouse in the child an interest in school studies."[12]

Here are clear design implications for standards, curriculum autonomy and accountability policies.  Given that boredom, disconnection, and irrelevance contribute powerfully to students leaving school -- a pernicious "waste" estimated at $192 billion per cohort of 18 year olds -- we cannot treat this narrowly, as simply an instrumental need for more exciting curricular units, pedagogy, or school-work programs.[13] Relationships remain critical to impact.  By design if not intent, schools waste resources through their isolation from the lives of their students and families, and then spend additional resources in programs intended to combat the "crisis" of dropouts, low graduation rates, chronic absences, and disengaged youth.

Second, we often isolate schools from other youth and family services, despite overwhelming evidence that educational outcomes result from a range of school and non-school factors. Scholars emphasizing an "ecological" tradition, from at least Bronfenbrenner to Spencer, have built an extensive literature conceptualizing the interplay of factors affecting youth educational development[14], and empirical work decomposing student achievement variance provides ample evidence of school and non-school factors at play. Perhaps two-thirds of that variance is a function of factors external to schools - although many consider that estimate an optimistic interpretation of schooling's impact on educational outcomes.[15]

Examining low high school graduation rates, Balfanz et al. identified the local economy, "scale of population growth," "the speed with which the community is becoming multicultural," the "community's commitment to public education," and the "labor market for young people" as "important factors to consider." [16] Exploring "the role of neighborhood disadvantage in explaining verbal ability" Sampson et al. found the effect rivaled that of missing a year of school and concluded the need for "a more comprehensive approach to investing in and thereby improving the neighborhood contexts to which children are exposed as they develop cognitive skills crucial for later achievement in life."[17]

Two Penn colleagues recently looked at second-graders in a large Northeastern city, modeling by type and amount how their "multiple risk context ... is significantly associated with poor early educational outcomes."  The numbers are striking; by second grade, 20% had already experienced homelessness, they suffered "substantiated child maltreatment" at four times the national average, and 70% lived in poverty.  Of African-American boys, "39% had been exposed to toxic levels of lead."[18]  "These findings underscore the injustice of holding public educators responsible solely for the educational well being of our most vulnerable children."[19]

Despite this evidence, students and families generally have to navigate isolated multiple agencies, with each agency, school included, struggling to get a complete enough picture to address cases efficiently and effectively. Indeed, absent cross-dataset modeling against student outcomes, the specific foundational drivers of student performance in a given community may be little understood.[20] Despite the promise of service integration under mayoral control, much of our school reform agenda continues to treat schools separately from other sectors that may, on the ground, be serving the same families and students.[21]


A Nascent Social Movement
The present fiscal crisis seems an opportunity to revisit this wasteful isolation of schooling from context, and several trends already are moving schools and other social sectors in this direction.[22] For example, 15 years ago Jefferson County, Kentucky, created the award-winning public partnership, Neighborhood Place, in part an outgrowth of school reform demands. Representatives from the school district, human service agencies, and community organizations developed an ongoing collaborative structure to plan, operate, and evaluate support provided to their overlapping client families. [23] Co-located services in 11 regional sites include health, mental health, juvenile services, school-related services, financial and housing assistance, and child and adult welfare services.

The out-of-school-time movement offers some notable efforts as well: community-responsive programming, extended hours for community use of schools, and significant partnerships with community organizations.[24] The "community schools" movement, currently enjoying a resurgence and broadened support, has been addressing this interplay of educating factors for years. In West Philadelphia, a health focus integrates science curriculum, vocational preparation, after-school programs, community needs assessment, and services. In Port Chester, New York, school officials created partnerships to address health issues, second language concerns, afterschool needs, and teacher preparation, building from community data collection and stakeholder participation.[25]  Through efforts like Community YouthMapping and Y-Plan, many communities directly engage youth in the process of advising, data collection, designing and implementing more integrated approaches to youth development, thus tapping "client" perspectives in reducing wasteful isolation and in cultivating future civic leaders. In Hampton, Virginia, youth leaders work side by side with adult leaders in city planning, parks and recreation, neighborhood associations, and school systems. [26]

Nationally, attention to the Harlem Children's Zone, along with similar "zones" across the country, and the federal Promise Neighborhoods initiative signals broadened interest in addressing youth development across agency boundaries; a prior federal cross-agency effort, the Shared Youth Vision Partnership, was initiated under the Bush administration.[27] Initiatives like Ready by 21, along with the growth of "children's cabinets," "smart systems," and "youth master plans" in recent years, may reveal an emerging consensus from multiple sectors and across partisan lines. Each pushes beyond a single-agency "focus on narrow needs and supports," and toward the less wasteful, more integrated "strategy for youth" that Timpane and Reich urged a decade ago.[28] Overseas, the need is not lost on our "competitor" nations; for example, ambitious efforts are underway in England, as it seeks nationally to integrate locally delivered services to youth and families, including, very preliminarily it seems, "inter-agency governance," "pooled budgets," unified case management system and "integrated front-line delivery organised around the child."[29]

Whence the Common Good?
Imagine a headline we'll probably never read: "Less than Half of Local High School Graduates Vote - Superintendent Fired."[30] We justify public subsidies to compulsory education by the assurance that it serves the common good, and yet our reform work barely speaks to any such collective measure.

Our groupthink is shaped by this third factor as well: school reform's frequent isolation from broader public aims, especially democratic development. Here is a true accountability gap - and in the very outcomes by which we justify taxpayer support. Rather, our efforts to gauge public outcomes focus on economic development and are greatly overshadowed by the private goal of economic mobility, no doubt a legitimate end but certainly insufficient unto itself.

How do we fill this public accountability gap in education, and speak plainly about what we expect this sector to provide the republic? As David Labaree has argued, "the increasing hegemony of the mobility goal and its narrow consumer-based approach to education have led to the reconceptualization of education as a purely private good."[31] The stunning absence of this conversation in much K-12 policy belies the Commencement Day rhetoric and betrays the public trust; it also isolates from the wider civic discourse the experiences and insights of those working daily with the next generations of our polis. Notwithstanding the many civically engaged educators and community members, our national discussion of school reform remains too often isolated from larger conversations of our democratic identity, exactly in a moment of renewed civic engagement.

Why do we speak of improving the schools with rarely a reference to our democratic development? Some argue that long ago school professionals struck a Faustian bargain; let us alone in our school matters and we'll stay out of these larger issues, especially politics. As school systems developed, those working in them chose a narrowed profession over what some saw as a social prophetic role.[32] Those who have experienced any turbulent school board meetings lately can understand educator reticence at seeking a more heightened role in public or collective issues. Moreover, our ability even to measure the collective capacities involved remains limited; the development of what Raudenbush calls "ecometrics" pales in comparison to our highly refined measures of individual capacities in psychometrics.[33] The time demands of the day job alone can be overwhelming, and serious job restructuring would need to precede increased work outside the school walls.[34] Professional boundaries, budgets and all, urge school practitioners to stay within their sandbox, indeed to seek whatever buffer they can from the larger political fray.

But this isolating element of our groupthink regularly undermines our ability to sustain improvement. In cities, for example, urban school leaders have "sought to insulate themselves from the pressures that permeate municipal government." Instead of futilely attempting to isolate themselves, Hess argued a decade ago, "reformers of public schooling should seek political incentives that encourage the system leadership to focus on performance and long-term progress rather than public relations and short-term elixirs."[35]

Experience from various cities argues the necessity of political engagement; in the unsteady "punctured equilibrium" of reforming school systems, we need to renegotiate relationships across all players.  However, systems rarely reform themselves. "Some form of civic mobilization seems essential," and this requires conscious efforts to reconcile different problem definitions, to build new institutional arrangements, and to create a new institutional legacy. This is politics of a very old sort. As Stone et al. argued after reviewing 11 school systems in depth, "Americans spent most of the twentieth century trying to get politics out of education. That was a mistake."[36] The evidence that collective forces can either sustain or undermine school improvement means that isolating school reform from larger community dynamics inevitably leads to wasted initiative, wasted resources, and wasted time.[37]

Integration and Future Policy
When we isolate our school reform approaches from the lived experiences of children, from other service delivery, and from broader public goals, we ignore what we know about sustainable educational improvement. Why do we ignore the empirical evidence that demands an integrated approach to education? Why do we isolate our favorite initiative (Standards! Charters! Performance pay!) and wave it on a banner pretending that it's a policy approach when thoughtful policy and reform demands so much more?

Dewey suggested an uncomfortable truth: mental sloth.[38] Favoring specific variables avoids "the effort of thought," argued Dewey. "It is easier to see the conditions in their separateness, to insist upon one at the expense of the other, to make antagonists of them, than to discover a reality to which each belongs."[39] Efficient educational development requires understanding and supporting interactions of children in their developmental ecology. That is the stubborn reality.

"Nothing that ever occurs in the social world occurs ‘net of other variables,'" observed sociologist Andrew Abbott. "All social facts are located in contexts. So why bother to pretend that they are not?" Per Abbott, the earlier "Chicago school," a "contextualist, interactionist tradition," bears revisiting if we wish to resolve messy issues that live on the ground and not just in our heads. "No social fact makes any sense abstracted from its context...."[40]  "[T]he easy thing," claimed Dewey, "is to seize upon something ... and insist upon that as the key to the whole problem.  When this happens a really serious practical problem - that of interaction - is transformed into an unreal, and hence insoluble, theoretic problem."[41]

Republican rural school principal Lyda Hanifan knew the practical implications of "interaction" in West Virginia last century. Decades later, socialist urban school principal Leonard Covello knew it, too. Many innovative school leaders know it today. "To single out the rural school and strive to improve it very greatly," declared Hanifan in 1912, "without at the same time improving other rural conditions and institutions will result in failure."[42] "First ... there must be an accumulation of community social capital."[43] For Covello in New York City, "the surging life of the community ... the streets, motion pictures, dances, gangs, social clubs, churches, settlement houses, communal codes of morals and behavior are making daily and hourly impacts upon [a student's] mind and consciousness. ...[The school must] see that the constructive forces in the community are drawn solidly together in support of educational programs for the development of the child and in behalf of a more wholesome community life."[44]

When Lawrence Cremin wrote his magisterial history of U.S. education, he described shifting configurations of institutions educating Americans across three centuries - schools and colleges, yes, but also lyceums, churches, the penny press, YMCAs, mechanics institutes, newspapers, and so on. We continue this richly diversified American "paideia," "compounded of evangelical pieties, democratic hopes, and utilitarian strivings," and educate ourselves through an expanding range of institutions, experiences and technologies. By not isolating education to schooling, nor schools from our wider community life, we honor this rich heritage. We may thus escape the bounded notions of our current reform groupthink, rooted in layers of wasteful isolation, and find common ground with the many innovators, past and present, who refuse to see educational improvement as less than our common effort to define ourselves anew.

[1] Mahbubani, Kishore. "Can America Fail?" The Wilson Quarterly.Spring (2009).

[2] Vanneman, A., Hamilton, L., Baldwin Anderson, J., and Rahman, T. (2009). Achievement Gaps: How Black and White Students in Public Schools Perform in Mathematics and Reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, (NCES 2009-455). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC; Rampey, B.D., Dion, G.S., and Donahue, P.L. (2009). NAEP 2008 Trends in Academic Progress (NCES 2009-479). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C.; overall, the longer trend re: achievement gaps appears to be one of considerable progress since the early 70's (20% and 23% narrower black-white and Latino-white gaps 1972-2004 senior cohorts, though with a .8 and .62 s.d. gap remaining), with slower progress from the late 90's forward; see Berends, Mark, and Roberto V. Penaloza. "Increasing Racial Isolation and Test Score Gaps in Mathematics: A 30-Year Perspective." Teachers College Record 112, 4 (2010): 2-3; Magnuson, Katherine, and Jane Waldfogel, eds. Steady Gains and Stalled Progress. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2008.

[3] Balfanz, Robert, and Thomas C. West. Raising Graduation Rates: A Series of Data Briefs Progress toward Increasing National and State Graduation Rates. Baltimore, MD: Everyone Graduates Center, Center for Social Organization of Schools, Johns Hopkins University, 2009: 2.

[4] The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America's Schools. McKinsey & Company, Social Sector Office, 2009: 9.

[5] Gamoran, Adam, ed. Standards-Based Reform and the Poverty Gap -- Lessons for No Child Left Behind. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2007: 7, 16.

[6] Sobol, Thomas. "Beyond Standards: The Rest of the Agenda." Teachers College Record 98.4 (1997): 629-36; Darling-Hammond, Linda. "National Standards and Assessments: Will They Improve Education?" American Journal of Education.102 (1994): 480-1.

[7] Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States. Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), Stanford University, 2009: 6.

[8] Committee, Civic. Still Left Behind - Student Learning in Chicago's Public Schools. Chicago, IL: The Commercial Club of Chicago, 2009; and Ravitch, Diane, et al. NYC Schools under Bloomberg and Klein: What Parents, Teachers, and Policymakers Need to Know. Published in association with Class Size Matters, NY. ed. New York, NY: Lulu, 2009.

[9] I realize that such a broad indictment warrants considerably more development than this essay allows, and only offer suggestive notes here.  Currently "dominant" school reform discussions include consideration of charters, technology, performance incentives, upgraded standards, 21st century skills, a push for greater and more publicly transparent accountability, and teacher quality initiatives.  There is no doubt that some important progress is underway, as mentioned above, and that organizational shifts placing greater control of support functions in the hands of front-line leadership, as in NYC, should yield some improved responsiveness overall.  A recent quick summary of the argument for taking into account a wider set of variables can be found in Rothstein, Richard. "Equalizing Opportunity -- Dramatic Differences in Children's Home Life and Health Mean That Schools Can't Do It Alone." American Educator, Summer 2009: 4-7; 45-6; see also Rothstein, Richard. Out of Balance:  Our Understanding of How Schools Affect Society and How Society Affects Schools. Chicago, IL: The Spencer Foundation, 2002. In terms of available interventions, none approach the impact needed to close the various achievement gaps; in a presentation last year at Penn, an IES officer indicated that interventions they had assessed would need to be 3-4 times as powerful to close the gap. Dean Porter, in an assessment of a series of suggested reforms, concluded that schools alone would not likely address this gap. Porter, Andrew C. "Prospects for School Reform in Closing the Achievement Gap." Measurement and Research in the Accountability Era. Ed. C.A. Dwyer. Mahway, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005. 59-95.  Useful international comparison can be found in several studies, such as Darling-Hammond, Linda. "Third Annual Brown Lecture in Education Research the Flat Earth and Education: How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future." Educational Researcher 36.6 (2007): 318-34.  Some argue that a combination of measures, including charters and intensified accountability schemes, offer greatest promise.  A recent assessment of "innovations" in the pipeline provide useful cautionary notes, as well as promising "process" improvements, reflective of dozens of other more systematic studies.  See Whitehurst, Grover "Russ. "Innovation, Motherhood and Apple Pie." Brown Center Letters on Education, Brookings Institution, March, 2009.   Yet in sum, it would be difficult to marshall evidence indicating that the large differences in subgroup achievement, for example, will dramatically diminish given current trends.

[10] Kids Count Data Center, Annie E. Casey Foundation, accessed in early August 2009 at .  Carroll County: ; Baltimore City: .

[11] Swanson, Christopher. Cities in Crisis -- a Special Analytic Report on High School Graduation. Bethesda, MD: Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, 2008.

[12] Dewey, John. The School and Society. Revised, 1915 ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1899: 67.

[13] Bridgeland, John M., Jr. John J. DiIulio, and Karen Burke Morison. The Silent Epidemic -- Perspectives of High School Dropouts: Civic Enterprises in association with Peter D. Hart Research Associates for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2006; Rumberger, Russell W. Solving California's Dropout Crisis. California Dropout Research Project, 2008; Dropouts, Diplomas, and Dollars: U.S. High Schools and the Nation's Economy. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education, 2008; Left Behind in America: The Nation's Dropout Crisis. Boston, MA: Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University; Alternative Schools Network, Chicago, 2009; Rouse, Cecilia Elena. "Labor Market Consequences of an Inadequate Education." Equity Symposium on "The Social Costs of Inadequate Education" Teachers' College, Columbia University, 2005: 24.

[14] Bronfenbrenner, Urie, et al. The State of Americans - This Generation and the Next. New York: The Free Press, 1996; Bronfenbrenner, Urie. Making Human Beings Human: Bioecological Perspectives on Human Development. The Sage Program on Applied Developmental Science. SAGE Publications (CA), 2004; Spencer, M.B., Dupree, D., & Hartmann, T. (1997). A phenomenological variant of ecological systems theory (PVEST): A self-organization perspective in context. Development and Psychopathology, 9, 817-833; Lee, Carol D., Margaret Beale Spencer, and Vinay Harpalani. ""Every Shut Eye Ain't Sleep": Studying How People Live Culturally." Educational Researcher 32.5 (2003): 6-13.

[15]  Work dates back even before Coleman, and includes more recent work by scholars including Berends, Cook, Evans, Ferguson, Grissmer, Hedges, Koretz, Magnuson, Neal, Porter, Rothstein, and Waldfogel; on the impact of relative community poverty on verbal capacity, see Sampson et al (2007) cited below; re: parenting practices, see Lareau, Annette. "Invisible Inequality: Social Class and Childrearing in Black Families and White Families." American Sociological Review 67.5 (2002): 747-76; Rothstein, Richard. 2004. Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap. New York: Teachers College Press.; Shonkoff, Jack P., and Deborah A. Phillips, eds. From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. Washington, D.C.: Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development, Board on Children, Youth, and Families, National Academy of Sciences, 2000; Berends, Mark, and Roberto V. Penaloza. "Increasing Racial Isolation and Test Score Gaps in Mathematics: A 30-Year Perspective." Teachers College Record 112 4 (2010): 2-3; Magnuson, Katherine, and Jane Waldfogel, eds. Steady Gains and Stalled Progress. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2008; Jencks, Christopher and Meredith Phillips (eds.). 1998. The Black-White Test Score Gap. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution; Barton, Paul. 2003. Parsing the Achievement Gap. Baselines for Tracking Progress, October. Princeton, N.J.: Policy Information Center, Educational Testing Service.

[16] Balfanz, Robert, et al. Graduating America: Meeting the Challenge of Low Graduation-Rate High Schools. Baltimore, MD; Washington, DC: Everyone Graduates Center, Johns Hopkins University; Jobs for the Future, 2009: 6.

[17] Sampson, Robert J. "The Neighborhood Context of Well-Being." Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 46.3 (2003): S53-S64; Sampson, Robert J., Patrick Sharkey, and Stephen W. Raudenbush. "Durable Effects of Concentrated Disadvantage on Verbal Ability among African-American Children." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2007): 0710189104; p.8.

[18] Fantuzzo, John. "The Educational Well-Being of African American Boys -- a Philadelphia Story of Challenges & Possibilities." Summary of the Albert M. Greenfield Memorial Lecture given at the University of Pennsylvania, April 30, 2009.  Accessed at .

[19] Rouse, Heather L., and John W. Fantuzzo. "Multiple Risks and Educational Well Being: A Population-Based Investigation of Threats to Early School Success." Early Childhood Research Quarterly 24.1 (2009): 12.

[20] Sources incorporated in other notes.

[21] Sources incorporated in other notes.

[22] Re: the fiscal crisis, both federal and state level trends indicate a tight budget future.  While federal spending on children since 1960 has risen in absolute dollars and as a percentage of GDP, it has also declined as a percentage of the federal budget, from 20.2 to 16.2%; deficit concerns and the claims of other reforms dominate current discussions.  Carasso, Adam, et al. Kids' Share 2008 -- How Children Fare in the Federal Budget. Washington, DC: Urban Institute and New American Foundation, 2008.  At the state level, a recent survey indicated that "While the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has helped states avoid draconian levels of cuts, it will not end the need for states to cut spending as exhibited by the 2.5 percent decline in governors' recommended budgets for fiscal 2010."   Husch, Ben, et al. The Fiscal Survey of the States: National Governors Association, National Association of State Budget Officers, 2009.  See also

Re: collaboration in other sectors: Ross, Timothy. Child Welfare: The Challenges of Collaboration. Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press, 2009; Ragan, Mark. Building Better Human Service Systems -- Integrating Services for Income Support and Related Programs. Albany, NY: Prepared for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Casey Strategic Consulting Group, by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, State University of New York, 2003; 12-state study; Annie E. Casey Foundation Making Connections initiatives; while estimating cost savings is tricky in these initiatives, the state of Minnesota now conservatively estimates savings of $180 million annually through its proposed "Bottom Line" multi-county shared human services system; see Armajani, Babak. Minnesota's Bottom Line 3-18-09. St. Paul, MN: Prepared by Public Strategies Group, 2009; see also Martinson, Karin, et al. The Minnesota Integrated Services Project: Final Report on an Initiative to Improve Outcomes for Hard-to-Employ Welfare Recipients. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute, 2009; for a European assessment, see Munday, Brian. Integrated Social Services in Europe. Strasbourg, France: Council of Europe, 2007; within education, a growing literature looks at both the community role in school improvement as well as a school role in community development.

Often cross-agency collaboration arises out of a local crisis, both currently and historically, as professionals and community members address a "crisis" in dropouts, early childhood or juvenile delinquency. Recently, this pattern was evident in the formation of such collaborative strategies as the Parramore Kids Zone in Orlando, FL, and the LA Education Coordinating Council.  In the early 1930's, after a 12-year-old murdered her playmate, fearful she would reveal the "sex play" into which they had been inducted by a local adult, Hastings-on-Hudson (NY) decided to establish its coordinating council. (Johanek, Michael C., and John L. Puckett. Leonard Covello and the Making of Benjamin Franklin High School : Education as If Citizenship Mattered. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2007: 44-5) Over 250 "coordinating councils" operated in over 20 states during the Great Depression, pulling together in a variety of forms the various youth-facing agencies in town. "[O]ne of the most significant movements of our time," declared a study of the councils:

During this period of uncertainty, of economic depression, of loss of morale ... when family life is said to be disintegrating ... we are surprised to find groups of people who seem to know where they are going, who have found ways of improving their communities and their home life, who are not discouraged but are enthusiastic beyond the belief of one who has not witnessed it, and who are definitely assisting youth to find its place. (Beam (1936): 33)

[23] The Neighborhood Place was named one of the top 50 innovations in government by the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation, The Kennedy School, Harvard University, for 2009. Designated coordinators within each Place have responsibility for "helping children and their families reduce the barriers to learning," Neighborhood Place -- 2008 Services and Outcomes Report. Louisville, KY, 2008, accessed 3 Aug 09 at ; see .

[24] Little, Priscilla M.D., Christopher Wimer, and Heather B. Weiss. After School Programs in the 21st Century: Their Potential and What It Takes to Achieve It: Harvard Family Research Project, 2008; Goerge, Robert M., et al. After-School Programs and Academic Impact a Study of Chicago's after School Matters. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall, University of Chicago, 2007; ; After-School Grows Up: Helping Teens Prepare for the Future. Washington, DC: Forum for Youth Development, 2009.

[25] Johanek, Michael C., and John L. Puckett. Leonard Covello and the Making of Benjamin Franklin High School : Education as If Citizenship Mattered. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2007; Benson, Lee, et al. "The Enduring Appeal of Community Schools." American Educator. Summer (2009): 22-29; 47. The summer issue of the American Educator, AFT's quarterly, focuses on school-community linkages.

[26] Sirianni, Carmen. Investing in Democracy -- Engaging Citizens in Collaborative Governance. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2009: Ch. 4; see also McKoy, Deborah L., and Jeffrey M. Vincent. "Engaging Schools in Urban Revitalization: The Y-Plan (Youth--Plan, Learn, Act, Now!)." Journal of Planning Education and Research 26.4 (2007): 389-403; Community YouthMapping operates under the Academy for Educational Development, ; youth community organizing efforts have also been notable; Hosang, Daniel. Youth and Community Organizing Today. New York: Funders' Collaborative on Youth Organizing, 2003; Ishihara, Kohei. Urban Transformations: Youth Organizing in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. New York: Funders' Collaborative for Youth Organizing, 2007; AERA recently added a SIG to focus on research in this area, ; Robison, Susan, and Jenny Cooke. Engaging Youth in Community Decision Making. Washington, DC: Center for the Study of Social Policy, 2007.

[27] Tough, Paul. Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2008; ; see also, e.g., Parramore Kids Zone at or the East Lake Model at ; Associates, Abt. Common Sense, Uncommon Commitment: A Progress Report on the Shared Youth Vision Partnership. Washington, DC: Division of Youth Services, U.S. Department of Labor, 2009.

[28] Ready by 21 national partnership organization managed by the Forum for Youth Development and with a lead role by the United Way; see ; re: Children's Cabinets, see Gaines, Elizabeth, Nalini Ravindranath, and June Folliard. 2008 Directory of State Children's Cabinets and Councils. Washington, D.C.: Forum for Youth Development, 2007; Segal, Ann, Lisa Grossman, and Anna Lovejoy. A Governor's Guide to Children's Cabinets. Washington, D.C.: National Governors Association, 2004; Andrews, Leon T. Creating a Youth Master Plan -- Action Kit for Municipal Leaders. Washington, DC: Institute for Youth, Education and Families, National League of Cities, 2008; Karpman, Michael. Youth Master Planning: Building an Infrastructure to Help Young People Succeed. October 2007. American Planning Association. Available: August 4 2009; Re: "smart systems" see Simmons, Warren. "From Smart Districts to Smart Education Systems." City Schools: How Districts and Communities Can Create Smart Education Systems. Ed. Robert Rothman. Boston, MA: Harvard Education Press, 2007. Ch. 12; Timpane, Michael, and Rob Reich. "Revitalizing the Ecosystem for Youth: A New Perspective for School Reform." Phi Delta Kappan 78.February (1997): 464-70.

[29] See ; "Children's Trusts: Statutory Guidance on Inter-Agency Cooperation to Improve Well-Being of Children, Young People and Their Families." Ed. Schools and Families Department of Children: Crown, 2008; "Children and Young People's Plan Guidance 2009." Ed. Schools and Families Department of Children: Crown, 2009; O'Brien, Margaret, et al. "Integrating Children's Services to Promote Children's Welfare: Early Findings from the Implementation of Children's Trusts in England." Child Abuse Review 15.6 (2006): 377-95.

[30] Nationally 48.5% of 18-24 year old citizens voted in the November 2008 national election. U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, November 2008, July release downloaded 6 Aug 09 from .

[31] Labaree, D. F. (1997). "Public Goods, Private Goods: The American Struggle over Educational Goals." American Educational Research Journal 34(1): 73.

[32] Lagemann, Ellen Condliffe. "Prophecy or Profession? George S. Counts and the Social Study of Education." American Journal of Education 100.2, Feb (1992): 137-65.

[33] Raudenbush, Stephen W., and Robert J. Sampson. "Ecometrics: Toward a Science of Assessing Ecological Settings, with Application to the Systematic Social Observation of Neighborhoods." Sociological Methodology, 29 (1999): 1-41.

[34] E.g., Leithwood, Kenneth, Blair Mascall, and Tiiu Strauss, eds. Distributed Leadership According to the Evidence. New York: Routledge, 2009.

[35] Hess, Frederick M. Spinning Wheels - the Politics of Urban School Reform. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1999: 180-1.

[36] Stone, Clarence N., et al. Building Civic Capacity - the Politics of Reforming Urban Schools. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2001: 7-8, 1.

[37] Of a vast literature: Sebring, Penny Bender, et al. The Essential Supports for School Improvement. Chicago, IL: Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago, 2006; Bryk, Anthony S., and Barbara Schneider. Trust in Schools : A Core Resource for Improvement. Rose Series in Sociology. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2002; Coleman, James S. "Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital." The American Journal of Sociology, 94 (1988): S95-S120; Farr, James. "Social Capital: A Conceptual History." Political Theory 32.6 (2004): 6-33; Kao, Grace, and Lindsay Taggart Rutherford. "Does Social Capital Still Matter? Immigrant Minority Disadvantage in School-Specific Social Capital and Its Effects on Academic Achievement." Sociological Perspectives 50.1 (2007): 27-52; Orr, Marion. Black Social Capital : The Politics of School Reform in Baltimore, 1986-1998. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1999; Plagens, Gregory K. "Social Capital and School Performance: A Local-Level Test." American Political Science Association Annual Conference. Philadelphia, PA, 2003; Putnam, Robert D. "Education, Diversity, Social Cohesion And "Social Capital"." Raising the Quality of Learning for All. Dublin, Ireland: OECD, 2004; Gold, Eva, et al. A Philadelphia Story: Building Civic Capacity for School Reform in a Privatizing System. Philadelphia, PA: Research for Action, 2007. Of course, we can not conflate the distinct terms used (social capital v. civic capacity v. collective efficacy, etc.); differences can be significant. This is simply to indicate this general emphasis in much of the literature on collective factors of utility to school improvement efforts. More generally, Auspos, Patricia, et al. Living Cities and Civic Capacity -- Leadership, Leverage, and Legitimacy. Washington, DC: Roundtable on Community Change, The Aspen Institute, 2008.

[38] Perhaps this aligns too well with Susan Jacoby's recent thesis; Jacoby, Susan. The Age of American Unreason. New York: Random House, 2008.

[39] Dewey, John. The Child and the Curriculum. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1902: 8.

[40] Abbott, Andrew. "Of Time and Space: The Contemporary Relevance of the Chicago School." Social Forces, 1997. Vol. 75: 1152.

[41] Dewey, John. The Child and the Curriculum. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1902: 8.

[42] Hanifan, Lyda J. "The Rural School and Rural Life." West Virginia School Journal 4 (1912): 206.

[43] Hanifan, L. J. "The Rural School Community Center." Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 67 (1916): 131. Per Robert Putnam, this is the first use of the term "social capital"; see also in Farr, James. "Social Capital: A Conceptual History." Political Theory 32.6 (2004): 6-33.

[44] WNYC broadcast, 29 January 1938, 3, Covello Papers box 10, folder 33 (cited p.141, Johanek and Puckett, 2007, above).

Lawrence Cremin's "magisterial history" refers to his three volume series, and the quotations draw from the introduction to the second volume:

Cremin, Lawrence A. American Education, the Colonial Experience, 1607-1783. New York: Harper & Row, 1970.

Cremin, Lawrence A. American Education, the National Experience, 1783-1876. New York: Harper and Row, 1980.

Cremin, Lawrence A. American Education:  The Metropolitan Experience, 1876-1980. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.