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When Schools Work

Pluralist Politics and Institutional Reform in Los Angeles

Bruce Fuller

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How did a young generation of activists come together in 1990s Los Angeles to shake up the education system, creating lasting institutional change and lifting children and families across southern California?

Critics claim that America's public schools remain feckless and hamstrung institutions, unable to improve even when nudged by accountability-minded politicians, market competition, or global pandemic. But if schools are so hopeless, then why did student learning climb in Los Angeles across the initial decades of the twenty-first century?

In When Schools Work, Bruce Fuller details the rise…

How did a young generation of activists come together in 1990s Los Angeles to shake up the education system, creating lasting institutional change and lifting children and families across southern California?

Critics claim that America's public schools remain feckless and hamstrung institutions, unable to improve even when nudged by accountability-minded politicians, market competition, or global pandemic. But if schools are so hopeless, then why did student learning climb in Los Angeles across the initial decades of the twenty-first century?

In When Schools Work, Bruce Fuller details the rise of civic activists in L.A. as they emerged from the ashes of urban riots and failed efforts to desegregate schools. Based on the author's fifteen years of field work in L.A., the book reveals how this network of Latino and Black leaders, civil rights lawyers, ethnic nonprofits, and pedagogical progressives coalesced in the 1990s, staking out a third political ground and gaining distance from corporate neoliberals and staid labor chiefs. Fuller shows how these young activists—whom he terms "new pluralists"—proceeded to better fund central-city schools, win quality teachers, widen access to college prep courses, decriminalize student discipline, and even create a panoply of new school forms, from magnet schools to dual-language campuses, site-run small high schools, and social-justice focused classrooms.

Moving beyond perennial hand-wringing over urban schools, this book offers empirical lessons on what reforms worked to lift achievement—and kids—across this vast and racially divided metropolis. More broadly, this study examines why these new pluralists emerged in this kaleidoscopic city and how they went about jolting an institution once given up for dead. Spotlighting the force of ethnic communities and humanist notions of children's growth, Fuller argues that diversifying forms of schooling also created unforeseen ways of stratifying both children and families. When Schools Work will inform the efforts of educators, activists, policy makers, and anyone else working to reshape public schools and achieve equitable results for all children.

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When Schools Work

Bruce Fuller

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Reviews

Reviews

When Schools Work is not a dry tome. It illumines the lives of several remarkable people who made the changes happen

Combining a historical focus with an emphasis on community engagement, this compelling, accessible book will be interesting and relevant to a broad audience.

An incredibly original and substantial volume that merges theory, historical analysis, and practice to lay out an argument about institutional change in the second-largest school district in the country. Using a unique theoretical model, this will be the go-to book for understanding school reform in Los Angeles.

Bruce Fuller provides us with an insightful, beautifully written, and enlightening account of the politics of education in Los Angeles, showing how pluralist dynamics, energized by ethnic diversity, allowed reformers to gain leverage over the protectors of the status quo and bring about real change. A welcome contribution.

No one has gone so deep for so long into the intricacies of California politics as Bruce Fuller has. He is always full of surprises, perhaps more so here than ever before. Why did bad urban schools in Los Angeles improve in the first two decades of this century? I learned more about the political dynamics of raising achievement than I have anywhere else.

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Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
232
ISBN
9781421442778
Illustration Description
16 b&w photos, 11 b&w illus.
Table of Contents

Notes on the Vernacular
Prologue. Pluralist Politics Move Institutions
1. Civilizing Los Angeles
with Melissa Ancheta and Sarah Manchanda
2. Palace Revolt
3. Outside Agitators
with Malena Arcidiacono

Notes on the Vernacular
Prologue. Pluralist Politics Move Institutions
1. Civilizing Los Angeles
with Melissa Ancheta and Sarah Manchanda
2. Palace Revolt
3. Outside Agitators
with Malena Arcidiacono, Caitlin Kearns, and Joon Ho Lee
4. Organizing Pluralist Politics
with Sarah Manchanda
5. Pluralist Politics and Institutional Reform
Acknowledgments
Notes
References
Index

Author Bio
Bruce Fuller
Featured Contributor

Bruce Fuller

Bruce Fuller (BERKELEY, CA) is a professor of education and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Standardized Childhood: The Political and Cultural Struggle over Early Education and Organizing Locally: How the New Decentralists Improve Education, Health Care, and Trade.
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