Respect the Depths: Washington, D.C. and the Myth of Education Reform

Cohen, Benji, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Harold, Claudrena, Department of History, University of Virginia

Respect the Depths: Washington, D.C. and the Myth of Education Reform is an interdisciplinary project that chronicles the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) from 1970 to the present, and argues that school reform fails to address this country’s stubborn opportunity gap. By refusing to acknowledge, despite overwhelming evidence, that urban conditions—specifically poverty—hinder academic achievement, policymakers have failed the nation’s poor. Federal officials and local representatives steadily abandoned projects that addressed urban poverty and, instead, focused on school reform. Moving chronologically, each chapter in “Respect the Depths” highlights a different DCPS superintendent, exploring that leader’s school improvement agenda, how he/she interacted with the federal government, and how national and local legislation hindered their efforts. This dissertation demonstrates how and why superintendents cut educational funding, privatized operations, prioritized high-stakes standardized tests, and relied on reforms that overlooked structural obstacles.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
District of Columbia, Charter Schools, Superintendents, School District, Urban History, Standardized Tests, Marion Barry, Public Education
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